Staying in a B&B when you're homeless

If you apply to the council as homeless, it may put you in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation while it looks at your case.

It's against the law for councils to keep homeless families or pregnant women in B&Bs for more than 6 weeks. If you’re in this situation, get advice – use our directory to find a local adviser.

When can the council put you in a B&B?

When you apply to a council for help as homeless, the council will have to decide whether or not you’re entitled to temporary accommodation. If it decides you are entitled, you could be offered a room in a guest house or bed and breakfast hotel (B&B).

Single people are more likely to be put in B&Bs, although it’s also becoming more common for pregnant women and families with children to be placed in B&Bs. This is often due to a shortage of suitable flats or houses that can be used as a temporary place to stay.

If your family has to stay in a B&B for more than 6 weeks

The law says that councils should only place families and pregnant women in bed and breakfast hotels when no other accommodation is available. If you are placed in a B&B, this should not be for more than 6 weeks.

If you are in a B&B for longer than 6 weeks, complain to the council. You can get advice from Shelter if you need help doing this.

What are B&Bs like?

Most B&Bs used by the council are not like hotel accommodation. They are often businesses run only for people who are homeless.

You may get a private bedroom, but it’s possible that you will have to share bathroom facilities.

There are usually no cooking facilities, so you may have to rely on takeaway food. If there’s a kitchen, you may have to share it with others.

Some bed and breakfasts don’t allow residents to stay in their rooms during the day.

How much does it cost to stay in a B&B?

Staying at a B&B usually costs more than staying in a hostel.

You’ll be responsible for paying for your accommodation. When the council refers you to a B&B, they will ask you to fill out a housing benefit application. If you are eligible for full or part housing benefit, it will be paid directly to the council to cover your accommodation costs.

Use our housing benefit checker to find out if you can claim housing benefit.

If you are not entitled to housing benefit, you will probably to have to pay some or all of the cost of your room. The council should not put you in a bed and breakfast you cannot afford. Get advice if this happens – use our directory to find a local housing advice centre.

Like any other form of accommodation, you could be evicted if you don’t pay the rent.

There are often service charges on top of the rent to cover things like breakfast, gas and electricity. Housing benefit does not cover extra costs like these, so you will need to use your own money or other benefits to budget for them. 

When you have to move out of a B&B

Not everyone who stays in a B&B will be offered permanent or settled housing from the council.

If, after looking at your homelessness case, the council decides it won't offer any more help, you will have to move out of your bed and breakfast accommodation. If this happens, get advice immediately.

Use our directory to find a local advice centre or call our housing advice helpline.

An adviser can look into your situation and may be able to:

  • check if the council's housing department has a legal responsibility to house you and check if you can get help as homeless
  • put you in touch with a local rent guarantee scheme that could help if you don't have enough money for a deposit on a rented place
  • tell you if there is any other specialist legal advice available in your area
  • refer you to a solicitor who can advise you on getting a review of the council's decision and can help you make an appeal.

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

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