Homeless and not eligible for assistance
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
If you make a homelessness application, the council has to consider whether you are eligible for assistance. This page explains how they decide this and what you should do if the council decides that you are not eligible.
What does being eligible for assistance mean?
If you apply as homeless, the council has to look into your circumstances to decide how it should help you. One of the things they will check is whether you are eligible for assistance. The rules on this depend on a number of things including:
- your immigration status, and
- whether you are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK, and
- your country of origin, and
- whether you are classed as a ‘worker’.
The law in this area is very complicated and the information below only gives an introduction.
It's important to remember that being eligible for assistance doesn't necessarily mean you will be entitled to accommodation from the council. If you are not entitled to accommodation from the council as a homeless person, you may still be entitled to housing benefit, to pay for private accommodation.
The council will also have to consider your other circumstances, including whether you:
- are legally classed as homeless
- are in priority need
- made yourself homeless intentionally
- have a local connection.
Each of these terms has a special legal meaning, if you are not sure what this means, you should get advice.
How does the council decide who is eligible?
If you are a homeless British citizen living in the UK, and have not recently spent time living abroad you will be eligible for assistance.
EU and EEA Nationals (other than A2 nationals – see below)
All EU and EEA nationals have the right to look for work. However, this does not mean that you are eligible for assistance.
As an EU or EEA nationals you will only be eligible for assistance if you are :
- a worker - ie a person who has actually worked (periods of illness, unemployment and vocational training are still treated as work). Work does not need to be full-time – if you are doing genuine part-time work but you need to top up your income with state benefits you are still classed as a worker, or
- a worker who has had to stop work because of permanent incapacity and you have lived in the UK for more than 2 years, or
- a worker who has had to stop work because of permanent incapacity for work resulting from an industrial illness or disease that entitled you to a full pension from a UK institution, or
- self-employed, or
- a worker or a self-employed person who has retired after having worked in the UK for at least 12 months and you have lived in the UK for at least 3 years, or
- self-sufficient, or
- a student with comprehensive insurance who is self-sufficient, or
- someone who has been here lawfully, exercising EU rights for 5 years continuously.
There are exceptions to these rules, so get in touch with an adviser if you do not fit into one of these categories.
Which EU and EEA nationals may not be eligible for assistance?
You may not be eligible for assistance if you are an EU national and:
- you are a lone parent and are not a worker (ie you are simply bringing up children and your children are not the children of a worker or former worker), or
- you are incapable of work and have never worked. There may be an exception, however, if you can show that you are a family member of a worker, or
- your children are not of school age.
If you are in this situation, get advice to check your position.
If you are in these situations, you may become eligible for assistance in future if you find employment or become self-employed.
What about A2 workers?
There are normally restrictions on worker status if you are from an A2 nation (Bulgaria and Romania).
For more information, please see the section on EU and EEA nationals.
Other people from abroad
If you require permission to enter or remain in the UK, you may be classed as a person from abroad who is not eligible for assistance. People who are not British citizens or who are not from an EU/ or EEA country are not normally eligible for assistance. However, there are exceptions to this.
You will probably be eligible if, for example:
- you have been granted exceptional leave to remain in the UK
- you have indefinite leave to enter or remain (‘settled status’)
- you are a refugee who has been granted asylum – but if you have come from abroad since 3 April 2000 and you are seeking asylum in the UK, you are not eligible for assistance.
You may be entitled to help from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) while your claim for asylum is being decided. Depending on your circumstances, social services may be also be able to help. Please see the section on asylum seekers and refugees for more information.
Am I classed as habitually resident?
If you have recently returned to the UK after living abroad, even if you are a British citizen, the council must check whether you meet the habitual residence test. This involves looking at what your normal place of residence is.
If you are not habitually resident in the UK, you will not be eligible for assistance.
The council should check:
- where you live
- where you work
- where you have family or other social connections
- where your belongings are
- the reasons why you have come to live in the UK
- what your intentions for the future are.
