Who is legally homeless?

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

  • homeless now

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

  • unsafe because of domestic abuse or other violence

  • living in very bad housing conditions

Very bad housing conditions could include overcrowding, serious damp or disrepair.

If you're at risk of becoming homeless in the next 8 weeks you are legally 'threatened with homelessness' and the council should help.

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

How the council should help

The council must look into your situation if they think you could be:

  • homeless now

  • homeless in the next 8 weeks

The council must give you emergency housing if they think you're homeless now, meet the immigration conditions and have a priority need.

If the council decide that you're legally homeless or threatened with homelessness they should write you a personal housing plan.

The aim of the plan is to help you to keep your home or find somewhere else to live.

The council only give you general information if you do not meet immigration conditions.

If the homeless team say they cannot help

The council must give you a letter that explains why they have decided they cannot help.

You can ask for a review within 3 weeks if you think they have got things wrong.

Social services may help if you're a homeless family with 'no recourse to public funds'.

If you do not have a home

You are homeless if you're on the streets or sofa surfing.

Sofa surfing means you have nowhere to live but can sometimes stay with different friends or family to avoid being on the streets.

You are can still be legally homeless if you have found somewhere to stay in an emergency.

Find out how to get into a night shelter or hostel if you're on the streets.

At risk of domestic abuse

You are legally homeless if you're at risk of domestic abuse in your home.

Domestic abuse can include physical violence and psychological, emotional or financial abuse from a partner, ex partner or family member.

You do not have to live together for it to be domestic abuse.

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

If you get notice from your landlord

Your landlord can start the eviction process by giving you a legal notice.

Most landlords need to get a court 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 a notice from your landlord.

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

Section 21 eviction notices

You're threatened with homelessness if you have a valid section 21 notice that ends in the next 8 weeks.

The council should take steps to stop you becoming homeless and help with a personal housing plan.

When the notice period ends the council should decide if it's reasonable for you to stay there until an eviction happens. They should update your plan if your landlord applies to court.

Can the council tell you to wait for the bailiffs?

The council might say you should stay in your home until either:

  • the court makes a possession order

  • an eviction takes place

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

The council might ask your landlord to stop or delay eviction.

Find out more about council help after a section 21 notice.

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.

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.

Most council and housing association tenants and some private tenants have stronger rights than other renters.

Your landlord might need to prove a legal reason for eviction. Sometimes the court can stop or delay and eviction.

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

If you live with your landlord

You have fewer rights if you are a lodger.

Your landlord does not need to go to court to evict you if your lodger's agreement or notice period has ended.

You can ask the council for help if you need to leave in the next 8 weeks.

Asked to leave by family or friends

You're legally threatened with homelessness if you have to leave in the next 8 weeks.

The council usually ask your family or friends to see if you can stay any longer.

They might ask for a letter that says you must leave.

If you cannot afford your rent or mortgage

You could be homeless if you cannot afford your other reasonable living costs like food, heating and travel after paying you rent or mortgage.

This might be because of a change in your situation. For example, your income has gone down or your rent has gone up.

Find out more about:

Overcrowded or poor housing conditions

You could count as homeless 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.


Last updated: 3 January 2024

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