How to make a homeless application

You are entitled to ask any council for homelessness help. They cannot refuse to accept your application if you are homeless or likely to become homeless in the next two months.

To begin the process, contact the council’s homeless department and tell them you need to make a homeless application.

Apply to the council as homeless

You should not be turned away. Contact an adviser if you are.

Once you have told the council you’re applying as homeless, you’ll be offered an interview with a homelessness officer.

What to expect at a homelessness interview

You may be offered an interview straight away, or the council may make an appointment for you to come back. If you don't have anywhere to stay, you should be interviewed on the same day.

Interviews are usually held at the council offices, although the homelessness officer may visit you at home if you have mobility problems or practical difficulties in getting to their offices.

If English isn't your first language or you have difficulty reading or writing, you can ask for help with this.

What to take with you, if you can

The council will need to check out the details of how you have become homeless and your personal circumstances. It helps if you take all relevant documents with you to the interview. This might include:

  • identification such as birth certificates and passports for everyone in your household

  • proof of income such as a benefit book and wage slips

  • utility bills with your name and address

  • child benefit book

  • proof of pregnancy

  • tenancy agreement

  • any notices that will end your current tenancy

  • court possession papers

  • a letter from the person who has asked you to leave

  • relevant crime numbers or copies of police reports

  • written discharge from the armed forces

  • bail conditions not to return

If you can't get any of this information together before your interview, don't worry. The council should still consider your application and give you time to gather the information they need.

What you’ll be asked at the homelessness interview

The homelessness officer will ask you questions about your situation and how you became homeless. These will include questions about:

  • where you have been living

  • why you left or will have to leave your accommodation

  • whether you will be able to return there

  • whether there is anywhere you can stay on a short term basis (such as with friends or relatives)

  • any problems you have had with domestic abuse

  • whether you are feeling violence or harassment

  • your income and whether you are claiming benefits etc.

  • any health conditions you or anyone in your household has. This includes:

    • physical disabilities

    • mental illness

    • addictions or dependencies

    • old age

    • pregnancy

  • how many people there are in your household and who they are. This includes:

    • anyone who currently lives with you

    • anyone who could be expected to live with you if you had accommodation where you could all live together (such as extended family and children you treat as your own)

It's important that you explain your situation fully so that any accommodation you’re given:

  • is not overcrowded

  • is suitable for your occupation

  • meets any health needs you may have

  • meets social factors (such as close to health services, family or schools)

Answering difficult questions

You may find it difficult to tell the homelessness officer if you have been facing domestic abuse or harassment, or if you are pregnant. However, it's important that the officer has this information as it may clarify the council’s duty to help you.

Your rights at the interview

You have the right to:

  • be interviewed in a private room where you won't be overheard

  • choose to be interviewed by a man or woman

  • take a friend or an adviser with you

  • have an interpreter if English isn’t your first language

  • have a trained sign language interpreter if you require one

Even if you have a friend who can translate or sign for you, you should be offered the services of a trained interpreter.

If you find the interview upsetting or overwhelming, the homelessness officer can arrange to postpone the interview until you are feeling better.

What happens next

Temporary accommodation

If you have nowhere to stay while the council looks into your situation, you should be offered temporary accommodation.

You do not have to stay in temporary accommodation while the council makes its inquiries. Staying with friends or family will not affect your application.

Find out more about temporary accommodation

Your belongings and pet care

The council should arrange to store your personal belongings if you're not able to do this yourself. Councils have no specific legal duties towards pets but some councils may help you make arrangements if you ask.

Find out more about storing your belongings and pet care

The council’s assessment and decision

While the council assesses your situation, your homelessness officer may need to visit your current accommodation to see whether it’s reasonable for you to stay there.

They may also need to speak to other agencies or individuals such as your landlord or mortgage lender, social work, your doctor or probation officer. The homelessness officer will not speak to anyone you don't want them to, for example, an ex-partner or abusive neighbour.

After the assessment, a decision letter detailing if you’re eligible for assistance is usually sent within 28 days. This letter will also highlight that you have 21 days to appeal an unfavourable decision.

Find out more about the council’s assessment

Permanent accommodation

If the council decides that you are unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness, you should be offered a permanent home when one becomes available.

Find out more about permanent accommodation

When to get help from Shelter Scotland

You should contact an adviser if:

  • you are told that you cannot get temporary accommodation

  • you are just handed a list of hostels and told to find somewhere yourself

  • you are told that you cannot get help to store your belongings

  • your temporary accommodation doesn’t suit your needs

  • you need to appeal an unfavourable decision

Last updated: 18 May 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England