If the council tells you that it does not consider you to be habitually resident in the UK, get advice as it can be difficult to challenge their decision. If you fail the habitual residence test this may also affect your entitlement to benefits such as income support, jobseekers allowance and housing benefit.
In most cases, people will become habitually resident in the UK once they have lived here for a few months. If you make a new homelessness application at this point, the council may decide that you are eligible for assistance, even if you were not eligible before.
What if some of my household are eligible for assistance and others are not?
The rules for mixed-eligibility households – where some members are eligible and others are not – are complicated. So it is best to get advice if one person in your household is an EU national and another is not, especially if you have dependent children. The eligible person in your household should apply to the council for assistance.
When the council is deciding whether you are in priority need (and therefore entitled to help with housing) there are some circumstances in which the council does not take into account the people in your house who are not eligible.
What if the person applying is a UK or EU/EEA national?
If you are a British Citizen or an EU national with the right to reside, but the person who is in priority need in your household is subject to immigration control, then only a limited duty will be owed by your council. In these situations, councils will normally arrange a tenancy for you with a private landlord, which may be paid for by housing benefit – however, this might not cover all your rent.
This private tenancy must be for at least a year, but if you refuse an offer like this, the council may no longer have any duty to help you. It is very unlikely that you will be offered a permanent council or housing association home, so always get advice before you turn any offer down.
If the council decides that they will house you, they will take everyone in your household into account (both eligible and ineligible) when deciding what sort of accommodation is suitable for you.
What if you’ve split up?
The family members of the persons set out above may be eligible for assistance, including if you are:
- the child and spouse of an eligible person – even if families have split up,
- the former spouse or civil partner of a worker,
- the direct descendants of a worker and you are under 21,
- other dependents of the worker, or their spouse/civil partner will be eligible.
You don’t necessarily have to be an EU national yourself to be eligible for assistance.
Even if you have split up/divorced and your partner/spouse has left the UK, or no longer qualifies for some other reason, you will have a right of residence while you are responsible for the children and they are in education.
What happens if immigration status changes?
If your immigration status changes, before the council makes a decision, this may affect the result, so:
- if your position has improved (eg you have been granted permission to stay in the UK), inform the council as soon as possible
- if your position has worsened (eg if your asylum appeal has been lost) you are required by law to tell the council – if you don't, then you may lose any housing that has been provided.
What can I do if the council says I'm not eligible?
If the council considers that you are not eligible for assistance it has to inform you in writing. The council must explain the reasons why they have come to that decision. The council must also inform you of your right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.
If this happens, you should get advice immediately to see if you can challenge the council's decision. Use our directory to find an adviser or housing solicitor in your area. If you are unable to request a review, or if your review is unsuccessful, an adviser or housing solicitor can help you consider your options.
You must get advice quickly from a solicitor if your request for a review is turned down, because you only have 21 days to appeal to the court.
Can people who are not eligible for assistance get any help at all?
If the council decides that you are not eligible for assistance, it has no further duty to help you. This is the case regardless of the rest of your circumstances. However, you may still be able to get help in other ways.
Social services can provide support (which may include housing) to:
- Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding
- Families with children
- Young people aged 16 or 17
- Care leavers
- Other vulnerable groups - eg people who are ill, disabled, elderly, or have physical or mental health problems.
In addition to this, the UK Border Agency provides housing and other support to people who are seeking asylum.
The council's housing department and social services should co-operate to help you but you may need specialist advice. Use our directory to find an advice centre in your local area.
Where can I get help and advice?
If you've recently arrived in the UK, visit the Housing Rights Information website for more information about your housing rights.
If you have applied to the council for help because you are homeless and the council has informed you that you are not eligible for help, get advice immediately. The rules about eligibility for assistance are complex.
This section only gives a basic overview. An adviser can look into the reasons why the council says you are not eligible and may be able to put arguments to the council on your behalf.
You can get advice from a Shelter advice centre, Citizens Advice or other local advice agencies. Use our directory to find details of agencies in your area.