Homeless: get help from the council

Steps in this guide

Challenge a council decision

If the council say you don't qualify for housing

The council must give you a letter with reasons if they decide:

You can ask for a review of the decision within 21 days if you think it's wrong.

Offers of unsuitable housing

If the council provide you with or make an offer of longer term housing, it must be suitable and meet certain requirements.

The council must give you a letter that explains:

  • why they think the offer is suitable
  • what happens if you accept or refuse the offer
  • if it's a final offer (from the housing register or a private tenancy)

You should accept the offer but ask for a review within 21 days if it's unsuitable.

Help under your personal housing plan

You can also ask for a review of:

  • the steps the council say they will take under your plan
  • a decision to end the help provided under the plan

How to ask for a review

Meet the 21 day deadline

You must ask for a review within 21 days of getting the council's decision or offer letter.

Send a letter or email and ask for a copy of your housing file. 

You don't need to give reasons for asking for a review at this stage.

Use our template letter

Phone and ask for a review if you're close to the deadline. You can send further information later.

The council will only consider a late request if you have a very good reason for not asking within time, for example, you were in hospital.

Get legal advice

It's always best to get legal advice if you want to challenge a council decision.

You may qualify for free legal help if you're on a low income:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 to see if you qualify

You can get advice from Shelter regardless of your income: 

Call our emergency helpline for initial telephone advice

Look for a Shelter service in your area

Provide further information

The council informs you of the review procedure in writing.

You should send further information which shows why you think the decision is legally wrong or why the housing offer is unsuitable.

Ask for a meeting

The council may send you or your legal adviser a letter telling you that your review is unlikely to succeed. You can ask for a face to face meeting at this stage if you want one.

Final decision

The council must write to you with a decision and the reasons for it within the following time limits:

  • 8 weeks to review a decision that you don't qualify
  • 8 weeks to review an unsuitable housing offer
  • 12 weeks if you challenge a local connection referral

The time limit is only 3 weeks if you ask for a review of the council's steps in your plan, or a decision to stop helping when you're threatened with homelessness.

The council might ask to extend the time limits. It's your choice whether to agree.

Appeal to court

You can appeal to court if the council's review decision is legally wrong or if the council doesn't give you a final decision within the time limit.

You must start a court appeal within 21 days of getting your review decision or the time limit for a review ending. It can take months for a case to be heard in court.

A solicitor can check if you have a case and provide representation.

Emergency housing during a review or appeal

Ask for emergency housing if you need it.

In most cases, the council can provide housing during a review or appeal but they don't have to. They must consider your situation, any new information and what will happen to you if they refuse.

If you ask for a suitability review of a longer term housing offer, you should accept the offer anyway in case your challenge is unsuccessful.

Challenge a refusal of emergency housing

You can't ask for a review of:

You can only challenge this in court. A solicitor can tell you if you have a case.


Who qualifies for housing

Last updated - 06 December 2019

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