Emergency housing from the council
Types and costs 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.
B&Bs and hotels should be a last option
If you have children or you're pregnant, you should not usually 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
But the council might 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.
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.
Do not refuse emergency housing if you have nowhere else to go
The council might not give you anything else at this stage.
You can raise concerns about the safety, quality or location of the housing. The council should look at safety risks and might find you something else.
You may have to accept lower standards than in longer term housing.
Emergency housing has to be very unsuitable to be challenged in court.
Paying for emergency housing
Emergency housing must be affordable for you. You do not have to pay for it up front.
You could claim universal credit or housing benefit to help pay.
Ask the council which benefit to claim and if there are other charges, for example for cleaning and maintenance. This is sometimes called a service charge.
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.
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.
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 because it is reasonable for you to stay with family or friends for longer.
Make sure you tell them if you cannot stay there. For example because you’re at risk of abuse there or your family told you to leave.
Last updated: 12 January 2024