Intentionally or unintentionally homeless

During the council’s investigation into your circumstances, they might check whether you deliberately did or failed to do something that resulted in you becoming homeless.

They do not have to look into the reasons why you became homeless in order to decide that you are entitled to a permanent home.

Get homeless help from the council

If you have nowhere safe to stay, make a homeless application to the council. You should be given accommodation on the day you need it.

They must help if you are homeless or likely to become homeless in the next two months.

Find a council's homeless department

Intentionally homeless

It’s up to the council to prove that you became homeless intentionally, not for you to prove that you did not.

You are intentionally homeless if you deliberately do, or fail to do something, that causes you to leave housing that is available to stay in. The housing must have been reasonable to be lived in by you and anyone expected to live with you.

If the council is not sure whether this applies, you should be considered unintentionally homeless.

Examples of intentional homelessness

  • you were evicted for antisocial behaviour

  • you did not pay the rent or mortgage when you could have afforded to

  • you ignored advice that could have helped you keep your home


Unintentionally homeless

If the reasons behind your actions were beyond your control, you should be classed as unintentionally homeless.

Examples of unintentional homelessness

  • your landlord has evicted you in order to sell their property

  • your partner cannot move into your home with you due to lack of space or because other members of your family do not want them there

  • you were evicted for antisocial behaviour that was caused by mental illness

  • left your home to take up a new job in another area

  • you could not pay your rent or mortgage because:

    • you fell ill

    • you were made redundant

    • your partner who helped pay the rent moved out

Homeless because you did not get new accommodation

If your actions only stopped you from getting accommodation (for example, if you did not make contact with a landlord who had accommodation available) you should be classed as unintentionally homeless.

Homeless because you weren’t aware of the facts

The council should decide you are unintentionally homeless if something you were not aware of caused you to become homeless:

  • you gave up your home because you did not know you had a right to stay there

  • you were given bad or misleading advice which caused you to leave your home when you did not have to

  • someone you live with did something without your knowledge. In order for this to apply you would have to show that either:

    • you were unaware of the other person's actions, or

    • you could not stop them

Example: If your partner was not paying the rent but you did not know about it, the council would decide that you are unintentionally homeless.

This means that anyone else included in your homeless application would also be found unintentionally homeless.

The council must look at your entire situation

When deciding whether or not you're intentionally homeless, the council must look at everything that led up to you becoming homeless.

The cause of homelessness

The council can only take into account the direct cause of your homelessness. Certain circumstances can break the chain of events. These include:

  • a change in your circumstances (for example, if you have a baby or split up with your partner)

  • a move into settled accommodation

Example: You are evicted from your council house due to rent arrears and you move in with your partner. You then split up from your partner and they ask you to move out.

In this case, you would be unintentionally homeless because of the breakdown of your relationship, not because you were evicted from your council house.

The kind of accommodation you were living in

The council can only look at the reasons you left your last settled home. Hostels, bed and breakfasts, and temporary accommodation provided by the council or by friends usually do not count as settled homes.

If you have always lived at home with your parents or family, this will probably count as a settled home, but if you return to live with them temporarily, this may not.

Example: You could not afford to pay your rent so you have moved out of rented accommodation and in with a friend. Your friend has now asked you to leave.

In this case, the council will look at your reasons for leaving your rented accommodation, rather than your friend’s home.


The council's decision

Unintentionally homeless – what happens next

If the council believes you are unintentionally homeless, you will be entitled to permanent housing. You can remain in temporary accommodation until a suitable permanent offer is made. There is no time limit for how long this might take.

The council may refer you to another council to be housed if you do not have a local connection to the area. You can stay in your temporary accommodation until the new council can move you to its own temporary accommodation.

Intentionally homeless – what happens next

If you are intentionally homeless, the council does not have a duty to offer you a permanent home. You should be allowed to stay in your temporary accommodation long enough to find somewhere new to stay.

The council has to offer advice and assistance on finding somewhere else to live.

The council must let you know their decision in writing. The decision letter should explain:

  • that the council has decided you are intentionally homeless

  • why it came to this decision

  • that you have 21 days to ask for a review of this decision

Getting the council to review its decision

If you think the council's decision is wrong, contact an adviser immediately. An adviser can tell you whether you have a good case for getting the decision changed and help with the review process.

If you ask for a review, the council should let you stay in your temporary accommodation until it has been carried out.

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help. Get Help

Last updated: 22 June 2021

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England