If you are homeless and apply to the council for help, the council has to protect your personal belongings and furniture if it has a duty to provide you with accommodation.
Your belongings when you are made homeless
If you have asked the council for help because you are homeless, you may not be able to take your furniture and belongings with you to any temporary housing the council provides.
This is because the accommodation provided might already be furnished or too small to store all your belongings.
Find out more about applying as homeless.
When your personal property has to be protected
The council has duties to protect the personal property of homeless applicants when it is at risk of damage or loss and you can't protect or deal with it yourself. For example, you may not be able to afford to arrange removals or storage.
This duty applies from the point you make an application as homeless and the council believes you may be eligible for help.
The duty applies to your property and the property of anyone else included in your application. Property includes personal belongings and furniture. It does not include equipment used for business purposes.
How the council must protect your belongings
The council has to do what is reasonable to prevent loss or damage to your property.
The council can:
- gain entry to a property to recover your belongings
- arrange removals
- arrange storage
Charges for the protection of your personal property
Most councils charge for the protection of property. Charges may be waived by some councils for people who claim benefits or have a low income.
Ask the council how much it charges for this. It may be cheaper and more practical for you to arrange removals and storage yourself if you are able to.
When the duty to protect your belongings ends
The council no longer has a responsibility to protect your property when it:
- considers there is no longer a danger of damage or loss to your property
- decides that it doesn't have to help you because you don't meet the criteria for help with accommodation
- has fulfilled all its responsibilities towards you
Even if the council has no further obligation to provide accommodation for you, it can choose to continue to protect your property.
The council has to inform you in writing if it decides it has no further duty to protect your property.
If the council loses touch with you or the duty to protect your property ends, the council may be able to dispose of your property. But it must follow specific procedures to do this.
You may be able to take court action to get compensation if the council doesn't follow the correct procedure to dispose of your belongings. Get advice if this happens to you.
Get advice about protecting your belongings
Get advice if the council does not help you protect your property.
Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.
Karen's Story: Storage is such a problem when homeless
Karen and her family had to leave their rented home when their landlord asked for it back. The family couldn't afford to meet the cost of renting and had to apply as homeless. Read her full story.