Legally homeless

Find out if your housing situation means you're legally homeless and how the council must help.

How the council must help

You can ask the council for help if you're homeless now or facing homelessness.

If the council decides you're 'legally homeless', they must usually:

The council should give you a letter with reasons if they decide you're not legally homeless. You can ask for a review within 21 days if you think the decision is wrong.

The council only has to give general advice and information if you don't meet immigration and residence conditions.

Private tenants facing eviction

You are legally homeless if you have been evicted by bailiffs. You have a legal right to stay in your home until you're evicted by bailiffs.

You can ask the council for help when your landlord starts the eviction process (usually with a section 21 notice or sometimes with a section 8 notice).

You're legally homeless once the council decides it's not reasonable for you to stay in your home.

Depending on your situation, the council could decide it's reasonable for you to stay:

  • past the date the notice ends
  • until the court makes a possession order
  • until you are evicted by bailiffs

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

If you qualify for emergency housing when homeless, the council shouldn't make you wait for eviction by bailiffs.

If you live with your landlord

You're legally homeless once your notice period or contract ends. Your landlord doesn't need a court order to evict you.

Council or housing association tenants facing eviction

A court decides whether or not you should be evicted from a council or housing association home.

The council might decide you're not legally homeless until either:

  • the court sets a date for you to leave your home
  • bailiffs carry out an eviction

You can get legal help to challenge an eviction. The council may ask you to do this.

If eviction is unavoidable, the council might accept that you're legally homeless at an earlier stage.

Asked to leave by family or friends

You're legally homeless if family or friends withdraw their permission for you to stay.

The council will usually contact your family or friends to:

  • confirm the date you have to leave
  • negotiate to see if you can stay or return

The council could decide you're not homeless if family or friends agree to let you stay.

At risk of violence or abuse

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

You're legally homeless if you experience violence or serious threats in your home from someone unrelated to you. This includes:

  • racial abuse
  • witness intimidation
  • gang-related violence
  • serious neighbour nuisance

Violence or abuse could be directed at you personally or anyone in your household.

The council should look into your situation without putting you at further risk.

Repossession by a mortgage lender

The council will probably decide you're threatened with homelessness rather than legally homeless if you're at risk of repossession because of mortgage arrears.

After a possession hearing

You're legally homeless if the court makes an outright possession order which sets a date for you to leave your home. You still have a legal right to stay in your home until an eviction takes place.

You're not legally homeless if the court makes a suspended possession order which allows you to stay in your home and clear your arrears in instalments. You'll be threatened with homelessness again if you don't make the payments ordered.

If you don't have a home

You're legally homeless if you don't have a home and you're on the streets.

The council should accept you're legally homeless if you're staying somewhere very temporary such as a:

You're legally homeless if you stay for short periods with different friends or family because you have nowhere settled to stay (sometimes called sofa-surfing).

If you have a home you can't stay in

You're legally homeless if you have somewhere to live but any of the following apply:

  • you've been illegally evicted
  • an ex-partner has changed the locks
  • your partner, children or other family members who usually live with you can't stay there

The council could decide you're not homeless if you have a home somewhere else (even if it's in a different country).

You're legally homeless if the council decide it's not reasonable to expect you to stay or return to your home.

Can't afford the rent or mortgage

You're legally homeless if you can't pay for basics like food and heating after you've paid the rent or mortgage.

The council looks at your income, housing costs and other reasonable living expenses when deciding if your home is affordable.

Overcrowded or poor housing conditions

The council might accept you're homeless if your home is severely overcrowded or there's a significant risk to your health because of poor conditions.

They may decide you're threatened with homelessness rather than homeless if conditions in your home can be improved.

Nowhere to put a caravan or boat

You're legally homeless if you live in a:

  • houseboat but have nowhere to legally moor it
  • caravan or mobile home but have nowhere to legally park it

Last updated - 03 Apr 2018

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