How to avoid being found intentionally homeless

The council looks at the reasons you became homeless when you contact them for help.

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

What does intentionally homeless mean?

It means you deliberately did something to cause you to lose your home.

For example, if you:

  • caused antisocial behaviour

  • did not pay your rent when you could afford to

You are not intentionally homeless if, for example, you:

  • could not control the situation because of domestic abuse

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

You cannot be intentionally homeless if you leave somewhere that is not reasonable to stay.

Your next steps are important

If you're a family with children or have another priority need, it can affect your rights to longer term housing if the council decide you're intentionally homeless.

If you have left your home and are homeless

The council must usually provide emergency housing if you have a priority need.

For example, you have children or are vulnerable because of a disability or health condition.

The council will ask what caused you to lose or leave your home.

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

The council usually takes at least 8 weeks to decide if they need to help with housing in the longer term.

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 either:

You cannot be intentionally homeless if you've had to leave somewhere you were at risk.

If you're still in your home

The council expects you to take steps to keep your home if you are threatened with homelessness.

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

The council must help you under a personal housing plan and may be able to stop you becoming homeless.

Private tenants facing eviction

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

It often will not be reasonable to stay that long but the council might suggest that you will be found intentionally homeless if you leave.

This may feel unfair, especially if you cannot afford to stay in your home or if it's a section 21 eviction that cannot be stopped by the court.

Find out more about how to deal with the council in this situation.

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

Stay until the council have:

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

You might want to leave your home because you cannot afford the rent or mortgage.

The council could find you intentionally homeless if you leave without looking for help first.

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

Read our advice on how to deal with:

You can also get free debt advice from a debt charity.

You should not usually be seen as 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, a disability or serious health problems

The council might 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

Claim benefits and chase up any delays

You can get universal credit or housing benefit if you need it to help pay your rent.

With universal credit there is usually a minimum 5 week wait for your first payment.

Pay as much rent as you can afford to while you wait for benefits to be paid.

If benefits do not cover your full rent try to pay the rest from other income. You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHPs) to help with a rent shortfall.

You should not usually be seen as intentionally homeless if benefit delays were beyond your control.

What can count as intentional homelessness

Eviction for antisocial behaviour

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

The council must consider whether the behaviour was deliberate or if it was caused by a disability or mental health issue.

If the behaviour was caused by other people in your house or visitors, the council must consider what steps you took to try and stop the behaviour.

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 help with housing if you refuse a suitable offer of:

  • temporary housing

  • a private tenancy

  • a council or housing association home from the housing register

If you reapply as homeless the council will probably decide that you're intentionally homeless.

It's almost always better to accept an offer of housing. You can ask for a review if you think it's unsuitable.

Challenge the decision

The council must give you a letter with reasons if they decide you're intentionally homeless. You can ask for a review within 3 weeks if you think the decision is wrong.

You may qualify for free legal help:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Civil Legal Advice provide telephone advice and casework.

Last updated: 25 November 2021

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