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Temporary accommodation when you're homeless

If you have nowhere to stay when you make a homeless application, the council should offer you somewhere to stay while it looks into your situation. This page explains when you are entitled to temporary accommodation from the council, what it is like and what you can do if you have problems staying there.

The rules that govern homelessness legislation changed at the end of 2012. The major change was the ending of the priority need test, this means that if you are assessed as unintentionally homeless you have the right to a home. This page has been updated to reflect these changes. 

Who is entitled to temporary accommodation?

You should be entitled to temporary accommodation if:

  • you make a homeless application to the council, and
  • the council believes you are homeless and eligible for assistance, and
  • you have nowhere to stay.

The council cannot pre-judge your case and refuse you accommodation because it suspects that you will not be entitled to permanent accommodation. If this happens, contact Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you.

When am I entitled to temporary accommodation?

You are entitled to temporary accommodation:

  • once you have made a homeless application, while the council looks into your situation (this is also called emergency or interim accommodation)
  • to give you time to find somewhere else to live, if the council decides that they do not have to find you permanent accommodation.
  • while the council reviews a decision on your application and you are waiting for the outcome of the review
  • while you wait for a permanent home to become available, if the council decides that you are entitled to an offer of a permanent home.

I'm threatened with homelessness but not homeless yet

If you are going to become homeless within two months, the council still has a duty to look into your situation. In this case, you should probably remain at home until you have to leave. The council may be able to help you stay in your home permanently, but if this isn't possible and you have nowhere you can go, the council should find you temporary accommodation.

The council won't give me temporary accommodation

The council is supposed to help you find a place in temporary accommodation. If the council tells you that it does not have any temporary accommodation available, or gives you a list of hostels so you can find somewhere yourself, you should get advice from Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or use the Advice Services Directory to find help near you.

An adviser will be able to find out whether you should be entitled to temporary accommodation. If you are, they can contact the council on your behalf to ask it to find a place in temporary accommodation for you.

Where will the accommodation be?

The council may offer you temporary accommodation in a:

  • flat
  • house
  • bedsit
  • hostel
  • bed and breakfast hotel (although this should only be a last resort).

The accommodation may be run by:

  • the council
  • a private landlord
  • a housing association
  • a voluntary organisation.

If there is a shortage of accommodation in your area, the council may have to put you in a bed and breakfast hotel outside its own area. This is more likely to happen if you live in a rural area.

I have to stay in a bed and breakfast hotel

If you are pregnant, or have children, you should not be placed in a bed and breakfast unless:

  • you are homeless because of an emergency, such as a flood, or fire
  • you have specifically asked to be placed in an area where there is no other temporary accommodation available, for example to be near friends or family, or your child's school.

You can also be placed in a bed and breakfast if:

  • you made your homeless application outwith normal office hours, or
  • the council does not have any suitable temporary accommodation for you.

However, you should not have to stay there for more than 14 days.

What is temporary accommodation like?

The accommodation should meet certain standards, and should:

  • not be overcrowded
  • not be a danger to your health (for example, it should have adequate fire safety provisions and should not be damp or in need of major repair work)
  • meet any special needs you or your family may have.

In addition, the council has to take a number of other factors into account when it decides whether the accommodation is suitable for you and your family:

  • how much rent you can afford to pay
  • the condition of the accommodation
  • whether it is the right size for your household
  • where the accommodation is
  • any health needs you may have
  • social factors (such as whether you need to be close to support services, family or special schools).

In some circumstances, you may be offered temporary accommodation with support. For example:

  • if you became homeless because of domestic abuse, you may be offered temporary accommodation in a refuge
  • if you are homeless due to problems with drugs or alcohol, you could be offered a place in a hostel that specialises in helping people with drug and alcohol dependencies.

Will I have to share?

You may have to share facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen with other people. In some bed and breakfast hotels there are no kitchen facilities available for residents to cook their own meals. If you are placed in a hostel you may also have to share a bedroom.

Will I have to pay?

You will have to pay rent and any extra charges, for example for meals or cleaning services. If you are on benefits or a low income, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit, although this may not cover everything. However, the council should take into account your financial situation when allocating your accommodation.

My rights in temporary accommodation

Your rights will depend on the kind of temporary accommodation you are staying in. Read the page on rights in temporary accommodation to find out more.

The accommodation isn't suitable?

If you are offered temporary accommodation that you don't think is suitable for you and your family, you can turn it down, but think carefully and get advice before you do. If you refuse temporary accommodation that the council thinks is suitable for you, they may not offer you an alternative. However, the council must continue processing your application until it reaches a decision about whether you are entitled to an offer of a permanent home.

I'm not entitled to a permanent home?

If the council decides that you are not entitled to an offer of permanent accommodation, you should be allowed to stay in your temporary accommodation for a little longer to give you a chance to find somewhere else to live.

In addition, the council must give you advice and help to find a new home. Read the page on continued temporary accommodation to find out more.

How long will I be in temporary accommodation for?

The council should try to assess your situation and give you a decision as to whether you are eligible for permanent accommodation within 28 days. However, this may not always be possible, so you may need to stay in temporary accommodation for longer.

If you are not going to be offered permanent accommodation, you should be allowed to stay a while longer to give you a chance to find somewhere yourself.

If you are going to be offered permanent accommodation, you can stay in your temporary accommodation until you are made an offer. Unfortunately in some cases this can take months.

Do I have to stay in temporary accommodation?

Even if the council has offered you temporary accommodation, you can stay with family or friends if you prefer. This can avoid the stress of upheaval and expense. The council will still have to make a decision on your homeless application and offer you a permanent home if you are entitled.

If your situation changes and you have to move out of where you are staying before the council makes a decision about your homeless application, or before it has found you a permanent home, you should be offered temporary accommodation.

My circumstances have changed

If your circumstances change while you are in temporary accommodation, the council may take this into account when it makes a decision about what further help you are entitled to. The types of changes that could affect the council's responsibility towards you include:

  • a change in the number of people in your household (for example, if you split up with your partner)
  • a different housing situation (for example, if you move into suitable accommodation that you have found for yourself).

Some changes in circumstance may mean your temporary accommodation is no longer suitable for you, for example if you have a baby or if you or someone in your family becomes ill or disabled. Let the council know as soon as possible and get advice about your situation.

What if I have problems and have to leave?

If you have problems in your temporary accommodation (for example, if you are being harassed), you should inform the council and get advice immediately. The council may be able to help you sort the problems out. If not, they should find you temporary accommodation somewhere else.

The council should not say that you have made yourself homeless if you leave your temporary accommodation. The council still has to make a decision on your homeless application based on the reasons why you became homeless in the first place. If the council has already said that you should be offered a permanent home, then they still have to make you an offer.

Can I be evicted from temporary accommodation?

If the council wishes you to leave your temporary accommodation, you should be given at least four weeks' notice in writing.

You may be evicted from temporary accommodation for any of the following reasons:

  • because you've broken a condition of your tenancy agreement
  • because the council no longer has a duty to help you
  • because the council has found you a permanent home.

The important points

  • If you have nowhere to stay you should be offered temporary accommodation whilst the council look into your application.
  • If you are pregnant or have dependant children you shouldn't be made to stay in B&B accommodation for longer than 14 days 
  • It can be of a lower standard than permanent housing but it must be safe and meet any special needs.
  • You don't have to stay in temporary accommodation offered, you might prefer staying with friends or family. 

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444*
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

*Our advice line is free to call from landlines and all six of the main UK mobile networks, Virgin, Orange, 3, T-mobile, Vodafone and O2, but charges may apply from any other network

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