Intentional homelessness

In some circumstances, when deciding whether it must find you a place to live, the council can consider if you are intentionally homeless.

Some councils may not consider whether you are intentionally homeless if you fall into a particular category and some families and young people can still qualify for help even if they are found intentionally homeless.

What does being ‘intentionally homeless’ mean?

Being ‘intentionally homeless’ means that your homelessness, or threatened homelessness, was caused by something that you deliberately did or failed to do.

When deciding if you are intentionally homeless, the council must consider the reasons you became homeless. It’s up to the council to prove that:

  • you did, or failed to do, something that caused you to lose your home
  • the act, or failure to act, was deliberate or you were aware of what was going on
  • the home was available and reasonable for you to continue live in.

You have the right to explain your actions to the council in relation to your housing situation.

When can the council decide that I am ‘intentionally homeless’?

The council can only consider if you are intentionally homeless when deciding if:

Before making a decision that you are intentionally homeless, the council must, in eligible cases, be satisfied that it has taken all reasonable steps to either help prevent your homelessness or help you to find a home (under ‘the duty to help to prevent homelessness’ and ‘the duty to help to secure’). The council cannot refuse to take these reasonable steps to help you just because they think you may be intentionally homeless.

If the council suspect you may be intentionally homeless before they have taken all reasonable steps to help you, then it should write to you to warn you that this is what they are thinking. If you get a letter telling you that a decision of intentionality is likely then get advice immediately. An adviser can help you reply to the council and also look at your options if you are later found intentionally homeless.

Families and young people

From 2 December 2019, if after giving you help and advice, the council decides that you are priority need but intentionally homeless, and you, or someone living with you (or reasonably expected to live with you):-

  • have a dependent child
  • are pregnant
  • were under 21 when you made your homelessness application, or
  • were over 21 and under 25 when you made your homeless application and had been in care when you were under 18 (being in care includes if you were looked after, accommodated or in foster care),

then the council will still be under a final duty to secure accommodation for you. It does not matter if they have decided that you were intentionally homeless.

You will not be owed a final duty if, since the 2nd December 2019, you have been found intentionally homeless and offered accommodation by the council more than once in the last 5 years, as the result of a previous homeless application.

Does every council have to consider whether I am ‘intentionally homeless’?

No. Each council is allowed to decide which category of person they will apply the test of intentionally homeless to. They may decide not to apply the test to anyone, or they may decide that they will apply it to one category of person (for example, people with children) but not to another category (for example, care leavers).

The council must say on their website whether they will apply the test of intentionally homeless and for which category of person. Look on GOV.UK to search for the website of your local council.

Reasons you could be found to be intentionally homeless:

You didn’t pay the rent or mortgage when you could have
Losing your home is likely to be considered a deliberate act if you:

  • knowingly and continually failed to pay your rent or mortgage, even though you could afford to, or,
  • knew you couldn’t afford the rent or mortgage payments when you moved into your home.

However, losing your home because of mortgage or rent arrears may not be considered intentional if:

  • you got into arrears because of significant financial difficulties that were out of your control, for example illness, redundancy or a reduction to your benefits. This is especially true if you can show you did everything possible to try to save your home.
  • you got into rent arrears because of delays in your housing benefit or universal credit payments
  • you couldn’t manage your money because of a physical or mental illness or disability
  • you thought your partner was paying the rent but they weren’t.

If your partner did something that caused you to be evicted, they may be intentionally homeless. You could be found to be intentionally homeless too if you knew what your partner was doing or joined in or if you failed to take action that could easily have solved the problem.

You can make a homelessness application in your name even if the council decides your partner is intentionally homeless. Your partner can be included in the application.

You neglected your personal finances or ignored professional advice
You could be considered to be intentionally homeless if you were given advice, for example by a housing options officer, and you ignored this advice.

You or your family were evicted for antisocial behaviour
You may be found to be intentionally homeless if you’ve been evicted because you or your child were involved in antisocial behaviour. Parents are usually held responsible for their children’s actions, especially young children.

What you did to try to stop the antisocial behaviour could affect the council’s decision.

You left accommodation which was available and reasonable for you to live in
You are likely to be intentionally homeless if the accommodation you left was available and reasonable for you to live in. This applies to accommodation in the UK and abroad. The accommodation you left must have been available for you as well as:

  • anyone who normally lives with you as a member of your family and
  • any other person who would normally live with you as a member of your family but can’t at present because of your housing situation

However, you may not be considered to be intentionally homeless if the accommodation was not reasonable for you to stay in because:

  • you or someone you live with was experiencing abuse or threats of abuse
    the accommodation was in a very poor condition compared with other local housing
  • you couldn’t afford the rent or mortgage payments unless you went without essentials such as food and heating
    the accommodation was causing damage to your health.

You might think it’s unreasonable for you to stay in your accommodation for other reasons, such as overcrowding. Get advice if you think you have strong, valid reasons for leaving but the council doesn’t agree.

You left a job that provided you with accommodation
Housing that comes with a job is known as tied accommodation. This type of accommodation is particularly common in farming. If you leave a job that came with housing and, as a result, end up with nowhere to live, you may be considered to be intentionally homeless.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: December 2, 2019

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.