Emergency housing from the council

Types of emergency housing

The standard and quality of emergency housing varies and can be quite basic.

Depending on your situation, you could be offered a:

  • self contained flat

  • hotel or B&B

  • hostel or refuge with some shared areas

Families with children are more likely to be offered self contained housing, but sometimes hotels or B&Bs are used in an emergency.

Tell the council if anyone in your household needs to self isolate or is at higher risk of infection or illness due to coronavirus.

B&Bs should only be used if nothing else is available

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.

If you do have to stay in a B&B, the council must move you somewhere more suitable within 6 weeks.

B&Bs should not be used for care leavers under the age of 25 except in an emergency. If you're 16 or 17, you should not be housed in a B&B even in an emergency.

If you have pets

Pets are not usually allowed in emergency housing, especially if it's a B&B or a hostel.

The council may have some emergency housing suitable for pet owners so ask about this. Tell them how important it is for you to keep your pet.

Some charities run pet fostering schemes for individuals and families who have to move into emergency housing or refuges because of domestic abuse:

LetswithPets have advice on finding a pet friendly private tenancy.

Paying for emergency housing

Emergency housing must be affordable. You won't have to pay for it up front.

You may have to claim housing benefit or universal credit to help with rent. Ask which benefit you should claim and if there are any other charges, such as for meals.

Storage of your furniture

Emergency housing is usually furnished. The council must arrange storage for your personal belongings if you can't do this yourself. They usually charge for this. 

Don't refuse emergency housing if you have nowhere else to stay 

The council might not offer anything else at this stage. You may have to accept lower standards than in longer term housing.

Raise any concerns about the safety, quality or location of the accommodation with the council. They should address any safety risks and may offer something more suitable.

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

Staying with family or friends 

The council may ask if you can stay with family or friends as a temporary option.

If you can do this as an alternative to emergency housing, it's sometimes called being 'homeless at home'.

The council must still:

  • look into your situation

  • help under your personal housing plan

  • decide if they must help with longer term housing

The council might decide you're not homeless if it’s reasonable for you to stay with family or friends in the longer term.

Last updated: 23 November 2021

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