You can apply to any council for help if you're homeless. If you don't have a local connection to the area, you could be referred to a different council for help.
How the council must help
You can ask any council for help if you're homeless or at risk of losing your home.
The council usually looks at whether you have a 'local connection' to the area. This means you have links based on:
- living or working in the area
- close family in the area
- other special reasons
When you can be referred to a different council
If you're already homeless, but don't have a local connection in the area you apply, that council can refer you to a different council if you:
- have a local connection to the other area
- are not at risk of domestic abuse or violence there
The council you approach can make a referral at an early or later stage.
They must give you a letter explaining that a referral has been made. The other council then decides whether to accept the referral.
The council you approach must provide emergency housing if you qualify for it until the other council accepts the referral.
Referral at the early stage
If the referral is accepted, the other council must:
- assess your situation and provide a personal housing plan
- decide if you qualify for emergency or longer-term housing
The council you approach takes responsibility for this if the referral is refused.
Referral at the later stage
If the council decide you meet all the qualifying conditions for longer-term housing they can refer you to another council in England, Scotland or Wales.
You must be provided with suitable housing by:
- the other council if they accept the referral
- the council you approach if the referral is refused
You usually have to stay in temporary housing until longer-term housing is available.
Challenge a local connection referral
You can challenge a referral if, for example, you:
- have a local connection in the area you applied
- would be at risk of domestic abuse or violence in the area you've been referred to
You can ask for a review within 21 days of getting the council's decision letter. You may qualify for free legal help.
What counts as a local connection
The following situations give you a local connection. If you have more than one local connection, you should approach the council where you'd like to live.
Living in an area
You have a local connection if you've lived in a council area for at least:
- 6 out of the last 12 months
- 3 out of the last 5 years
Staying in emergency housing or a refuge counts.
Time spent in prison or hospital doesn't count.
Working in an area
You have a local connection if you're working or self-employed in a council area.
Close family in the area
You have a local connection if any of the following family members have lived in a council area for at least 5 years:
- adult children
- brothers and sisters
The council might accept a local connection based on other family members. For example, if you were brought up by another relative and remain in close contact.
You have a local connection if you're under 21 and were previously in care in the area for at least 2 years (even if placed there by another council).
You also have a local connection if you're under 25 and you get advice and support from the council's social services department under a 'pathway plan'.
If your pathway plan is provided by a county council, you have a local connection to every local housing department in the county council area.
Refugee status or humanitarian protection
You have a local connection to the last council area you were housed in by the Home Office under asylum support. It doesn't matter how long you lived there for.
The council could decide you have a local connection for a special reason such as:
- a need to live in the area to receive specialist health care
- very important social connections with the area
Last updated - 14 May 2018
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help
Has Shelter helped you?
Inspire people and share how homelessness has affected you and how Shelter may have helpedShare your story