What is priority need?

You're at risk of domestic abuse

Since 5 July 2021 you have a priority need if you're homeless because of domestic abuse, even if you don't have children with you.

You are homeless if it's not reasonable to stay in your home because it's likely that you or a family member will suffer domestic abuse there.

You do not have to leave your home before you ask for help.

The council must provide emergency housing if you need it.

Housing officers should know about the change in law. Show them this page if they say they can't help you with emergency housing.

If you do not want emergency housing right now

You can still ask for homeless help and talk to the council about moving somewhere safe.

Proof of domestic abuse

You should not be told to provide evidence of domestic abuse when you first ask for help.

A housing officer can look into your situation but they should not approach your abuser or make enquiries that put you at risk.

With your permission, the housing officer can speak to:

  • your friends or family

  • domestic abuse support services

  • social services, health professionals or the police

The council must not demand police reports or proof of violence before they help.

Help to talk to the council

You can take a friend to help you explain things.

Domestic abuse charities have specialist advisers who may be able to:

Find domestic abuse charities and helplines including specialist services for women, men, LGBT+ people and people experiencing honour based abuse or forced marriage.

What counts as domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is usually carried out by a partner or ex-partner, or by relatives.

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

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence. The legal definition includes:

  • physical or sexual abuse

  • violent or threatening behaviour

  • controlling or coercive behaviour

  • psychological or emotional abuse

  • financial abuse

Women's Aid explains more about the types of behaviour that are domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, education, income or class.

If the council say you do not have a priority need

You are always in priority need if you're homeless because of domestic abuse.

The council must provide emergency housing while they look into your situation if they think you might be homeless because of domestic abuse.

If the council believe you are not homeless or in priority need after they have looked into your situation they must give you a letter that fully explains the reasons for this.

You can ask for a review of the council's decision.

Contact a Shelter adviser if the council say you're not in priority need but you're at risk of domestic abuse.

Last updated: 8 December 2021

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