Who is legally homeless

Being homeless does not always mean sleeping rough.

You can ask the council for homeless help if you are:

  • homeless now

  • at risk of losing your home in the next 8 weeks

  • living in bad or unsafe conditions, for example because of violence or serious disrepair

Use our homelessness tool to check if the council can help you

If you do not have a home

The council should accept that you're homeless if you're on the streets or somewhere you cannot stay long, for example a:

If your landlord gives you a notice

Your landlord starts the eviction process by giving you an eviction notice.

Your landlord usually has to go to court to get a possession order if you do not leave when the notice ends. You have the right to stay in your home until you're evicted by bailiffs.

Contact the council as soon as you get an eviction notice from your landlord.

The council should help even if you are a council tenant.

Section 21 eviction notice

The council should start helping you straight away if you have a valid section 21 notice that ends in 8 weeks or less. The council can check that you have no other permanent home first.

Other notices

Ask the council for help if you have a different notice, for example a section 8 notice. But the council might not help until the court makes a possession order.

The notice you get depends on what tenancy you have. Some renters have stronger rights than others and cannot be evicted until the landlord proves a legal reason and the court agrees.

Use our tenancy checker if you're not sure what kind of tenancy you have

Can the council tell me to stay until the bailiffs come?

The council could decide you should stay until:

  • your landlord's notice runs out

  • the court makes a possession order

  • an eviction takes place

This is because the eviction process can take a few months.

The council may be able to ask your landlord to stop or delay eviction.

The council should not ask you to stay if your home is:

  • unsafe because of disrepair or risk of violence

  • not affordable

Not affordable means you cannot pay for basics like food or heating after paying your rent.

If you live with your landlord

You have fewer rights if you are a lodger.

You can ask the council for help 8 weeks before:

  • your landlord's notice ends

  • your fixed term agreement ends and you cannot stay longer

Asked to leave by family or friends

The council should help you if you're asked to leave in the next 8 weeks. The council could contact your family or friends to see if you can stay.

You're legally homeless if you stay for short periods with different friends or family because you have nowhere to live. This is often called sofa surfing.

If you cannot afford your rent or mortgage

You could be homeless if you cannot afford basics like food or heating once you've paid your rent or mortgage.

It could happen because of a change of circumstances, for example your income has reduced, or your landlord has increased your rent.

Find out what to do if you cannot afford a rent increase.

At risk of domestic abuse

You're homeless if you are experiencing or threatened with domestic abuse by a partner, former partner or family member.

You could get emergency housing if you are experiencing domestic abuse.

The council should not contact the person who has been violent or abusive towards you or doing anything that could put you at risk.

Overcrowded or poor housing conditions

You can ask for council help if your home:

  • is severely overcrowded

  • puts you at serious risk because of poor conditions

You could ask your GP or other health professional to write to the council about how your housing conditions affect you. An environmental health report could also be useful.

How the council should help

The council will check your situation.

If the council agrees they must help you, they usually should:

The council must give you a written decision about how they are going to help you.

Sometimes the council must give you somewhere to stay straight away.

Make sure you get the council decision in writing.

If the council decides you are not homeless or threatened with homelessness, they must give you a letter that explains their reasons.

Ask for a review within 3 weeks if you think the decision is wrong.

The council only has to give you general advice and information if you do not meet immigration and residence conditions.

Last updated: 28 November 2022

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