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If you're offered housing because you're homeless

This advice applies to England

If you've applied for homeless help, the council might offer you emergency accommodation if all the following apply:

  • you're legally homeless
  • you're eligible for homeless help
  • you're in priority need

If you haven't applied yet, check if you can apply for homeless help.

Emergency accommodation is also called ‘interim accommodation’ and it should only last for a short time.

If the council decides you meet the criteria for longer term housing, you might be given ‘temporary accommodation’ until the council can find you a longer term home.

You might be in your temporary accommodation for a long time. Ask your council how long the wait could be for a longer term home. If you feel able to, you might want to try and find yourself a private home.

It's important to keep to the terms of your tenancy or licence agreement - if you don't, you could be evicted. This means the council might end their duty to house you and not offer you another home.

Your council might have offered you housing even if you’re not eligible for emergency, temporary or longer term housing. It must still be suitable for your needs.

What the council should offer you

If you qualify for help, the council must offer you accommodation straight away. The accommodation must be suitable for you and any family members who normally live with you.

The council should consider your situation and things like if the accommodation is:

  • affordable for you - they'll take into account any salary, benefits or pensions you get and any savings you have
  • suitable for any medical needs you have - like the home should be on the ground floor or have a lift if you use a wheelchair 
  • safe to live in - and you’re not at risk of violence there

The standard for suitable emergency housing is lower than temporary and longer term housing. If you don’t think the home you’ve been offered is suitable, you should ask the council to consider moving you.

If you have a child under 2 years old

The accommodation you’re offered must have enough room for a cot. If it doesn’t, you should ask the council to move you. If you don’t have a cot, you can ask the council to help you get one.

If you're offered accommodation in a hostel, bed and breakfast, or hotel

If you had to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you shouldn’t have to stay in mixed sex accommodation. Ask the council to move you because it’s not suitable.

If you have children or you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t usually have to stay in a hostel, bed and breakfast or hotel for more than 6 weeks. If you’re there for longer than this, you should ask the council to move you because it’s no longer suitable.

If you came to the UK less than 2 years before you applied as homeless, you might have to stay in a hostel, bed and breakfast or hotel for longer.

If you’re offered a home in a different area

If there isn’t enough housing in the area, the council might offer you something in a different area. They will consider your situation if they do. 

The council should usually think about: 

  • where you were living before and how close the new accommodation is to your old home
  • if it’s near any services you need to visit regularly - for example, your workplace, your children’s school or a hospital you need to go to often
  • if the location of the new home would put you at risk of violence

If the location would disrupt your day-to-day life a lot, you should tell the council - they might look at the offer again. You also might be able to challenge the offer. Read more about challenging a housing decision.

If you’re moved to a different area, you might need to make changes - like moving your child to a new school.

If you’re not happy with what you’ve been offered

You must be offered housing that’s suitable for your needs. If it’s not, you can:

  • informally ask your council to move you - but they don’t have to
  • ask your council to reconsider the offer if you thought it was suitable, but it’s not anymore
  • formally challenge the decision - how you do this depends on if you’re offered temporary, longer term or emergency accommodation

If you turn down an offer of housing your council thinks is suitable, they could refuse to find you more. This is because they might end their legal duty to find you a home. 

It's usually best to accept the offer and ask the council to review if the home is suitable. That way you’ll have somewhere to live while the review takes place.
Find out more about challenging a council’s housing decision.

If your situation changes

If your situation changes and your housing needs change, tell your council what’s happened as soon as you can. They’ll need to look at your situation to check if the home is still suitable for you. 

For example if you:

  • become pregnant or have another child
  • develop a new medical condition or your medical needs change 
  • are being harassed where you live

It might affect what home the council offers you and whether it's suitable for your needs. 

Getting a longer term home

Your council will either offer you: 

  • a council or housing association home from their waiting list
  • a home with a private landlord

Make sure you can afford the home you’ve been offered. 

You should also check the type of tenancy you’ve been offered - it could be for a fixed period of time, or a rolling weekly or monthly tenancy. 

If you’re thinking of refusing an offer, you should contact your nearest Citizens Advice

Find out more about a challenging a housing offer.

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