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Complaints and legal action against the council if you're homeless

You can make a complaint to the council about how they dealt with your homeless application.

If making a complaint does not work, you can go to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or consider taking legal action.

When to make a complaint

You could complain to the council if they did not follow the law or their own procedures when you asked for homeless help.

For example, you can complain if the council:

  • did not let you make a homeless application

  • told you to apply to a different council

  • did not give you temporary accommodation when you needed it

  • made you stay in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than 7 days

  • discriminated against you or treated you badly when you made a homeless application

How to make a complaint to the council

Step 1: send a formal complaint

You can email or post your complaint. If the council has an online complaint form to fill out, make sure that you can save a copy.

Include any evidence you have, such as emails from the homeless team.

When you complain, tell the council:

  • what they did wrong

  • what effect it had on you or your family

  • the name and job role of the person you spoke to at the council, if you know

  • what you want them to do to put things right – for example, give you more suitable temporary accommodation or retrain their staff

You can also use our homeless application complaint letter template.

The council must respond to your complaint within 5 working days.

Step 2: ask for a final response

If the council does not reply to your complaint, or if you’re unhappy with their reply, ask them for a final response. The council may call this a stage 2 complaint.

It will be looked at by a different member of staff. They must respond to you within 20 working days.

Step 3: complain to the ombudsman

If you're unhappy with the council’s final response you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at your complaint.

The ombudsman is a free independent service that resolves disputes and complaints. You must make your complaint to the ombudsman within 1 year of the problem starting.

Going to the ombudsman is not a quick solution. They can take several months before looking at your complaint.

Taking the council to court

If you think the council broke the law, you could take them to court. This is called a judicial review.

You must take legal action within 3 months of the council’s decision or action. You’ll need a solicitor’s help.

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser if you’re considering taking legal action. An adviser can work out if you have a strong case and tell you what to do next.

Last updated: 27 March 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England