The legal definition of homelessness

This section outlines the criteria for being considered 'homeless'.

This content applies to Scotland

Homelessness: definitions

A person is homeless if s/he:

  • has no accommodation in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, [1] which s/he is entitled to occupy together with other members of her/his household [2]

  • has accommodation, but it is not reasonable to continue to occupy it [3]

  • has accommodation, but cannot secure entry to it [4]

  • has accommodation, but occupation of it will probably lead to abuse or threats of abuse from someone who lives there [5]

  • has accommodation, but occupation of it will probably lead to abuse or threats of abuse from someone who previously resided with the applicant in that accommodation or elsewhere [6]

  • has accommodation, but it is moveable (such as a caravan or houseboat) and there is nowhere to place it and live in it [7]

  • has accommodation, but this is overcrowded and may endanger the health of the occupants. [8]

A person is threatened with homelessness if s/he is likely to become homeless within two months. [9]

If an applicant falls within any of these groups, the local authority will have some form of duty towards her/him, ranging from offering advice and assistance to a full housing duty. [10]

The extent of the duty will depend on whether or not s/he is intentionally homeless, or if the conditions for referral to another local authority are satisfied. (Prior to 31 December 2012 local authorities could also take into account whether the applicant was in priority need.) [11]

Last updated: 18 November 2019

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.24(1) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended by s.3(1)(a) Housing (Scotland) Act 2001

  • [2]

    s.24(2) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [3]

    s.24(2A) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 added by s.65 (2) Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990

  • [4]

    s.24(3)(a) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [5]

    s.24(3)(b) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended by s.10(3) Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [6]

    s.24(3)(bb) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 added by Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 and amended by s.10(3) Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [7]

    s.24(3)(c) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [8]

    s.24(3)(d) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987

  • [9]

    s.24(4) Housing (Scotland) Act 1987as amended by s.3(1)(c) Housing (Scotland) Act 2001

  • [10]

    ss.31-32 Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 as amended by Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [11]

    s.25 Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 repealed by art.4 Homelessness (Abolition of Priority Need Test) (Scotland) Order SI 2012/330 (31 December 2012)