Debt help & advice
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Homelessness doesn't just mean rough sleeping. It could be that you aren't staying in your own home or it isn't safe for you to stay where you are anymore. If this applies or may apply to you soon, it's important to seek help and advice as soon as possible.
You're homeless if you have nowhere to stay, but you're also considered homeless if it's not reasonable for you to remain in your accommodation. That might mean:
Homelessness is often caused by a tenancy ending, a relationship breakdown, or family or friends asking you to leave.
Whatever the cause, it's best to seek advice as soon as you can.
If you're homeless or at risk of homelessness, your local council may have a duty to help you. Legally, you're considered at risk of homelessness if it's likely you'll be made homeless within 56 days.
To get help, your local council must agree that you're homeless or at risk of homelessness and you must also be considered 'eligible for assistance'. You're eligible if you're a British citizen, but not if you've recently returned from being abroad for a long time.
You shouldn't leave a property or terminate a tenancy without first seeking advice, as this could impact how much help you may be able to get from the council. If you approach the local council for help, they may be able to offer some initial assistance to you to help prevent or relieve homelessness. If they've been helping you for 8 weeks, without success, have looked into your case and decide you have made yourself 'intentionally homeless', then they may stop helping you at that point.
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If you meet the requirements the council will help you for around 56 days. It's important to bear in mind that the help you get will depend on your circumstances and needs, but may include:
You're likely to have to do some things too, for example attend property viewings or put in an application for social housing. The council may stop helping you if you refuse to do this. If you're in this position, or if you don't agree with the council’s plan for helping you, then speak to an advisor.
If you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness and want help from the local council, contact them and say you need to make a homelessness application. Your council should be able to provide you with advice and assistance at any time.
If the council has ‘reason to believe’ you may be homeless or at risk of homelessness, they must assess whether you’re eligible for assistance. If they decide you're eligible, they then have to determine whether they have a duty to help you.
When you first contact your local council, explain why you’re homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you need a place to stay while the council looks into your case, you should also explain how you meet the ‘test’ of being eligible for assistance and why you should be considered a priority case.
Local councils must provide emergency accommodation if they have ‘reason to believe' someone is homeless, eligible and in ‘priority need’, which includes people who are vulnerable as a result of their age or other circumstances.
If you bring these documents to the initial interview, it's more likely that the application process will be quicker and more successful:
The local council must offer you temporary accommodation (also referred to as emergency housing) while they look into your case if they think you're:
This is likely to be in a hostel or bed and breakfast with shared facilities. The local council must try to find accommodation as close as possible to where you were previously living, but in areas without much affordable housing you may find you're given an offer somewhere else. If this isn't suitable for you then it's best to speak to an advisor.
You'll have to pay rent in these types of accommodation, but if you're on a low income then you can usually claim Housing Benefit.
You can usually stay in emergency housing until your council decides if you’re entitled to longer-term help. However, if you're pregnant or have children then it's unlawful for a council to keep you in emergency accommodation for more than six weeks.
If you’re worried that someone you know is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, encourage them to seek advice as soon as possible.
We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs.