Rights in temporary council accommodation

You have limited rights if you live in temporary housing arranged by the council because you made a homelessness application. The council can't usually evict you unless you break the terms of your agreement.

Temporary accommodation after making a homelessness application

This information only applies to people who are in temporary accommodation after making a homelessness application to the council, and who have the council for a landlord.

Many people in temporary housing have a private landlord or a housing association landlord instead.

Types of temporary accommodation

You probably live in temporary housing if:

You can still have a temporary agreement even if you have been living in your current home for several years.

Legal status in temporary accommodation

If you have a written agreement, check if it says what your status is.

Most people living in temporary accommodation are occupiers with basic protection or excluded occupiers.

You may have a licence (which gives you personal permission to live there) rather than a tenancy (which gives you a legal right).

Most people living in temporary housing have basic protection from eviction but you might count as an excluded occupier if:

  • you live in a hostel that is owned or managed by the council
  • the council hasn't made a decision about your homelessness application yet (for example, if it is still looking into your situation but has arranged emergency or interim housing while it does this)

You must be given reasonable notice if the council wants you to leave your emergency or interim accommodation. This could be only for a short period.

Depending on its decision on your homeless application, the council may have a duty to accommodate you elsewhere.

Length of stay in temporary accommodation

The council makes enquiries into your homeless application. If it decides that it has a responsibility to house you, there is no limit to how long you can stay in the temporary accommodation as long as:

  • it remains suitable for you
  • you keep to any conditions that the council has included in your agreement

You can live there until the council arranges settled accommodation for you or until you find a place you would prefer to live.

If you choose to leave the temporary accommodation, the council may no longer have a responsibility to help you.

You may also get less priority on the waiting list for a council or housing association home.

Help and support in temporary accommodation

Get advice if you're having problems in temporary housing for any reason.

An adviser may be able to talk to the council on your behalf and help you get together any documents or information the council asks you for.

They may also be able to help you with:

  • practical help (for example, if you have mobility problems)
  • mediation services to help sort out disagreements with others
  • treatment and support to help you with drug or alcohol problems
  • advice on how to deal with rent arrears or other debts
  • support if you have mental health problems or learning disabilities

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre

You can get free advice on Shelter's London advice line if you live in a London borough.

Call Shelter's London advice line on 0344 515 1540 if you live in London

Eviction by the council from temporary accommodation

People living in temporary accommodation can be evicted more easily than other council tenants.

You can be evicted for:

  • refusing an offer of suitable settled accommodation
  • causing nuisance to neighbours
  • not paying the rent, or paying it late on a regular basis

The council doesn't have to prove a legal reason to evict you but it must follow the correct procedure.

If you are an excluded occupier, the council only has to give you reasonable notice to leave, which could be verbal and at very short notice.

If you are an occupier with basic protection, the council usually has to give you at least four weeks' written notice and get a court order to evict you.

The procedure may be different if you have a fixed-term agreement (for six months, for example).

The council may have to house you somewhere else if you are being asked to leave your temporary accommodation. This depends on whether the council has fulfilled its duty to you following your homeless application.

Get advice immediately if you are threatened with eviction.

If you are on a low income you can get free legal advice through legal aid.

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 to see if you qualify

Shelter offers free housing advice regardless of your income:

Call our emergency helpline if you're threatened with eviction

Rules on rent and rent increases

The council sets the amount of rent you have to pay in temporary accommodation.

If you have a low income, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help with the cost.

Your council gives you periodic rent statements showing how much rent was due and how much rent was paid.

The council normally has to give you written notice before it can increase the rent. Check your agreement to see what it says about how and when the council can increase your rent.

If the council has followed the correct procedure, it is usually very difficult to challenge rent increases, even if they seem unfair.

Contact the housing benefit office to update your housing benefit claim if the council increases the rent. This is done automatically if the council is your landlord, but it may not be if you have been housed through a housing association or a private landlord.

You could be evicted for rent arrears if you don't pay your rent.

Responsibility for repairs

The council should give you information about what repairs you are responsible for.

This usually includes internal decoration, putting right any damage you cause and minor jobs such as changing lightbulbs and fixing plugs.

The council is usually responsible for most other repairs. This includes any problems with doors and brickwork and your roof, guttering and windows.

The council must also make sure that the plumbing, gas and electricity are working safely.

Report any repair problems to the council immediately. It should have a 24-hour service for emergencies and set procedures for carrying out any work involved.

Taking in lodgers or subletting temporary accommodation

While you are in temporary accommodation you do not have the right to take in a lodger or sublet part of your home, unless the council gives you permission.

If you sublet your home or take in a lodger, both you and the person you rent to can be evicted very easily.

Getting a transfer or exchange

You cannot apply for a transfer or exchange to a different property while you are in temporary accommodation. You have to wait until you get settled accommodation.

Unsuitable temporary accommodation

If the accommodation the council provides is unsuitable for your household, ask the council to look into your situation again to check that it has assessed your needs properly.

You can ask the council to do this even if you have already accepted the accommodation and moved in. This is usually a better option than refusing the offer, because the council may not make you another offer.

Accommodation a long way away from your former home may be considered suitable if you live in an area where there is very little housing available.

Bed and breakfast accommodation is normally considered suitable, unless you have children.

Families with children can only be housed in a bed and breakfast in an emergency and usually only for a maximum of six weeks. After that, the council is legally required to find you somewhere more suitable to live.

Get advice immediately if you are in this situation. Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your local area.

Moving somewhere else

You can choose to move somewhere else. If you do you are probably no longer entitled to accommodation from the council. You may also lose priority on the waiting list.

If you need to apply as homeless again in future, the council may decide that you made yourself homeless intentionally by giving up the accommodation it had arranged for you.You must give proper notice if you want to leave your temporary accommodation. If you don't, you are still responsible for paying the rent even after you leave.

Find out more about ending a fixed-term tenancy and ending a periodic (month to month) tenancy.

Complaining about temporary accommodation

If you disagree with any decision the council has made on your homelessness application, it may be possible to challenge the decision and get it overturned.

You can also use the council's official complaints procedure if you feel that the council isn't treating you fairly or has failed to fulfil its other responsibilities.

Getting a longer-term tenancy

You can usually stay in your temporary accommodation until the council arranges settled accommodation for you.

Settled accommodation could be a council tenancy, a housing association tenancy or a tenancy with a private landlord.

Any settled accommodation the council arranges must be suitable for you.

How long you have to wait for accommodation depends on:

  • how much demand for housing there is in your area
  • how much priority you get on the waiting list
  • any arrangements the council has with other landlords in their area

People who are living in temporary housing should get extra priority on the waiting list but are not always housed first.

Last updated 23 Sep 2014 | © Shelter

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