What is suitable accommodation?
Accommodation offered by the council when you are homeless must be suitable.
If you do not think an offer that has been made to you is suitable, you can ask the council to look at the offer again. Don’t turn down an offer without advice. Your council may not have to give you any more help.
When must accommodation be suitable?
If you have made a homelessness application to the council, any accommodation offered to you in the following situations must be suitable:
- an offer of emergency housing while the council decides what other help to give you;
- an offer in discharge of the council’s duties to help prevent your homelessness;
- an offer in discharge of the council’s duties to help to secure accommodation;
- an offer of settled accommodation in discharge of the council’s duties to secure accommodation;
- an offer of interim accommodation while the council is finding you somewhere more settled.
What the council has to consider
The accommodation the council offers you has to be suitable for you and all members of your household.
Before the council offer you accommodation, they must consider if it is :
- the right size for your household
- in good enough condition
- fit for you and your household to live in (for example, you may not be able to manage steep stairs)
- affordable for you
- in a suitable location (for example, will you be able to continue with your job?, will your children still be able to travel to the same school?, will you be near enough to any support networks such as your family, GP or social worker).
They should also consider whether the landlord and/or agent of the property is correctly licensed.
What if I am in priority need?
If the council believes you are, or might be, in priority need then it must also consider:
- any specific health needs
- the location of any support (including family) you have
- the location of any essential medical facilities
- the location of your employment or education
- the location of your caring responsibilities
- where any alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse may live.
If the council is considering offering you somewhere out of the area, it must also consider how far away that is and the impact it might have on you and members of your household. Where possible, councils should try to make sure that you and members of your household can still go to the same school, GP, support worker etc.
What is affordable?
In deciding if the accommodation is suitable, the council must consider whether it is affordable for you by looking at:
- your income (including wages, and benefits)
- your savings
- the costs of the accommodation (including rent, service charges, electricity & gas bills, council tax)
- other payments you may have to make, such as maintenance payments or child support
- other reasonable living expenses (such as travelling costs, food).
If taking the accommodation would mean that you would end up with less money than you would have to live on if you were claiming income support or income-based jobseekers allowance (JSA), the accommodation should not be considered to be suitable. The council needs to make sure that you can still afford basic essentials, such as food, clothing and travel.
Make sure you tell the council if you have to pay out extra money because of special circumstances, for example, travel to essential medical appointments or the costs of a special diet.
The condition of the property
Accommodation may not be suitable if the council believes any of the following apply:
- It isn’t in reasonable physical condition (for example, there are signs of damp, mould or a lack of heating)
- It isn’t safe for you or your household members because of hazards
- Any electrical equipment supplied with the accommodation doesn’t meet the relevant electrical safety regulations
- The landlord hasn’t taken reasonable fire safety precautions – either with the accommodation itself, or any furnishings that come with it
- The landlord hasn’t taken reasonable precautions to prevent the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Bed and Breakfast and shared accommodation
Any emergency housing or temporary housing offered to you by the council should be suitable for you and your household.
Councils should only offer bed & breakfast accommodation as a last resort and only for very short-term stays. If the council do offer you a bed & breakfast for emergency accommodation check that you will be able to use the room during the day and that you will have somewhere to cook a meal. Ask how long you are likely to be there and ask the council to move you somewhere more suitable as soon as possible.
Any bed & breakfast accommodation offered to you must meet certain standards depending on how many bedrooms it has and whether the owner lives on the premises. If you think the accommodation you have been offered is not of a suitable standard then tell the council and they should investigate.
If the council believes you are, or maybe, priority need, you should only be placed in bed and breakfast in an emergency, and generally should not have to stay there for any longer than six weeks. If the accommodation is legally classed as ‘basic standard’ then this is reduced to just two weeks.
These time limits do not apply if you are being housed as a result of an emergency, such as fire or flood, and there is no where else you can go.
What to do if the council offers you unsuitable accommodation
If you are offered somewhere that you don’t think is suitable, you should tell the council why you don’t think it is suitable. If the council doesn’t offer you anything else, get advice. An adviser may be able to help you to convince the council that you should be offered something more suitable for your needs.
You can ask the council to review its decision about whether the accommodation is suitable for you. Reviews about the suitability of accommodation can be complicated, so get advice if you want to request one. You must request the review within 21 days of receiving the offer.
Unsuitable emergency housing
Unsuitable longer-term accommodation
If the council offers longer-term accommodation that isn’t suitable, get advice before you turn it down. If you refuse accommodation that the council thinks is suitable for you, it may not have to give you any more help. In some cases, it may be better to accept an unsuitable offer and at the same time ask for a review of its suitability. This is because:
- there is no guarantee that you will be offered something more suitable
- you will have somewhere to stay while the council reviews its decision
- you will have somewhere to stay if your review is unsuccessful.