When the council won’t help

If you have applied to a council as homeless but the council has decided that you're not entitled to help, there may be steps you can take to change the decision or get other help.

Challenging the council's decision

There could be various reasons why the council says it can't help. It could be because a decision has been made on your homelessness application that means the council has no further duties to help you. But councils do sometimes get it wrong. If you are in this situation, use our emergency housing rights checker to find out whether the council has followed the rules. 

If you think you are entitled to help but the council says you're not, get advice immediately to check whether you can challenge the council's decision.

Use Shelter's directory to find details of advice agencies in your area.

Help from social services

Certain groups of people may be able to get help from social services. You might be able to get help from social services if you:

The help that social services provide may vary greatly from one council to another. The law does not specify exactly what social services have to do as it depends on individual needs. In practice getting help from social services can be difficult. It is a good idea to get advice before going to them.

Other emergency housing options

If it is possible for you to stay with friends or family, this is probably the best and safest option. It will give you more time to look for longer term accommodation.

Alternatively, an adviser may be able to help you to independently find short term or emergency accommodation in a hostel or bed and breakfast hotel.

Use Shelter's services advice directory to find a face-to-face adviser in your area.

Help with paying for emergency housing

You will have to pay rent for staying in a hostel or bed and breakfast hotel. If you are on benefits or a low income you may be able to claim housing benefit to help you pay.

Sometimes you need money up front before you can get accommodation.

Longer term housing options

Applying for a permanent council or housing association home

In most areas, offers of permanent council and housing association tenancies are made through a council waiting list or housing register. You need to apply to a council housing department.

Whether you will get a council or housing association property depends on your circumstances and the amount of accommodation that is available. In areas with housing shortages it may be very difficult to get a council or housing association tenancy.

If you are in doubt about your situation, get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice or other local advice agency. These agencies can also help you check that your priorityfor council housing has been decided correctly.

Use Shelter's directory to find details of advice agencies in your area. 

Private rented accommodation

Privately rented accommodation varies widely. In some areas it is cheap and plentiful but in other areas it can be hard to obtain and expensive.

Rents can be expensive in many areas. If you are on benefits or a low income, you need to be aware that housing benefit may not cover all of the rent and you will have to make up the difference.

Private rented accommodation is usually advertised through letting agencies and estate agents and through property websites. Sometimes private rented places are advertised locally in local papers and shop windows.

It is sometimes possible to find and move into a private rented place quite quickly. However, you often need a deposit and rent in advance. If you find a place through a letting agency, you may have to pay agency fees as well.

Private landlords often do not need a reason to get tenants to leave, although you will usually be entitled to notice and a court order before tenants have to leave.

Find out more about renting from a private landlord.

Other long term options

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider other housing options such as:

Get advice if you are considering any of these options. An adviser can tell you what may be available in your area, how to go about applying for accommodation, and what your legal rights may be.

Use Shelter's directory to find details of advice agencies in your area.

Read Shelter's guide Homeless? Read this (32 pages) for more information on homelessness.

Last updated: 1 January 2014