Temporary housing when accepted as homeless

If you ask the council for help because you are homeless, it looks into your situation. If the council decides that you meet certain criteria, it has a duty to continue to provide temporary accommodation for you.

Temporary accommodation while waiting for settled housing

You may have to wait for an offer of settled accommodation if there is a shortage of housing in your areas. The council houses you in temporary accommodation while you wait.

The accommodation should be suitable and you can usually stay there until you are able to move into settled accommodation.

When you can move into temporary accommodation

You may be able to move into the temporary housing as soon as the council notifies you in writing that you are entitled to temporary accommodation.

However, in areas where there is a severe shortage of housing, you may have to stay in the emergency accommodation that the council provided during its enquiries until somewhere suitable is available. This may mean staying in bed and breakfast or hostel accommodation.

What is temporary accommodation like?

Councils can provide temporary accommodation in a range of different types of housing. You may get a bedsit, a flat, a house, a place in a hostel or bed and breakfast.

The temporary accommodation may be run by:

  • the council itself
  • a housing association
  • a private landlord
  • a voluntary organisation

If you (or anyone in your household) have dependant children or are pregnant, you should only be placed in a bed and breakfast in an emergency. You should not have to stay there for any longer than six weeks before more suitable housing is provided.

Temporary accommodation should be suitable

The temporary accommodation has to be suitable for you.

The council has to take a number of things into account when it decides whether the accommodation is suitable, for example:

  • how much rent you can afford to pay
  • the condition of the accommodation
  • whether it is the right size for your household
  • where the accommodation is
  • any health needs you may have
  • social factors (such as whether you need to be close to support services, family or special needs schools)

Refusing offers of temporary accommodation

Get advice before you turn down an offer of temporary accommodation that you don't think is suitable.

If you refuse temporary accommodation that the council thinks is suitable for you, it may not have to give you any more help. In some cases, it may be better to accept an unsuitable offer because you:

  • can ask the council to review its decision about whether the accommodation is suitable after you move in
  • have somewhere to stay while the council reviews its decision
  • have somewhere to stay if your review is unsuccessful

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

'Homeless at home' as an alternative option

Some councils may allow you to stay with family or friends even after the council has decided that you have a right to temporary accommodation. This can avoid stress, upheaval and expense. It is sometimes called being 'homeless at home'.

You are still classed as homeless in this situation. You may still get extra priority on the waiting list for an offer of a council or housing association tenancy.

Paying for temporary accommodation

You have to pay rent in temporary accommodation and you may have to pay other charges for things like meals or cleaning services.

If you claim benefits or have a low-income you may be eligible for housing benefit, but this may not cover all the rent.

Find out more from Gov.uk about making a benefit claim

How long can you stay in temporary accommodation?

There is no limit to the amount of time you can stay in temporary accommodation.

The council has to continue to provide temporary accommodation until you:

Get advice immediately if you are in one of these situations.

If you need further help from the council, it may decide that you are only entitled to advice because you are not eligible for assistance, or are only entitled to very short-term accommodation because you are intentionally homeless.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

What happens if your circumstances change?

Your circumstances may change after the council has completed its enquiries and agreed that it has a responsibility towards you. For example, you may have a baby or split up with your partner.

If this happens, you still have the right to temporary accommodation, but you may be asked to move into somewhere more suitable.

Leaving temporary accommodation

Get advice immediately if you have problems in your temporary accommodation.

Tell the council about the problems so that it can help you sort things out.

The council has to find you temporary accommodation somewhere else if you have to leave because of something that wasn't your fault. For example, if you have to leave because:

  • you are experiencing violence or harassment in the accommodation
  • the accommodation belongs to a private landlord and they want you to leave because they are selling the property

If the council wants to evict you from your temporary accommodation, it has to inform you of the reasons why. Get advice immediately if this happens.

An adviser can tell you whether you are entitled to any more help from the council and can help you consider your other housing options.

Use Shelter's advice services directory to find a face-to-face adviser near you.

Karen's Story: 'The B&B wasn't how I'd imagined'

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 was placed in temporary accommodation. Read her full story.


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