Applying to the council as homeless
If you over 16 and are homeless or threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days, then you are entitled to apply to the council for help in finding or keeping your accommodation. This is called making an homelessness application.
Who can apply?
Anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness in the next 56 days can apply.
You only need to make one homelessness application for the whole of your household. This includes anyone who currently lives with you and anyone who could be expected to live with you if you had accommodation where you could all live together. The council should look at the circumstances of everyone in your household when it makes its decision.
The council cannot accept homelessness applications from people whose mental capacity is too limited to be able to decide whether to accept an offer of accommodation or not.
If the council won’t let you make an application you should ask for written reasons why and get advice.
Do I have to apply in person?
Councils have to accept homelessness applications in any form. This means that you should be able to apply:
- in person,
- by telephone,
- in writing (you can download and adapt our sample letter).
Ideally you should make the application yourself but, where this is not possible (for example, you are ill, in hospital or in prison) then the council should accept an application made by someone on your behalf, such as a social worker or a relative.
You should be able to apply to any department of the council but, to save delay, it would be best to try and make your application directly to the homelessness department. The main council switchboard will be able to give details of who best to contact or you could search online.
If the council is insisting that you apply in a certain way and you are unable to do this for any reason, then seek advice.
What if I become homeless outside office hours?
If you are homeless outside office hours, the council should operate an out of hours service that you can contact. You can get details of these services in your area from Shelter’s free national helpline 0808 800 4444, (open from 8am-8pm Mon-Fri; 8am-5pm Sat-Sun), online, or from your local phone directory. The type of emergency service provided varies between different councils.
Am I applying to the right council?
If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you can apply to any council for assistance. However, you should bear in mind that if you do not have a local connection with the council area where you make your application, it may be possible for the council to send you to a different council area later on. The council must however accept an application and carry out an assessment before deciding to refer you somewhere else. The council can’t send you back to an area where you (or a member of your household) have experienced abuse and is at risk of further abuse.
If the council is refusing to accept your application because it says that you should apply to a different council, get advice.
When should I apply?
Councils only have to accept applications from people who are actually homeless, or who are threatened with homelessness within 56 days.
The council should accept you as under the threat of homelessness if it is likely that you could lose your home within the next 56 days. This may, for example, apply if:
- You are a tenant being evicted from rented accommodation and you have received a valid notice to leave;
- You are a homeowner threatened with repossession by your mortgage lender;
- Your landlord has not paid the mortgage on the property you live in and you are now being evicted;
- You are being discharged from hospital or another institution;
- You live with a resident landlord and you have been asked to leave within the next 56 days;
- A family member has told you to leave within 56 days.
Most tenants are entitled to wait until their landlord obtains a court order against them before they have to leave. However, councils should not insist that tenants always wait until a court order expires before considering them to be threatened with homelessness. If you are in this situation and the council is telling you that you must wait for a court order or for the bailiffs to arrive, get advice.
What will the council want to know when I make a homelessness application?
Once the council accepts your application, it must carry out a full assessment of your case so that it can decide what help to give you. During the assessment a council officer will wish to interview you. You may be offered an interview straight away or the council may make an appointment for you to come back. If you are homeless immediately, the council should deal with you on the same day. Interviews are usually at the council offices. If you are not yet actually homeless, the council may visit you at home if you have mobility problems or practical difficulties in getting to the council offices.
During the interview the council will want to know :
- The circumstances that have caused you to become homeless or threatened with homelessness;
- Your housing needs, and those of any person living with you;
- Whether you, or any person living with you, needs support;
- What you want to achieve from making the application.
The officer should allow you to explain your situation and allow you to feel able to discuss all of your options and concerns.
What should I take to the interview?
The council will need to check out the details of how you have become homeless and your personal circumstances. It helps if you take all relevant documents with you to the interview. This might include:
- Identification such as birth certificate(s) or passport(s) for everyone in your household
- Proof of income (e.g. letter from the Department for Work & Pensions or wage slips)
- Proof of pregnancy
- Tenancy agreement
- Eviction notice served by landlord
- Court possession papers
- A letter from the person who has asked you to leave
- Any medical information
Download our checklist of items to support your homelessness application from our free resources.
What if I’ve applied before?
If you have already applied as homeless and the council has reached a decision on your application, the council may not accept another application.
However, if there has been any change to your situation since the original decision, or, if your application is now based on new facts, the council should accept a new homelessness application and start its assessment again.
If the council refuses to carry out a further assessment then seek advice. You might be able to ask for a review of that refusal, or, if it was less than 21 days ago, a review of the original decision.
How long before I know what help the council will give me?
There is no time limit for how long it may take the council to carry out the assessment. However, except for very complicated cases, the assessment should not take longer than 10 working days.
If you meet certain criteria, the council may have to provide somewhere for you to stay from the date you make your application until it has finished checking out your situation.