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Emergency housing from the council

Types of emergency housing

Emergency housing is often very basic.

It could be a:

  • self contained flat

  • hotel or bed and breakfast (B&B)

  • hostel or refuge with some shared areas, such as kitchens or bathrooms

Tell the council if sharing facilities puts anyone in your household at risk of infection or illness.

A room in someone's house is not B&B accommodation even if you share facilities.

Do not refuse emergency housing if you have nowhere else to go

The council might not offer you anywhere else if you say no to emergency housing.

Tell the council if you're worried about the safety of the emergency housing. The council should look at safety risks and find you something else if it's not suitable.

You may have to accept lower standards than in longer term housing.

Emergency housing has to be very unsuitable to be challenged in court. 

If you have children or are pregnant

You should not have to stay in a:

  • privately owned B&B where you share a bathroom, toilet or kitchen with other people

  • hotel or somewhere you do not have a kitchen or somewhere to cook

The council should only put you and your family in a hotel or B&B if there is nowhere else.

You should not have to stay in a B&B for more than 6 weeks. The council should offer more suitable housing as soon as they can.

This time limit does not apply if you moved to the UK in the last 2 years. You may have to stay in a B&B for longer.

There should be enough space for cots for children under 2 years. The council might have to help you get a cot if you need one, especially if you had to leave in an emergency, for example because of domestic abuse.

If you're 16 or 17

You should not be housed in a B&B or a hotel at all.

If you are a care leaver under 25, the council should not use B&Bs or hotels to house you unless there is nowhere else.

If you have pets

Pets are not usually allowed in emergency housing.

The council might have emergency housing which accepts pets. Ask about this. Tell them how important it is for you to keep your pet.

Some charities run pet fostering schemes for people if you have to move into emergency housing or refuges because of domestic abuse:

  • The Freedom Project – run by Dogs Trust in many parts of England and Scotland

  • Endeavour – domestic abuse charity offering pet fostering in North West England

  • Lifeline – run by Cats Protection in London, the South East, East Anglia, the Midlands and Yorkshire

LetswithPets has advice on finding a pet friendly private tenancy.

Paying for emergency housing

Emergency housing must be affordable for you. You do not have to pay for it up front.

You can usually get help through universal credit or housing benefit.

Ask the council which benefit to claim and if there are other service charges. For example, for cleaning, maintenance or support.

Storing your furniture

Emergency housing is usually furnished.

The council must arrange storage for your belongings if you cannot do this yourself. They usually charge for this service. 

Staying with family or friends 

The council might ask if you can stay with family or friends in the short term.

This is sometimes called being homeless at home.

The council must still:

  • look into your situation

  • help you with a personal housing plan

  • decide if they must help you with longer term housing

The council might say you're not homeless if they think you can stay with family or friends.

Make sure you tell them if you cannot stay there. For example, if you’re at risk of abuse there or your family has told you to leave.

Last updated: 18 June 2024

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