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Getting permanent accommodation when you’re homeless

The council should offer you a permanent home when you're homeless for reasons out of your control. This is called being unintentionally homeless.

An offer of a permanent home must be suitable for your household’s needs. The council will usually only make 1 suitable offer.

Do not refuse a final offer, even if you think it’s not suitable. If you refuse the offer, the council may not have to help you any more.

You can get help to appeal the offer if it's unsuitable.

When the council has to offer you a permanent home

After you make a homeless application, the council will send you a written decision. It will say if you’re entitled to a permanent home.

Check our advice on:

There’s no time limit for the council to offer you a permanent home. How long it takes depends on your housing needs and the availability in your area. Larger cities often have longer waiting times.

You can stay in temporary accommodation while you wait.

Where you can be offered a permanent home

The council might ask you to choose which areas you’d prefer to live in. It’s best to pick as many areas as possible to help you get an offer faster.

The council does not have to offer you a home in an area you’ve chosen, but they must take into account any special circumstances that mean:

  • you need to live in a specific area – for example, if your child has a disability that would make it difficult for them to move schools

  • you cannot live in a specific area – for example, if you’re fleeing domestic abuse, you should not be offered a home near where your abuser lives

Tell the council about your needs

The council must take your and your family’s needs into account when offering you a permanent home.

The home they offer you must be big enough for your family and meet any health, disability or support needs.

Tell the council about your needs when you’re making a homeless application. If your needs change before you’re offered a permanent home, write to them to tell them about the change.

Getting an offer of permanent accommodation

The council will usually send you an offer when a suitable home becomes available.

They should tell you if there’s anything else you need to do to get a permanent home. Some councils may ask you to bid on homes that become available. This means you have to tell them which homes you’re interested in.

An offer must be given to you in writing, and tell you:

  • if it’s the final offer they will make

  • the name and contact number of the member of staff making the offer

  • that if you refuse the final offer, the council will not have to help you anymore

  • that you have the right to appeal the offer if it's unsuitable

  • where to get independent advice about the offer

The council must give you a reasonable amount of time to consider if the offer is right for you. They cannot insist that you decide straight away.

What to do if you think an offer is unsuitable

You can appeal the offer. The council sometimes calls this a review. You must do this within 21 days of getting the written offer.

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser as soon as possible, and before you ask for an appeal. An adviser will look at your circumstances to work out if you have a strong case.

Do not refuse a final offer

If you refuse a final offer, the council may no longer have to help you, and you’ll usually have to leave your temporary accommodation.

Ask the council to hold the offer while you ask for an appeal. This means you can still decide to accept it later.

Not all councils will agree to hold the offer. If they do not agree, it’s best to accept the offer.

Tell the council that:

  • you’re going to ask for an appeal

  • you accept the offer pending the outcome of your appeal

This means if the appeal is not successful, you’ll have somewhere to live while you look at your other options. You’ll have to start paying rent after you’ve signed the tenancy agreement.

When an offer may not be suitable

An offer is unsuitable if the property:

  • is overcrowded

  • is a danger to your health

  • does not meet your household’s special needs

  • is not reasonable for you to live in

For example, if you use a wheelchair and you’re offered a home that only has stair access, this would not be a suitable offer.

You can ask the council to do any work that would make the home suitable for your needs. For example, by making disability adaptations or doing repairs to make it safer.

If you think an offer is not reasonable to live in because of where the property is located, you’ll need to show why the area does not meet your household’s needs.

Evidence to gather for an appeal

You’ll need to give evidence that shows why the home you’ve been offered is unsuitable for you. Gather as much proof as you can. For example:

  • a letter from a doctor explaining your health or disability needs

  • police incident numbers that show you’re at risk of violence in a specific area

  • a letter from a support worker or social worker explaining your support needs

  • proof of income and savings to show why the home is unaffordable

The outcome of your appeal should be decided by a senior person in the homeless team. The person reviewing the appeal cannot be the same as the person who made the initial offer.

If your appeal is not successful

In some cases, you can ask for a judicial review. This means a court will look at whether the decision was made correctly according to the law.

You can ask for a judicial review within 3 months of the appeal decision. You’ll need a solicitor’s help to do this.

Get advice on your options as soon as possible. You could:

Accepting a suitable offer

If you accept an offer of permanent accommodation you’ll need to sign a tenancy agreement.

The council must:

  • tell you when you have to leave temporary accommodation

  • tell you when you’re expected to move in

  • help you apply for benefits to cover your new housing costs if you need them

  • plan any work to make the home suitable for your needs before you move in

A permanent offer should be a Scottish secure tenancy

An offer of a permanent home will usually be with a Scottish secure tenancy (SST). These are sometimes called social tenancies.

The council will usually offer you a council tenancy. They can also offer you a SST with a housing association if they have no housing stock or nothing suitable. Councils sometimes calls this process a section 5 referral.

Council or housing association tenancies are very secure and do not have fixed terms. Check your rights in a Scottish secure tenancy.

Usually the home you’re offered will come unfurnished. Ask the council to help you with applying for a community care grant if you need furnishings.

If you’re not offered a Scottish secure tenancy

Sometimes the council can offer:

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser if you’ve been offered a different tenancy type and you’re not sure if it’s suitable for you.

Moving into a permanent home from temporary accommodation

If you're going from temporary accommodation to permanent accommodation, you should be given enough time to organise moving.

Contact the council to arrange moving your belongings if they've been in storage.

If you're charged overlapping rents

You could be charged for 2 rents if there's an overlap between your temporary accommodation ending and your permanent tenancy beginning.

It's best to prioritise the rent for the permanent home if you cannot cover both costs. This means you'll avoid the risk of having rent arrears in your new tenancy.

If your temporary accommodation is covered by Housing Benefit, it can keep being paid for up to 4 weeks after you move out. You'll still need to apply for benefits to pay the rent on your new home. Ask the council if you need help with this.

Last updated: 27 March 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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