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What to do if the council's homeless team will not help

Your council should not just say they cannot help.

When you first speak to them, they should:

  • look at your situation

  • see if you need translation or other support

  • give you some advice on your options

  • tell you how and when they can help you

  • make sure you understand their advice and any support they give

For example, you could ask for an interpreter or to get information in a language or format you can understand.

You could also ask to speak in person if you have a disability that makes it hard to use the internet or talk by phone.

The council should treat everyone fairly.

The Equality Advisory & Support Service (EASS) can help you understand if you're experiencing discrimination.

Tell the council they must look at your situation

You can explain:

  • they should take your homeless application

  • that you can give them documents but you need time to do this

  • they should check if you could be homeless or about to lose your home

The council might tell you that you:

  • can stay where you are

  • have the wrong immigration status

  • are not in priority need

  • need to wait for your landlord to evict you

  • must show ID or other important documents

  • are not from the area or do not have a local connection

But none of these are reasons for the council to do nothing.

They should look into your situation if you're homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Council help after a relationship breakdown

Check your rights if you:

Let the council know if you need urgent help

Some councils will book an appointment to talk to you on another day.

But they should help straight away if you're at risk.

For example, if you're:

  • going through domestic abuse

  • street homeless with children

  • at risk because of serious repair problems

The council must give you emergency housing if they think you might be homeless, meet immigration conditions and have a priority need.

Explain why you cannot wait for bailiffs

Councils often say they can only help with housing after bailiffs evict you.

They should help much sooner if waiting would make things much worse.

This might be the case if:

  • the cost of eviction through the court would cause you very serious money problems

  • you or your household have disabilities or care needs that mean it will take time to get ready for a new property

Get help to deal with the council

You might need someone to help explain why you need help soon.

You could ask for help from a:

Use our letter template if you're turned away

Copy it into an email to the council:

[Use the subject: Council refusal to take homeless application]

To the homeless team

My name is [your name].

I live with [list the names and ages of anyone who normally lives with you].

I am homeless already or will become homeless on [date].

I asked you for help on [date]. I spoke to [name of council worker if you have it].

I was told you could not help because [what happened or what the council told you].

Section 184, Housing Act 1996 says if you have reason to believe I may be homeless or threatened with homelessness you must make inquiries into my situation.

[Include this if you have children or another priority need] Section 188 of the Housing Act 1996 says if you have reason to believe I may be homeless, eligible for assistance and have a priority need you must make emergency housing available to me.

Section 189A of the Housing Act 1996 says that anyone eligible for assistance and homeless or threatened with homelessness is entitled to a homeless assessment and personal housing plan.

I need an appointment for you to take my homelessness application.

Please contact me as soon as possible on [phone number or email].

You can print off the template to take in person or send as a letter:

Challenge a council decision

The council must give you a letter if they decide not to help with longer term housing.

The letter must say why they will not help.

You can ask for a review of a homeless decision.

Get free legal help with a review or if the council do not give you a decision letter.

Make a formal complaint

You can complain to the council about their process.

For example, if you've been turned away without any help or faced long delays.

This could help improve council services for yourself and others in the long term.

But it's unlikely to help you right away, because the process can take some time.

You can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) if you're not happy with the council's final response.

How to complain to the LGSCO

You can use the LGSCO online complaint form.

If you cannot use the form you can phone them on 0300 061 0614

Last updated: 29 November 2023

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