A Guide to Homelessness

Making a homeless application

The council will look into your situation to see if you pass certain 'tests'.

What will the council look at?

The council will look into the following factors:

  • Are you homeless, and eligible for assistance?

  • How you became homeless?

  • Do you have a local connection to their area?

The council has to carry out these inquiries in order. They cannot decide that you have no local connection to the area before first deciding whether you are homeless, or how you became homeless.

Am I homeless?

You might be homeless if:

  • you have no home in the UK or anywhere else where you and your family can live together, or

  • you have no rights to live in the place you are currently staying, or

  • the place where you are currently living is unsuitable or unsafe.

This means that even if you have got somewhere to stay, you may still be homeless.

You can also get help from the council if you are likely to become homeless within the following two months.

Am I eligible?

Most people are eligible for housing assistance. You will almost certainly be eligible for assistance if:

  • you live in the UK, and

  • you are a British or Irish citizen.

The main group of people who may not be eligible for assistance are people from abroad who are not British or Irish citizens and/or don't have full rights to live here because of their immigration status.

See more information on the page homeless eligibility.

How did you become homeless?

The council may look at how you became homeless, to make sure that you didn’t become homeless intentionally. The council might make inquiries as to whether you:

  • deliberately did or didn't do something

  • that caused you to leave accommodation

  • which you could otherwise have stayed in, and

  • which would have been reasonable for you to stay in.

The council must be satisfied that all four points apply before deciding that you're intentionally homeless and they must also look not just at your actions but at the reasons behind your actions.

Do I have a local connection?

You will have a local connection to an area if you, or anyone in your household:

  • live in the area

  • has family connection in the area

  • works in the area

  • has a connection with the area for another special reason.

The council should make inquiries into your situation and decide whether you pass all the other tests before it looks into whether you have a local connection or not. It has a duty to provide temporary accommodation for you while it makes these inquiries.

The decision letter

The council has to inform you in writing of the decision it has made. The decision 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, 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, you should contact the council to check what is happening.

What decisions can the council make?

The council can decide the following:

  • You are not entitled to a permanent home, because you became homeless intentionally.

  • 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.

The decision letter must be clear and easy to understand, list the reasons they came to the decision and state that you can review the decision within 21 days if you do not agree with the decision.

Challenging the decision

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.

Whether and how you can challenge the council's decision depends on what the decision is and why you think it is wrong.

You have to ask for a review within 21 days of getting the decision letter. The 21 days start from the date that you receive the letter, not the date printed on the letter. You can request a review verbally or in writing.

The review will be carried out by someone who wasn't involved in the original decision and who is senior to the person who made the original decision.

The council should allow you to stay in temporary accommodation while it is carrying out the review. If the council refuses to do so, get advice immediately. Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444.

Last updated: 31 January 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England

Get homeless help from the council

The council must help if you are homeless or likely to become homeless in the next two months.

Get emergency help from the council