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How to avoid being found intentionally homeless

When you ask the council for help they look at why you became homeless.

They might not offer you long term housing if they think you made yourself homeless.

What does intentionally homeless mean?

It means you are homeless because of something you did or did not do.

For example:

  • antisocial behaviour

  • refusing to get benefits to help with rent

  • not paying your rent when you could afford to

Your actions must have been deliberate.

You're not intentionally homeless if, for example, you:

  • left because of domestic abuse or other violence

  • could not deal with money or your tenancy because of a disability, mental health or drug and alcohol problems

If you have children or another priority need, you might not get help with longer term housing if the council decide you're intentionally homeless.

If you have left your home and are homeless

The council has to give you emergency housing if you have a priority need. For example, if you have children or are vulnerable because of a disability or health condition.

The council will ask why you left your home.

They must look into your situation and the information you give.

They usually take at least 8 weeks to decide if you can get longer term housing.

Domestic abuse and violence

It is not reasonable to stay somewhere if you're at risk of violence.

The council must help with emergency housing if you're at risk of:

You cannot be intentionally homeless if you left somewhere you were at risk.

If you're still in your home

The council expects you to take steps to keep your home if it's safe.

For example, pay as much rent as you can even if you are facing eviction.

The council must help you with a personal housing plan to try to stop you becoming homeless.

Private tenants facing eviction

You have a legal right to stay in your home until bailiffs evict you.

It may not be reasonable to stay that long.

But the council might say they will find you intentionally homeless if you leave.

This may feel unfair. For example, if you cannot afford to stay.

Find out how to deal with the council if you cannot stay in your home.

Do not give up your tenancy if you have nowhere to go

Stay until the council have:

  • accepted it is not reasonable to stay

  • offered emergency housing if you have a priority need

That way, the council cannot decide you're intentionally homeless for leaving too early.

The council can still look into why your landlord gave you an eviction notice.

Rent or mortgage arrears

The council could decide you're intentionally homeless if you lose your home because you:

  • did not pay the rent or mortgage when you could afford to

  • knew the payments were unaffordable when you moved in

  • paid other debts such as credit cards before your rent or mortgage

Ask the council for help at an early stage if you're struggling to pay your rent or mortgage.

You can also get free debt advice.

You might want to leave if you cannot afford your rent or mortgage. Do not leave or hand back the keys without asking for help. The council could say you're intentionally homeless.

Read our advice on how to deal with:

The council should not decide you're intentionally homeless if, for example, you:

  • cannot afford your payments even after debt advice

  • have no money for food or heating after paying rent

  • did not pay rent because of domestic abuse, disability or serious health problems

Claim benefits and chase up any delays

You could get universal credit (UC) or housing benefit if you need help to pay your rent.

You usually have to wait 5 weeks for your first UC payment.

Pay as much rent as you can afford to while you wait.

Apply for discretionary housing payments (DHP) if benefits do not cover your full rent.

The council should not decide you're intentionally homeless if benefit delays are beyond your control.

Eviction for antisocial behaviour

The council could decide you're intentionally homeless if you're evicted for antisocial behaviour.

The council must look at if the behaviour was deliberate or was caused by a disability or mental health problems.

If other people in your home caused antisocial behaviour, the council must look at the steps you took to try and stop the behaviour.

Find out more about eviction for antisocial behaviour if you're a council or a housing association tenant.

Leaving a job with accommodation

The council could decide you're intentionally homeless if you have nowhere to live after leaving or being sacked from a job that came with accommodation.

If you refuse an offer of housing

The council can usually end their homeless help if you refuse a suitable offer of:

  • temporary housing

  • a private tenancy

  • a council or housing association home

If you make another homeless application the council will probably decide that you're intentionally homeless.

It's almost always better to accept an offer of housing.

You can still ask for a review if you think it's unsuitable.

Challenge the decision

The council must give you a letter which explains why they think you are intentionally homeless.

You can ask for a review of their decision within 3 weeks.

You might be able to get free legal help.

Last updated: 10 January 2024

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