Storing your belongings and pet care when you’re homeless

In some situations, the council has a duty to look after and store your personal belongings. You may also get help with your pets if you become homeless.

Can I take my things into temporary accommodation?

If you are homeless and offered temporary accommodation by the council while it looks into your situation, you may not be able to keep your furniture and belongings with you. This may be because the accommodation the council provides is already furnished, or is too small to store all your belongings.

What counts as property?

Property includes personal belongings, clothing and furniture. It does not include pets or equipment used for business purposes.

When does my property have to be protected?

The council has a duty to protect your property when it is:

  • at risk of damage or loss, and

  • you aren't able to arrange storage yourself, for example, because you can't afford it, it would be dangerous for you to collect your belongings, or you are ill

This duty applies from the day you make your homeless application and it applies to your property and the property of anyone else in your household included in your application.

What happens to my property?

The council has to do their best to prevent loss or damage to your property. They can:

  • arrange removals

  • arrange storage

  • gain entry to a property to recover your belongings, for example, if you have been illegally evicted or have fled abuse or harassment

Most councils will charge for the protection of your property, although some will waive charges if you're on a low income or benefits.

If your council will not waive the charges, it may be cheaper and more practical for you to arrange removals and storage yourself.

When will the council stop storing my belongings?

The council no longer has a responsibility to protect your property when:

  • it considers there is no longer a danger of damage or loss to your property, or

  • you leave your temporary accommodation, or

  • it has made a decision about your application and has no further duty to help you

  • you have found a permanent home

The council has to inform you in writing when it no longer has a duty to protect your property, and it must give you enough time to make alternative arrangements.

Even if the council has no further obligation to provide accommodation for you, it can choose to continue to protect your property until you move into a new home. If you have been offered permanent housing, the council may arrange to have your property delivered to your new home.

Will the council get rid of my belongings?

The council may be able to dispose of your property:

  • six months after the duty to protect your property ends and you haven't arranged to collect your belongings, or

  • the council loses touch with you

It has to follow specific procedures in order to do this and if it doesn't, you may be able to take the council to court to get compensation. Get in touch with an adviser if this happens to you.

What about my pets?

The council has no specific legal duties towards pets but some councils may help you make arrangements if you ask.

If you have pets and you cannot take them with you into temporary accommodation, ask the council if they can help you arrange a kennel for them.

If you are in a crisis situation but cannot arrange or afford to pay for commercial kennelling, you can contact the Pet Fostering Service Scotland on 0344 811 9909 and they may be able to look after your pet for you.

The Dogs Trust Freedom Project can help people leaving domestic abuse by offering a free and confidential dog fostering service for up to six months. Contact them on 0808 169 4315.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 9 June 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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