Your rights if you are homeless
You may have more rights than you think if you are facing homelessness or have already left your home. If you have been threatened with eviction you may have legal rights to stay in (or return to) your home. You may also be entitled to help from the council and/or social services. You still have the right to claim benefits and the right to vote.
Can I stay in, or return to, my home?
It’s important to check whether you have the right to remain in your home. This may be the case if your landlord tries to evict you without following the correct legal procedure, or after a relationship breakdown. Even if you have already left, you may be able to return if you still have the right to live there.
If you leave your accommodation when you don’t have to, or do not return when you have the right to, it could affect any right you may have to get help from the council. Try to get advice before leaving, if possible.
Right to emergency help from the council
Local councils have legal duties towards people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you contact the council and you are homeless or in danger of losing your home in the next 56 days the council might have to help you. What help you are entitled to depends on your circumstances. In most cases the council will have to provide you with advice and help at an early stage. They may have to help you find a home, or in some situations, keep your current home. In other cases, the council may have a duty to make sure you are provided with a home.
If the council has reason to believe you may be:
then it should provide you with emergency or interim accommodation while it decides what other help to give you.
Right to help from social services
Social services sometimes have duties to help certain groups of people who become homeless. These groups include:
- Some young people aged under 18
- People who have been in care (up to age 21, or up to your 24th birthday if you are still in full-time education)
- People with disabilities
- People with mental health problems
- Older people.
What if I am under 18?
Young people under 18 have different rights to benefits and different rights to housing if they become homeless. If you are 16 or 17 and homeless in Wales, you are in priority need for accommodation from the housing department of the council which may entitle you to somewhere to stay in an emergency whilst the council consider your case.
You could also be legally entitled to help from social services if you are a child in need of ‘care and support’. Contact your local social services department and ask for a ‘needs assessment’.
See our pages on Advice for Young People for helpful information on some of the most common problems faced by young people.
Can I claim benefits?
If you are homeless, you are still entitled to claim benefits.
For information about claiming Universal Credit (UC) while you are homeless, click here.
If you do not have a bank account you should ask for your benefit payments to be paid through the Payment Exception Service. This service replaced the Simple Payment scheme. Any payment will be paid straight on to a card, a voucher or a text message. You then go to your nearest PayPoint outlet with the card, voucher or your phone to collect the money.
Contact your local JobCentre Plus or benefits office for more help and advice about the Payment Exception Service.
If you are in a crisis, you may be able to apply for some financial help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund to cover emergency expenses. Whether you will get anything depends on your circumstances and also the rules that apply in your council.
If your JSA or UC stops because of a benefit sanction, you might be able to apply for hardship payments to help you pay for essential things like food and heating. You will normally have to pay back any hardship payment.
Ring the free UC helpline on 0800 328 9344 to ask for a hardship payment.
Registering with a GP if you are homeless
You are entitled to register with a doctor when you are homeless.
You can do this using a temporary address, such as a friend’s place or a day centre. You can find a doctor in your area through NHS Direct Wales.
There are also specialist medical centres for people who are homeless or sleeping rough.
Can I vote?
To vote in a General Election, you have to be:
- 18 or over
- be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland
- not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote.
If you are homeless you can still vote. You will need to make a declaration giving an address where you spend a substantial part of your time or have some connection. This could be a previous address, shelter, friends or anywhere you spend most of the day or night.
To make the declaration click here and scroll down to : ‘Register to vote: No fixed or permanent address in England and Wales’.
To find out more about registering to vote without an address click here.
If you have a fixed address you can register to vote in the usual way by visiting gov.uk/register-to-vote.
What if I have lived abroad?
People who have lived abroad may have different rights depending on their particular circumstances. If you have lived abroad, your rights depend on:
- When you entered the country
- The purpose of your stay
- Whether you are seeking asylum
- Whether you are a EU or EEA national.
Seek advice from Shelter Cymru, email us or contact a specialist immigration adviser.
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 08000 495 495.