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If the council refuses to help when you're homeless

The council has legal duties to help you when you’re homeless. They must look into your situation and give you temporary accommodation.

If the council say they cannot help you, tell them your rights. Ask them to write you a letter or email explaining why they will not help.

What the council must do

If you're 16 or over and the council has reason to believe you could be homeless, they must:

They cannot tell you to go to a different Scottish council. You have the right to make a homeless application anywhere in Scotland.

If you have a local connection in England or Wales but not in Scotland, check our advice on local connection.

If you’re not a British or Irish citizen

Your right to homeless help depends on your immigration status. Check our advice on the immigration conditions for getting homeless help.

If you're refused help, get immigration advice as soon as possible. An adviser can help you work out your rights. You could:

If you’ve applied as homeless before

The council can refuse to take a new application if your circumstances have not changed since you were given a written decision. This includes if you applied as homeless to a different council.

They must take a new application if your circumstances have changed. For example, if there’s been a change to:

  • who lives with you

  • your financial situation

  • your health

  • your right to stay in your home

What to say to the council if they will not help

Tell the council that, according to the law, they must take a homeless application and provide temporary accommodation.

You can copy and paste this prompt into an email, or read it out if you're speaking to someone.

You can also ask a friend, family member, adviser or support worker to speak to the council for you if you do not feel comfortable.

I am homeless and in need of assistance.

I have checked my rights on the Shelter Scotland website. According to section 28 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, I have the right to make a homeless application.

According to section 29 of the Act, the council must provide me with temporary accommodation while making inquiries.

Please confirm that you’ll let me make a homeless application today and provide temporary accommodation.

If you refuse, you may be breaching your legal duties, and I will seek advice about taking legal action.

If you speak to someone on the phone or in person, make a note of:

  • what they say

  • their name and job title

  • the date and time you spoke to them

Ask them to send you an email or letter so you have it in writing.

If the council still will not help you

Contact a Shelter Scotland adviser. They can help work out your rights and challenge the council.

You could also:

You’ll need a solicitor’s help to take legal action.

Check our advice on complaints and legal action against the council.

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