From 9 November 2012, if a council accepts you are homeless and agrees to house you in settled accommodation, it can make you an offer of a private rented tenancy instead of a council or housing association tenancy.
What counts as settled accommodation
Only certain types of housing count as settled accommodation. These include:
- council tenancies
- housing association tenancies
- a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord
Council and housing association homes usually offer you more long term security than private tenancies. If council or housing association homes are in short supply, you could be offered settled accommodation in a private tenancy outside the council's area. This could be nearby or even in another part of the country.
If you receive an offer, consider it carefully. Get advice if there's anything you're not sure about.
Use Shelter's directory to find advice services in your local area.
Find out more about temporary accommodation while you're waiting for an offer of settled accommodation.
Private rented sector tenancy offers from 9 November 2012
From 9 November 2012, an offer of a tenancy with a private landlord counts as an offer of settled accommodation.
The tenancy you are offered must be for a fixed-term of at least a year and suitable for you.
There are rules about when housing is suitable.
The council must also inform you in writing of:
- the possible consequences of refusing or accepting the offer, and
- your right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation
If you become homeless again within 2 years
If you accept an offer of a private tenancy and you apply to the council as homeless again within two years from the date you accepted the offer, the council must house you again, unless you made yourself intentionally homeless or are no longer eligible for assistance. You are treated as being in priority need regardless of your current circumstances.
The council treats you as homeless from the date a section 21 notice of eviction expires. Don't wait until the bailiffs come to evict you.
You can apply to any council, but if it is not to the one that made the private rented sector offer in the first place, you are referred back to that council (as long as you or a member of your family is not at risk of domestic violence there). You must not be left without accommodation whilst the referral is being made.
If you accept a further private rented sector offer and you become homeless again, you have to apply for homelessness help from a local council. You are assessed on your situation at that time, but you have to show that you are in priority need.
If you become homeless again after 2 years
If you become homeless again after two years, you have to apply for homelessness help from a local council. The council assesses you on your situation at that time, but you have to show that you are in priority need.
Homelessness applications made before 9 November 2012
A council may make you an offer of an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord as settled housing if you applied as homeless before 9 Nov 2012. Such an offer is known as a 'qualifying offer'. You can choose whether to accept the offer of private accommodation as settled accommodation.
Like other offers of settled housing, the council has to be satisfied that the accommodation is suitable for your household. Accepting the offer ends the council's duties towards you as a homeless person.
Qualifying offers must be for a fixed term. They must also come with a written statement that explains clearly that you don't have to accept the offer as settled accommodation. If you do accept it, the council won't have to give you any more help. If you don't get this information when the offer is made, then it doesn't count as a qualifying offer.
If you don't accept a qualifying offer, the council has to offer you a council or housing association place sometime in the future. The council might offer you a private tenancy as temporary accommodation while you are waiting for your offer of settled housing (possibly even the same accommodation as the qualifying offer).
An offer of suitable council or housing association housing ends the council's duty towards you as a homeless person.
Get advice if you are made a qualifying offer and are not sure what decision to make.
Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser in your local area.
Offers of a council or housing association tenancy
As a homeless person, the council should put you on the waiting list for council or housing association housing.
Homeless people usually get extra priority on housing waiting lists but you might still have to wait a long time. You may have to bid for housing, as some councils use choice-based letting schemes.
Depending on where you live, it can take a long time, often many years, before you are offered a council or housing association tenancy.
Since 9 November 2012, it's less likely that you will be offered a council or housing association tenancy as settled accommodation while you are in temporary accommodation. This is because the council can offer you suitable privately rented accommodation instead.
The council probably won't have to give you any further help if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation.
Council housing is usually the most affordable housing. You may be offered a long-term council tenancy as settled accommodation, but you may first be offered an introductory tenancy, a type of trial tenancy, for the first 12 months. You can be evicted very easily from an introductory tenancy if you don't pay the rent or cause a nuisance to neighbours.
Secure tenants have many rights and can usually stay in their homes indefinitely if they keep to the conditions of their tenancy agreement. Since April 2012 councils are able to offer flexible council tenancies to new tenants, which may only last for five years and in some cases even less.
Housing association tenancies
Housing association accommodation is often more expensive than council housing, but cheaper and more secure than private rented accommodation.
An offer of an assured tenancy or a long-term assured shorthold tenancy with a housing association gives you greater rights than most private sector tenancies.
You may first be offered a starter tenancy, a type of assured short hold tenancy, for the first 12 months. You can be evicted very easily from a starter tenancy if you don't pay the rent or you cause a nuisance to neighbours.
Arranging your own settled accommodation
If you prefer to find your own long-term accommodation you can do so. However, you have to give up the temporary accommodation the council has provided and it no longer has a responsibility to help you.
An offer of settled housing ends a council's duty to help you
If the council has accepted the duty to house you after you made a homeless application, its legal duty to help you ends when you accept or refuse an offer of suitable settled housing.
You can ask for a review of the council's offer if you think an offer of housing is not suitable for you. If your review succeeds, the council has to offer you somewhere else to live.
If the review is unsuccessful and you turn down the accommodation, the council won't have to help you anymore. It will probably evict you from your temporary accommodation.
It is usually best to accept an offer even if you think it is unsuitable and then ask for a review. That way, if you lose your review, you still have a place to live.
Get advice before you refuse an offer of housing.
Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.