Temporary and emergency accommodation

You should be given temporary accommodation if:

  • you make a homeless application, and

  • the council believes you may be homeless and eligible for assistance, and

  • you have nowhere suitable to stay

Get emergency help from the council

Temporary accommodation can be:

  • private flats

  • housing association flats

  • council houses

  • bedsits

  • supported housing

  • hostels, bed and breakfasts, or hotels (in an emergency or as a last resort)

If you're single and agree to it, you can also be housed in:

  • rapid access accommodation for rough sleepers or those at risk of rough sleeping. It must be of a good standard, have a lockable bedroom, and offer specialist support services

  • a shared tenancy with no more than five people. It must be of a good standard and have a lockable bedroom

  • community hosted accommodation in a member of the community’s home

In all types of temporary accommodation, you may have to share facilities such as a living room or kitchen with other people.

Emergency accommodation

You might be placed in a bed and breakfast or hostel while the council finds somewhere more suitable for you.

If you are placed in a bed and breakfast or hostel, you should not be there for more than 7 days.

In some bed and breakfasts, there are no kitchen facilities for residents to cook their own meals. If you’re placed in an emergency hostel, you may have to share a bedroom.

You should not be placed in a bed and breakfast or hostel unless:

  • you are homeless because of an emergency, such as a flood or fire

  • the council have no other suitable temporary accommodation available

  • you make your homeless application outwith normal office hours

Supported accommodation

If you need it, you may be offered temporary accommodation with specialist support. For example:

  • if you are homeless with drug or alcohol dependencies

  • if you became homeless because of domestic abuse

Find out more about refuges for women experiencing domestic abuse


Unsuitable temporary accommodation

Emergency, supported, and temporary accommodation must all meet basic standards. In all circumstances, it should:

  • not be overcrowded

  • be wind and watertight

  • meet the needs that you or your family have, including health and disability needs

  • not be a danger to your health, have adequate fire safety provisions and not need major repair work

Additional standards of accommodation

As well as meeting basic standards, your accommodation should:

  • have an adequate and accessible private bathroom

  • have adequate bedrooms for the size of your household

  • have adequate and accessible cooking facilities and the use of a living room (although these may be shared with other households)

  • be suitable for your children to visit

  • be usable 24 hours a day

Temporary accommodation should also be reasonably accessible to your household’s workplaces, schools, and health and support services.

Your accommodation should be in the council area, unless you agree to stay in a different council area.

These additional standards do not apply if you are staying in a domestic abuse refuge or sheltered accommodation.

Time limits for unsuitable accommodation

You should not have to stay in unsuitable accommodation for more than seven days. This includes some hostels and bed and breakfasts.

If things change for you

If things change for you or anyone you live with, your temporary accommodation may become unsuitable. For example:

  • if someone becomes ill or their physical or mental health needs change

  • if there’s a change in the number of people living with you

How to report unsuitable accommodation

Speak to your homelessness officer if you think your temporary accommodation is unsuitable.

It may be better to accept an unsuitable offer before asking the council to reconsider and provide you with suitable accommodation. This is so you have somewhere to stay while the council reconsiders its decision.

If the council doesn't help, speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser as soon as possible. There is a three-month deadline to challenge the suitability of temporary accommodation.

You should still speak to an adviser if you have been in unsuitable temporary accommodation for longer than three months. You may still be able to challenge the council.


How long will I be in temporary accommodation?

The council aims to decide if you are eligible for permanent accommodation after 28 days. You should be offered temporary accommodation while you wait for the council's decision letter.

If you are going to be offered permanent accommodation, you can stay in your temporary accommodation until a permanent home becomes available. This may take some time.

If you are not going to be offered permanent accommodation, in most cases you should be allowed to stay in temporary accommodation a while longer. This is to give you a chance to find somewhere to stay. The council should give you advice on housing options.

Paying for temporary accommodation

The council must take into account your financial situation when working out what rent to charge you.

In most circumstances, you will have to pay rent and any extra charges for meals or cleaning services.

If you are on benefits or a low income, you may be entitled to Housing Benefit, although this may not cover everything. You can apply for Discretionary Housing Payment to help cover any shortfall.

Check if you're entitled to benefits

Use the Turn2us benefit calculator

You’ll need information on your household’s:

  • income and savings

  • outgoings, such as rent

  • existing benefits and pensions

  • council tax bill

Get help managing your money

Services that can help with budgeting, applying for benefits, and debt:

Eviction from temporary accommodation

If the council wishes you to leave your temporary accommodation, you should be given at least four weeks' notice in writing.

You may be evicted from temporary accommodation because:

  • you've broken a condition of your tenancy agreement

  • the council no longer has a duty to help you

  • the council has found you a permanent home

When to get help from Shelter Scotland

You should contact an adviser if:

  • you have been offered rapid access, shared tenancy, or community hosted accommodation and you don’t want to accept it

  • the council charge you rent that you can’t afford

  • you have reported unsuitable temporary accommodation and the council won’t help

  • you’re asked to leave temporary accommodation and you have nowhere else to go


Last updated: 29 September 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England