Are you ‘eligible’ for help?
The council will want to decide if you are legally ‘eligible’ to qualify for help. To do this they may need to ask you some questions about your nationality and/or your immigration status.
What does being ‘eligible’ mean?
Being ‘eligible’ for homelessness assistance depends on your immigration and residence status. There are different rules for British citizens, nationals of EU or EEA countries and people of other nationalities.
Only people who are ‘eligible’ are entitled to full homelessness help from the council.
If you live in the UK, are a British citizen and have not recently spent time living in other countries you will almost certainly be ‘eligible’. There are two main groups of people who may not be ‘eligible’. These are:
- people who may have rights to live here but have spent time living somewhere else and aren’t considered to be ‘habitually resident’
- people who are not British citizens and/or don’t have full rights to live here because of their immigration status.
If your husband, wife, civil partner or parent is eligible, you may be eligible yourself (even if your relationship has ended).
In Wales, even if you are not eligible, you should be given general information and advice about how to prevent homelessness, find accommodation or get further help.
Are all British citizens eligible?
You are eligible if you are a British citizen living in the UK and you have not recently spent time living abroad.
You may not be eligible if you are a British citizen but have returned to the UK after living abroad for a lengthy period. This is because councils can only provide homelessness assistance for people who are classed as ‘habitually resident’. When they assess your application, the council will decide whether you are habitually resident, and will look at things like:
- where you live
- where you work
- where you have family or friends
- the reasons why you have come to live in the area
- where you intend to live in future
- whether you have been ‘habitually resident’ in the past.
Are people from abroad eligible?
Only certain people from abroad are eligible. The rules are very complicated if you are not a UK citizen and your rights will depend on your immigration status. The council may contact the Home Office to check your status, so you should always get specialist advice before you apply.
People who are subject to immigration control
Citizens of countries from outside the EEA are generally subject to immigration control and need permission to enter or remain in the UK.
Most people who are subject to immigration control are not eligible for homelessness assistance. But, there are some exceptions. You may still be eligible if:
- you have refugee status
- you have exceptional leave to remain in the UK, and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’
- you are habitually resident in the UK and your leave was granted without any conditions
- you have humanitarian protection
- you are an Afghan citizen who has served the UK Government, or
- you have limited leave to remain in the UK on the grounds of ‘respect for family or private life’ under Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention and your leave doesn’t state that you should have ‘no recourse to public funds’.
People who are not subject to immigration control
If you are not a British Citizen and not subject to immigration control, you will probably be eligible provided you are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK.
There are some situations where you can still be eligible for assistance, even if you are not habitually resident. These include:
- If you are an European Economic Area (EEA) national with a right to reside in the UK which you have acquired because of your work or because you are self-employed. Your work does not necessarily need to be full-time and you may still qualify if you are doing genuine part-time work but need to top up your income with state benefits.
- If you are an EEA national and you have lived in the UK continuously for five years and have been working, studying or supporting yourself as a self-sufficient person;
- If you are a family member of either of the above EEA nationals.
People from the EEA whose only right to reside in the UK is as a jobseeker, or who only have an initial right to reside for 3 months, are not eligible. See the section on EU and EEA nationals for more details.
Immigration law is extremely complicated, so get advice before you apply if you are not sure of your status.
If you are seeking asylum and have nowhere to live, you may be entitled to help from UK Visas and Immigration while your asylum claim is being decided. In some cases, social services may be also be able to help. Get advice if you are in this situation. See the page on Asylum Seekers for more information.
What if some of my household is eligible and others aren’t?
The rules for mixed-eligibility households are complicated so it is best to get advice, especially if you have dependent children. In most situations like these, the eligible person should apply to the council for assistance.
Should the council give me emergency housing whilst they are deciding if I am ‘eligible’?
Until the council make a decision that you are not ‘eligible’ they should continue to carry out an assessment of your case.
If, before making a final decision, the council have reason to believe that you may be ‘eligible’, homeless and in ‘priority need’ then it should make sure that emergency housing is available to you. At this stage the council does not have to be certain that you are eligible, it just has to have reason to believe that you might be. This accommodation may be called ‘interim accommodation’ and you can find out more about it here.
If the council later decides that you are not ‘eligible’ it can ask you to leave any emergency housing it has provided but must still provide you with general information, advice and assistance in getting other help for you.
What can I do if the council says I’m not eligible?
If the council decides that your household is not ‘eligible’, it has no further duty to help you other than give you some general information and advice. If the council has already provided you with emergency housing whilst it was carrying out checks and making it’s decision then it can ask you to leave.
If the council considers that you are not ‘eligible’ it has to inform you in writing. The letter must explain the reasons why the council has come to that decision. It must also inform you of your right to request a review of the decision within 21 days. If this happens, you should get advice immediately to see if you can challenge the council’s decision. If you are unable to request a review, or if your review is unsuccessful an adviser can help you consider your alternative housing options.
Where can I get help and advice?
If it is decided that you are not eligible for assistance and the decision cannot be challenged, you may be able to get help in other ways.
Social Services departments of local councils may have a duty to assist if:
- you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- you are a family with children
- you are a young person who has been in care
- you are an adult with a need for ‘care and attention’, for example, because you are ill, elderly or have a disability or mental health problem.
The council’s housing department and social services should co-operate to help you.
UK Visas and Immigration provides housing and other support to people who are seeking asylum.
The Housing Rights Information website has useful information about the housing and benefit rights of people from abroad.
If you need specialist advice about your immigration status, you can find information about immigration advisors on the website of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.