Rights in temporary council accommodation

Find out about your rights if you live in temporary housing provided by the council because you made a homelessness application.

Legal status in temporary accommodation

You probably live in temporary housing if it was arranged by the council after you made a homelessness application and the council has not offered you a permanent tenancy through its waiting list.

Different rules apply if you are in temporary housing and your landlord is  a private landlord or a housing association.

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.

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

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

How long you can stay

There is no limit to how long you can stay in the temporary accommodation if the council decides that it has a responsibility to house you, 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.

The council may no longer have a responsibility to help you if you choose to leave the temporary accommodation. You may also get less priority on the waiting list for a council or housing association home.

Eviction from temporary accommodation

The council can evict you if you:

  • refuse an offer of suitable settled accommodation
  • cause nuisance to neighbours
  • don't pay the rent or regularly pay it late 

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 asked to leave your temporary accommodation. 

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.

You can get help from a Shelter adviser regardless of your income.

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 universal credit 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.

You'll have to report a rent increase as a change to your universal credit. 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.

Unsuitable temporary accommodation

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.

If the accommodation the council provides is unsuitable for your household, you can ask the council to look into your situation again. You can 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 if you are in this situation.

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.

How to complain about temporary accommodation

You can 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.

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.

Last updated 23 Sep 2014 | © Shelter

If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help

Get help

Was this advice helpful?

Email a link to this article

Thank you - your message has been sent.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.

Was this advice helpful?

Thank you - your feedback has been submitted to the team.

Sorry! - your message has not been sent this time.