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The council's decision letter

Once the council has made a decision about your homeless application, it must send you a decision letter (sometimes called a notification letter) explaining the reasons behind the decision and what happens next. If the council wont help or you're not happy with the decision, you may be able to challenge it.

When will I get the decision letter?

After making its inquiries, the council has to inform you in writing of the decision it has made. The decision letter (sometimes known as the notification letter) has to be sent to you or made available for you to collect from the council offices.

If you haven't received a decision letter yet, the council may still be investigating your situation. The council should come to a decision within 28 days, so if you haven't heard anything by then, contact the council to check your decision letter hasn't gone astray.

What decisions can the council make?

The council may decide that:

  • You are not entitled to a permanent home, because you became homeless intentionally. In this case you should be able to stay on in your temporary accommodation for a while, to allow you the opportunity to find yourself somewhere else to live. The council should offer you advice and assistance to do so.
  • You pass the homelessness tests, in which case the council must offer you a permanent home.
  • You pass the tests except local connection, in which case you may be referred to another council.

What should a decision letter contain?

The decision letter must:

  • be clear and easy to understand, and in a format that is accessible to you
  • state what decision the council has made (whether or not you are homeless or intentionally homeless)
  • list the reasons why the council made that decision and what factors it took into account when deciding
  • state whether or not you have a local connection, the council's reason for deciding this, and whether you will be referred to another council
  • explain what happens next
  • explain that you have the right to ask for a review of the decision within 21 days and how you can do so
  • explain what other options are available to you if your application has been turned down
  • provide contact details for your housing or homelessness officer so you can get in touch to discuss anything you're unsure about
  • provide information on other local agencies where you can get help.

If English isn't your first language, you should be sent a translation of the letter in your language.

If you are told verbally of the council's decision, ask the person you speak with to confirm it in writing.

The letter doesn't contain this information

If the letter you receive doesn't contain this information, get advice. If, for example, the letter doesn't say why the council has made this decision, or it doesn't mention your right to request a review, you can ask the council to send you another letter which does include this information.

Even if the letter seems alright to you, it's a good idea to call the Shelter Scotland free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 or contact Citizens Advice. An adviser will be able to tell you whether the letter is in the correct form and may be able to challenge the council's decision on your behalf.

I'm homeless and the council wont help

When you get your decision letter, make sure that you agree with what it says. Don't just accept that the council are right and you are wrong. For example:

  • Does your decision letter say that you are not homeless, and therefore not entitled to help? Read the legal definition of homelessness and see whether you fall into any of the categories listed.
  • Does the decision letter say that you are intentionally homeless, and therefore not entitled to help? Read the page on intentionality and see whether you think you are intentionally homeless.

If you do not agree with the decision or you think a mistake has been made, get advice.

I want to challenge the decision

Whether and how you can challenge the council's decision depends on what the decision is and why you think it is wrong. There are three ways in which the council can be challenged:


Most decisions that the council makes about homeless applications can be challenged by way of a review.

Judicial review

It may be possible to challenge the way the council made its decision, rather than the decisions itself. Judicial review is complicated and you will need help and specialist legal advice.

Ombudsman complaints

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman can investigate complaints about how the council has dealt with your homeless application. In particular, it may be worth complaining to the Ombudsman if there have been long delays or the council has discriminated against you. If the Ombudsman finds the council did something wrong, it can recommend that you get compensation.

How can an adviser help?

If you the council has made a decision that you don't agree with or sent you a letter you don't understand, get advice immediately. An adviser can look into:

  • the reasons why the council has come to that decision
  • whether the decision can be challenged
  • getting a review of the decision
  • whether you can get help from social work if the housing department refuses to help you
  • what other housing options you may have.

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This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • The council has to inform you in writing about any decision it makes on your homelessness application.
  • The decision letter must be clear and easy to understand.
  • If you don't agree with, or think the decision is wrong then you can ask for a review.
  • You have 21 days to ask for a review, after receiving the letter.

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