Housing rights while pregnant
Having children is one of life's biggest changes and could dramatically change your housing needs. This section explains how your legal rights in relation to housing are affected by pregnancy.
Living with other people can provide emotional and practical support while you are pregnant. However, it is very important to understand the housing rights you have. These will depend on:
- who you live with (ie whether you are married, or in a registered civil partnership)
- whether it is rented or owner-occupied
- if it is owner-occupied, whether you are joint owners, or one of you is the sole owner
- if you are renting, what type of tenancy or license it is (you can use our tenancy checker to work this out) and whose name the agreement is in.
If you are a young person over the age of 16 and are living at home with your parents you have very limited rights if they ask you to leave.
If you are thinking of moving in with a partner you should consider how this will affect your rights.
A housing adviser can explain how different options would affect your rights - use our directory to find one in your area.
If you are pregnant and you have no accommodation, you can make a homelessness application to your local council. You do not have to be living on the street to do this. For example, you may be legally classed as homeless if you are staying somewhere temporarily, or living in overcrowded conditions.
The council is legally required to give you advice and help you to find a place to live. Depending on your situation, they may have to provide accommodation for you. Use our emergency housing rights checker to find out more about how the council should help you.
The fact that you are pregnant will mean that you are automatically in priority need. You may have to provide proof of the pregnancy from a doctor or other medical professional.
In many cases it is best to remain in your current accommodation for as long as possible to ensure that the council doesn't say that you are intentionally homeless. If possible, get advice before you leave your current home.
If you are likely to have to leave your accommodation within the next 28 days, or the landlord gets a court order to evict you within 28 days, you should be classed as threatened with homelessness.
In situations like this, the council should give you advice about whether you have a right to stay where you are. They may be able to:
- help you to negotiate with the landlord or lender
- arrange relationship counselling or mediation.
If it is unlikely that the eviction can be stopped, the council has a duty to help as if you were already homeless (see above). It should not wait until you are actually evicted before making proper enquiries.
If you (or anyone in your household) have dependant 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.
Most people have some protection from eviction or repossession - their landlord or lender can't just make them leave. Most people are entitled to written notice and a court order, and can only be evicted if certain conditions are met. However, you may have more limited rights if you:
- share living accommodation with the landlord or his/her family (eg you live in their home as a lodger)
- are living in halls of residence
- are living in temporary accommodation (eg a hostel, temporary accommodation from the council, or accommodation provided for asylum seekers).
If you are threatened with eviction or repossession and are unsure of your rights, get advice urgently. An adviser may be able to help by:
- checking what type of tenancy or license you have
- finding out what the eviction procedure should be, and whether it has been followed. If it hasn't the landlord may be guilty of harassment and/or illegal eviction, both of which are serious criminal offences
- helping you to tackle mortgage arrears or rent arrears.
If the correct procedure hasn't been followed, your landlord or lender may have to start the process again. This would give you more time to seek advice and/or find alternative accommodation.
If you have no choice but to leave, and you can't organise other suitable housing, you can apply as homeless.
A home that was suitable beforehand can become unsuitable during pregnancy. This is particularly likely if you are expecting your first child. Your home may become unsuitable because:
- it is not a good place to be pregnant, eg because of steep or narrow stairs, or
- it is too small for a woman and baby, or just unsuitable for a baby. For example, a room in your parents' home or a bedsit may have been fine for you alone, but may be too small once the baby arrives.
If you cannot organise other suitable housing, you can try applying as homeless. Depending on your circumstances, the council may decide that you fall within the legal definition of homelessness. This might be the case if, for example:
- you only have basic shelter or accommodation of a very temporary nature (eg a hostel, women's refuge, or staying with friends or family temporarily)
- your home is of such a poor standard compared to other housing in the area that it is not reasonable for you to stay there. This would be the case if the property is in such a poor state of repair that it is damaging your health
- you (or someone else in your household) are experiencing violence or threats that are likely to be carried out
- you have accommodation but someone who could be expected to live with you (eg your baby's father) cannot live there as well
- you have accommodation but can't afford to keep living there without depriving yourself of basic essentials such as food or heating.
If the council decides that the conditions in your home are not so bad as to make it unsuitable, you will not be classed as homeless. However, you can still apply to go on the waiting list for a permanent home and should be given priority as a result of the pregnancy.
If you already have other children, the position may be more difficult. If your home is already considered suitable for a family with children, the arrival of a baby is unlikely to make it unsuitable. When calculating whether a home is officially overcrowded, a baby doesn't count at all, and children under 10 years old each count as only half a person.
A pregnant woman cannot be dismissed because of pregnancy, except in certain limited circumstances. If you have been threatened with dismissal or discriminated against during your pregnancy, get advice from Citizens Advice, the Equality Advisory and Support Service or a solicitor.
If you are working and intend to return to work after having the baby, you will qualify for paid maternity leave. You will get statutory maternity pay and may also qualify for extra rights as part of her employment contract. The baby's father may also qualify for paternity leave. Employers should be able to provide information about maternity pay, but you can also get advice from Citizens Advice.
Welfare benefits are available to parents and prospective parents during maternity and paternity leave. This may include:
- working tax credit (which can include a childcare element for families on a low income)
- child tax credit (after the baby is born)
- income support (which can also help to pay mortgage interest)
- contribution-based job seeker's allowance
- sure start maternity grant (for mothers only)
- housing benefit
- council tax benefit
- sick pay, if the mother is sick.
Visit the Gov.uk:benefits website for more information about these and other benefits.
After the child is born, parents claiming benefits should have their benefits re-assessed to take into account the change in circumstances. Child benefit will be paid to one of the parents, usually the mother.
Problems paying for housing
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to apply for:
It is very important to inform the housing benefit department of any changes in your circumstances. This includes the birth of your child, as the amount you are entitled to may change.
This may be particularly important if you are a student or are under the age of 35, as there are special rules which may affect you while you are pregnant, but once your baby is born, you'll probably be exempt.
If you are single and under the age of 35 and you have no other children, you will probably only be entitled to housing benefit for a single room in a shared home. After you give birth you will be able to apply for a self-contained property.
As well as medical treatment during pregnancy, during labour and afterwards, the NHS provides antenatal classes and sessions to learn about hospital services and birth options. Mothers should ask their GP or contact NHS Direct.
Mother and baby hostels
In some areas, there are dedicated hostels for homeless women who are pregnant or have a new baby. These are often particularly suitable for young homeless women expecting a first child, and can provide additional support both from trained staff and from other women going through similar experiences.
Some other hostels will take young women in the early stages of pregnancy (up to six months approximately). Others are not able to house pregnant women, or those with young babies.
Charities and voluntary organisations
There are many charities and voluntary organisations providing information and advice about pregnancy, for example:
- National Childbirth Trust provides information and classes about birth options.
- TAMBA provides information and advice about multiple births and has a helpline on: 0800 138 0509.
- Contact a Family provides advice, information and support to the parents of all disabled children and has a free parents' helpline on: 0808 808 3555. They may be able to put the woman in touch with charities and support groups for parents of disabled children with specific conditions.