Rights in temporary council housing
Find out about your rights if you’re living in temporary housing arranged by the council because you made a homelessness application.
Living in temporary housing can sometimes leave you feeling isolated and stressed. We’ve put together a few tips that can help you in our Temporary Accommodation Survival Guide.
Is my accommodation classed as ‘temporary’?
You probably live in temporary housing if:
- it was arranged by the council after you made a homelessness application, and
- you are waiting for the council to give you a written decision on your application, or,
- the council have decided that they should help you find suitable accommodation but together you have not yet found anything.
Even if you have been living in your current home for several years, you may still have a temporary agreement.
What legal status do I have?
Most people living in temporary council accommodation have limited rights.
If you have been given a written agreement, check it to see what status it says you have. You might have a tenancy or licence which gives you basic protection from eviction. This means that you cannot be evicted unless the council give you notice and get a court order.
In some situations, you might be an excluded occupier. This will be the case if:
- you live in a hostel that is owned or managed by the council, or
- you are waiting for the council to give you a written decision on your homelessness application and you are in emergency housing.
If you are an excluded occupier and the council wants you to leave it must give you reasonable notice.
Can the council evict me?
Yes. People living in temporary accommodation can be evicted much more easily than other council tenants.
The council doesn’t have to prove a legal reason to evict you but they have to follow the correct procedure. The rules are different depending on whether you are an occupier with basic protection or an excluded occupier:
- If you are an excluded occupier, the council only has to give you reasonable notice to leave, which could be verbal and at very short notice,
- If you are an occupier with basic protection, the council normally has to give you at least four weeks’ written notice and get a court order to evict you,
- If you have a fixed term agreement (for six months, for example) the procedure may be different.
If you are being asked to leave your temporary accommodation, it does not necessarily mean that the council will not have to help you in other ways. It will depend upon whether the council has other duties to you following your homeless application.
Get advice immediately if you are threatened with eviction for any reason. It may be difficult to find anywhere else to live if you don’t take action quickly.
When will I get a longer-term tenancy?
If you are in emergency housing and the council decides that they have a duty to help you secure accommodation, there is no limit as to how long you can stay in the temporary accommodation so long as:
- it remains suitable for you (see below)
- you stick to any conditions that the council has included in your agreement.
You can live there whilst the council are taking reasonable steps to help find you other accommodation. If, after 56 days, you have still not found other accommodation the council should review your case and decide whether it must provide you with a home (“the duty to secure accommodation”).
If it decides that you do not meet the criteria to be provided with a home you will have to leave. You must be given reasonable notice.
If it decides that you do meet the criteria to be provided with a home then you should be able to stay in the temporary accommodation until something suitable is found for you. This could be a council tenancy, a housing association tenancy or a tenancy with a private landlord.
How long you will have to wait will depend on how much demand for housing there is in your area, how much priority you get on the waiting list and any arrangements the council has with other landlords in their area.
Can I take in lodgers or sublet the accommodation?
While you are in temporary accommodation you do not have the right to take in a lodger or sublet part of your home, unless the council gives you permission. If you do so without permission, both you and the person you rent to can be evicted very easily.
Can I get a transfer or exchange?
Not while you are in temporary accommodation. You will have to wait until you get settled accommodation. Even then, it will only be possible if you get a secure tenancy, an introductory tenancy, or a housing association tenancy.
What if the temporary accommodation is unsuitable?
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.
In areas where there is very little housing available, accommodation a long way from your former home may be considered suitable. Councils should use Bed & Breakfast accommodation as a last resort and only for very short-term stays. If the council do offer you a Bed & Breakfast for temporary 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.
If you are 16 or 17, or are a family with dependent children or are pregnant, you should only be placed in Bed and Breakfast in an emergency, and should not have to stay there for any longer than six weeks.
For more advice about the suitability of accommodation offered by the council, click here.
Where can I get help and support?
If you’re having problems in temporary housing for any reason, get in touch with an adviser. Don’t wait until things get really bad. If you end up homeless again, it may be more difficult to get help from the council in future.
Advisers may be able to offer:
- practical help (for example if you have mobility problems)
- mediation services to help sort out disagreements with others
- treatment and support to help you with drug or alcohol problems
- advice on how to deal with money problems such as rent arrears or other debts
- help with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
For more details of how to get help and advice click here.
What if I have a complaint?
If you disagree with any decision the council has made on your homelessness application, it may be possible to challenge the decision and get it overturned.
If you feel that the council isn’t treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its other responsibilities, you can also complain using their official complaints procedure. If you’re not happy with the response you get, you can complain further to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.