Housing for refugees and people fleeing war

You can get help with housing and benefits if you have:

You can:

  • get help with housing if you're homeless

  • claim benefits to pay for rent, bills and food

  • apply to rent from the council or a housing association

If you have claimed asylum and are waiting for a Home Office decision, you can usually get asylum support instead if you are homeless or have no money.

Help from the council if you're homeless

You can apply as homeless if you:

  • have nowhere to stay

  • get an eviction notice

  • are asked to leave by friends, family members, hosts or sponsors

  • get refugee status and have to leave asylum support or NASS accommodation

The council must help if you will be homeless in the next 8 weeks.

How to apply

You can apply in person, over the phone or online. Contact your local council if you're homeless or you think you may soon become homeless.

How to contact your council's homeless team

What is your location?

Where to apply

You can apply to any council.

The council can sometimes refer you to another area if you do not have a local connection. They cannot tell you to go to another council until they have looked into your situation.

If you have lived in asylum housing or NASS accommodation, you have a local connection to the last area you lived in. You keep this local connection even if you move somewhere else.

You also have a local connection to an area if:

  • you work in the area

  • your family members live there

  • you have lived there by choice for at least 6 months in the last year

  • you have lived there by choice for at least 3 of the last 5 years

  • you get specialist medical treatment there

If you have a local connection to more than one area, think carefully about where to apply.

Most councils have long housing waiting lists. You may need to rent from a private landlord.

London and the south of England have higher rents than others areas.

If you do not have a local connection anywhere, the council you apply to cannot refer you to a different area.

What is priority need?

The council must help with emergency housing if they think you're homeless and in priority need.

You have a priority need if:

  • children live with you

  • you are pregnant

  • you're under 21 and were looked after by social services when you were under 18

You can also be in priority need if the council decide you're vulnerable. This means you'd be at much greater risk of harm than most people if you were homeless.

It could includes having a disability, health condition or illness which affects your daily life or suffering trauma in your home country or during your efforts to reach the UK.

Find out how to tell the council you could be vulnerable and in priority need.

If the council does not help

The council must give you a letter explaining why they will not help. A housing adviser could help you challenge the decision if it's wrong.

You could get free legal help.

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme

Your host should not charge rent under the scheme. They can ask for a reasonable contribution for food, water, gas or electricity.

Your host can get a payment of £350 a month to help with costs.

You can get £200 from the council when you arrive.

Find more information on GOV.UK:

Use these charities to help you find a host or guest under Homes for Ukraine:

Do not search for a sponsor or give personal information to people on social media.

Other resettlement schemes

Some charities have information about schemes matching refugees with hosts:

Applying for council housing

Council housing is when you rent from the local council or a housing association.

It is sometimes called social housing.

Each council has their own waiting list and you may have to wait for a long time.

Councils can prioritise people depending on your personal situation. They must give some priority to certain groups, for example, if you're homeless.

You can apply for council housing even if you are not homeless.

Finding a private tenancy

The council can help you find somewhere to rent privately.

Some councils and homeless charities run schemes to help people find a private tenancy or a room in a shared house.

Search for a scheme in your area using the Help to Rent database run by Crisis.

Right to rent checks

Private landlords must ask to see your passport or papers from the Home Office that show you have the right to live in the UK. This is called a right to rent check.

Tenancy deposit and rent in advance

Private landlords usually ask for a deposit and rent in advance. Ask the council if they can help.

You might also get help through a:

Help with rent, bills and food

You can claim universal credit if you have no money or are on a low income.

You need a national insurance number to claim benefits. You can often find this on your biometric residence permit.

Do not worry if you don't have a national insurance number when you apply for benefits.

Tell the work coach at the jobcentre and they can help you with this.

Help to claim from Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice are a charity who can help you to apply for universal credit.

Call a Help to Claim adviser on 0800 144 8 444

Ask for a translator if you need advice in another language.

You have to wait at least 5 weeks for universal credit

Universal credit is usually paid monthly.

If you get asylum support, your payments will stop 4 weeks after you get your biometric residence permit.

If you have no food or money while you wait for universal credit, you could ask for help from:

  • your council's local welfare scheme

  • a refugee charity or community group

If you have a visa under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, you can get a £200 arrival payment from the local council.

Refugee charities

A number of charities offer free advice and support services to refugees in the UK.

Immigration advice

Shelter cannot give immigration advice.

Citizens Advice can refer you to a specialist adviser. You can also find immigration information on their website.

Last updated: 13 June 2022

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