Making a complaint about the council when you’re homeless

You can make a complaint to the council if they do not help you when you’re homeless. If making a complaint does not work, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

If you have nowhere safe to stay and the council will not help, contact a Shelter Scotland adviser. They can tell you your rights and help work out your next steps.

When to complain

The council must follow housing law and their own procedures when you need homeless help. If they do not, you can make a complaint.

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

  • gave you temporary accommodation that was unsuitable for you or your family

  • only gave you homeless assistance after an agency or organisation intervened on your behalf

  • treated you badly when you made a homeless application

Resolving your complaint

When you make a complaint, include what you want the council to do to put things right. For example, you could ask them to:

  • apologise

  • retrain their staff

  • give you more suitable temporary accommodation

If you disagree with your homeless decision

When you apply as homeless, the council must give you a decision in writing. If you disagree, ask the council to review their decision. You must ask for a review within 21 days.

A housing adviser or a solicitor can help you ask for a review. You should do this instead of making a complaint.

How to make a complaint

Follow these steps to make a complaint. Use our letter template to help you know what to say.

Include any evidence you have, for example an email from the homeless team saying they will not help you.

If someone said something wrong to you verbally, ask the homeless team to put it in writing. Ask for the names and roles of people involved so you can mention them in your complaint.

Step 1: send a formal complaint

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

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 at the council, if you know

  • what you want them to do to put things right

The council must consider your complaint, and respond within 5 working days.

If the council did not take a homeless application or give you temporary accommodation when you needed it, use our homeless application complaint letter template.

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 the council broke the law you could take them to court. You’ll need a solicitor to help you. You must take court action within 3 months of the council’s action or decision.

Check our guidance on taking the council to court when you’re homeless.

If you need more advice

Check our guidance on:

Last updated: 15 March 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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