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Where to get help and housing advice near you

This page explains how you can find help and legal advice for housing and homelessness problems and lists some organisations which offer advice services for free or at a fairly low cost.

Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

If you need advice and help in an emergency and you are not sure what to do, you can phone Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 to talk to a housing adviser who can:

  • explain your rights
  • tell you your options
  • tell you what (if anything) is available in your area
  • help you to take action.

The helpline is free, and open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

You can also check out our list of homelesness organisations.

Contacting an agency

You should contact the agency that is most convenient for you. It is best to contact the agency by telephone to find out when they are open and how you can get to see an adviser. Some agencies have answerphones so you can leave a message and ask an adviser to call you back. The answerphone message should also tell you when the agency is next open. You should call in or phone back during the times given if possible.

The ways in which you can get to see an adviser can vary and can include:

  • appointment systems
  • drop in sessions (where you turn up and wait to see an adviser)
  • telephone advice
  • home visits
  • sessions with specialist advisers who have expertise in a particular area.

Talking to an adviser

If possible, get advice in person so that you can show the adviser any documents that you have, for example:

  • your passport, driving licence or birth certificate
  • your rent book or bank statements to show rent payments you've been making
  • any letters you've received from your landlord or from the court.

The adviser will give you as much advice as possible in one session.

If there is no adviser available, or the arrangements at the agency you have contacted are not convenient for you, try another one.

Law centres

Law centres provide independent legal advice services. They tend to cover a number of areas of advice, including housing and benefits, debt, discrimination and immigration law. They provide free legal advice and representation. As they employ solicitors, they can take action at every level of court. Find out more about law centres here and visit the Scottish Association of Law Centres website to find a law centre near you.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice (CAB) offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice on a number of issues, including housing and benefits. Visit the Citizens Advice Scotland website to find out more.

Council housing departments

Each council must provide advice and information about homelessness, and how to prevent it. The type of service will vary. Some councils have a separate housing advice service, whilst others give advice as part of their services for homeless people. The council may do this itself or ask another agency to do it on its behalf.

Advice from the council

The council should offer advice on:

  • the availability of housing from the council, housing associations or housing cooperatives, including information on application procedures and waiting lists
  • getting temporary accommodation from the council, a housing association, a private landlord or a voluntary agency
  • finding accommodation using an estate agent or letting agency
  • renting in the private sector
  • owning your own home.

Other services

  • Each council must operate a homelessness service for people who are homeless or who are about to be homeless. Find out more about getting help from the council if you're homeless.
  • All councils should operate a 24-hour service for people in emergency situations. Details of this service can be found on your council's website.
  • Many councils also employ tenancy relations officers to help any tenants who are experiencing harassment from, or are threatened with illegal eviction by, their landlord.
  • If you are having problems getting your landlord to carry out repairs or you have a noisy neighbour, the council's environmental health department has the power to take legal action on your behalf.

Council housing

If you are applying to the council as homeless, it's a good idea to put your name on the council housing waiting list at the same time. You will need to make a separate application to do this. Make sure the person you speak to understands that you need help because you are homeless but that you want to go on the waiting list as well. The fact that you are homeless will give you extra priority on the waiting list but in areas where there is a housing shortage, you may still have to wait a very long time.

Social work

The council's social work department has duties to assist some people in certain circumstances. This includes:

  • people under the age of 18 in need
  • people who have been looked after by the local authority
  • people who have children in need living with them
  • people who are elderly, physically ill or have mental health problems, or are disabled.

Specialist agencies

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, organisations such as Scottish Women's Aid can offer help and advice in escaping your home and finding somewhere to stay.

The police

The police can offer help and advice if you are in danger or if you are facing harassment, domestic abuse or homophobic or racist abuse. You can find contact details for your nearest police station at Scottish Police Forces or in the phone book.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • It's best to contact any agency by phone first, if you can.
  • Shelter Scotland can give you advice over the phone or help you get a face-to-face appointment somewhere near you.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us