The council doesn't have to provide housing for everyone who becomes homeless. Find out when you qualify for longer-term housing and what the council can offer.
When you qualify for longer-term housing
The council must provide longer-term housing if you qualify for the 'main housing duty'.
The council might offer longer-term housing as part of the help they provide under your personal housing plan.
Help under your personal housing plan
You might get a council or housing association home if you apply to the housing register, or the council could help you find a private rented home.
While the council provide help under your plan they will look into your situation further to decide if you qualify for help under the main housing duty.
The main housing duty
You must meet the following 5 conditions to qualify for the main housing duty.
- be legally homeless
- meet immigration and residence conditions
- have a priority need
- be homeless through no fault of your own
- usually have a local connection with the area
Even if you meet the conditions, the council must first provide help to find longer-term housing under your personal housing plan.
You can only qualify for the main housing duty if you're still homeless after 8 weeks of council help.
You won't qualify for the main housing duty if you refuse a final housing offer while you're getting help under your personal housing plan.
The council must provide emergency housing if you qualify for it when you ask the council for help. They decide later if you qualify for longer-term housing.
Offers of longer-term housing
An offer of longer-term housing could be a:
- council or housing association home
- private tenancy
- room in a private rented shared house if you're single
The council might place you in a supported housing project, refuge or hostel if you need this type of accommodation.
Offers of temporary housing
If you qualify for the main housing duty, the council must provide suitable temporary housing while you wait for an offer of longer-term housing.
In some areas, you could be in temporary housing for months or even years.
Final offer of a private rented home
The council can offer you an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord.
The tenancy must have a fixed-term of at least:
- 6 months if the council is helping you under a personal housing plan
- 12 months if the council has decided you qualify for the main housing duty
Final offer from the housing register
The council might offer you a council or housing association home if you're on the housing register. The type of tenancy offered depends on your situation and your local council's policy.
A council home could be a:
- lifelong secure tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy for at least 2 years
- introductory tenancy for the first 12 months before becoming a longer tenancy
A housing association home could be a:
- lifelong assured tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy for at least 2 years
- starter tenancy for the first 12 months before becoming a longer tenancy
How the council make a housing offer
The council must put an offer of temporary and longer-term housing in writing. The letter must set out:
- when it's a final offer
- what happens if you refuse or accept the offer
- your right to request a review of the suitability of the offer
It's almost always better to accept an offer of housing. You can ask for a review if you think it's unsuitable.
The council should let you view the accommodation before you decide whether to accept it. If a viewing isn't practical, the council should show you photos and answer any questions you have about the tenancy.
They should give you a reasonable time to consider the offer.
What qualifies as suitable accommodation
Before the council offer you temporary or longer-term housing, they must consider if the accommodation is:
- affordable for you
- in good enough condition
- the right size for you and your family
- suitable if you have health issues or a disability
Private rented homes
The council can approve a final offer of an assured shorthold tenancy from a private landlord as long as it meets certain requirements.
It must have a written tenancy agreement with a fixed-term of at least:
- 6 months - if the council is helping you under a personal housing plan
- 12 months - if the council has accepted that you qualify for the main housing duty
The property must be in reasonable physical condition and have:
- a current gas safety record
- carbon monoxide and fire safety precautions
- safe electrics and electrical equipment
- a valid energy performance certificate
- a licence if required under HMO licensing laws
The council should not offer you a tenancy with a landlord who has been convicted of certain offences or breached landlord and tenant laws.
Bed and breakfast
Bed and breakfast should only be used as emergency housing if nothing else is available. It shouldn't be used for 16 or 17 year-olds even in an emergency.
If you're pregnant or have children, the council must not keep you in bed and breakfast for more than 6 weeks.
Location of the accommodation
The council must consider your personal circumstances including travel time to work, disruption to children's education, caring responsibilities and support networks in the area.
How to challenge unsuitable accommodation
You can ask for a review if you think an offer of temporary or longer-term housing is unsuitable.
You must ask for a review within 21 days of getting your offer letter.
Accept the housing offer and ask for a review
If you accept the offer and then ask for a review, you will have somewhere to stay:
- while the council carries out the review
- if the review is unsuccessful
The council must make another offer if it agrees that the accommodation is unsuitable.
Consider the risks of refusing an offer
Housing and legal advisers usually advise that it is not a good idea to turn down an offer of housing.
The council can end your temporary accommodation if you refuse a suitable:
- offer of a tenancy with a private landlord
- final offer of a council or housing association home
- offer of alternative temporary accommodation
The council does not have to provide you with any further accommodation if your review request is unsuccessful.
You can make a new homeless application but the council will probably decide that you're intentionally homeless.
Get legal advice
It's always best to get legal advice if you want to challenge a council decision.
You may qualify for free legal help if you're on a low income:
You can contact Shelter for free advice on your situation, regardless of income:
Last updated - 03 Apr 2018
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