Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Check if you can apply for homeless help

This advice applies to England

You can apply to the council to get somewhere to live if you're homeless or you’II become homeless within 8 weeks.

If you’re not a British citizen and you’ve been rough sleeping your right to stay in the UK might be affected. If you’re applying to the EU Settlement Scheme your application cannot be turned down because of rough sleeping. Talk to an adviser if you’re worried that rough sleeping might affect your immigration status.

Rough sleeping Immigration Rule

The government’s Immigration Rule says that rough sleepers may have their permission to stay in the UK refused or cancelled. The government have said it intends to use this rule ‘sparingly’ but it’s unclear what this will mean in practice. They cannot use rough sleeping as a reason to refuse applications to stay in the UK made on the basis of:

  • asylum or protection (except children resettled from Europe)

  • family life - partners and their children, adult dependent relatives, and parents of settled children

  • private life

They also cannot use rough sleeping as a reason to refuse applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.

If your client has been rough sleeping and discloses this information to their local council when seeking housing or financial help, the local council could tell the Home Office. The Home Office might then use this information against them in future applications or to cancel their existing leave. For EU, EEA and Swiss nationals it is most likely that this rule will be used for people arriving after 31 December 2020.

The rough sleeping Immigration Rule might be used against people with 'leave outside the rules' or 'discretionary leave', but only in exceptional circumstances. They may be allowed to use public funds and so can access homelessness help and social housing. 'Leave outside the rules' or 'discretionary leave' is most often given to refused asylum seekers who have other reasons for remaining, such as medical treatment.

Coronavirus - if you’re sleeping outside or in a shelter where you can’t self-isolate

This is sometimes known as ‘rough sleeping’. 

Your local council might help you now, even if you wouldn’t usually be entitled to help. Ask your council how they can help - you can find their contact details on GOV.UK. 

If you were given emergency housing and are worried you'll lose it 

You should ask your council if you can stay in your emergency housing. You might now be considered ‘in priority need’ for accommodation because of coronavirus.

If your council still asks you to leave, you should ask what their policy is for helping rough sleepers. The government have said they’re working with local councils to keep people in housing - that includes making more funding available to support rough sleepers.

You can find your local council's contact details on GOV.UK.

You don’t have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless. You can apply for help even if you have somewhere to live but it’s not suitable. For example, if you’re staying on a friend’s sofa or your home is overcrowded.

You can also apply for help if you’ve been given a valid section 21 eviction notice which ends within 8 weeks.

How much help you get depends on your circumstances.

It’s worth applying for help even if you’re not sure you’II get it - councils have to make decisions on a case by case basis.

If you’re not a British Citizen, applying for homeless help could affect your right to stay in the UK. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before applying for help.

If you’re aged 16 to 17 or you’ve recently been living in care, social services usually have to help you with housing. Find out more about when social services must house you.

If you can’t stay in your home because of violence, threats or any other abuse you can apply for homeless help. You can also get help from:

Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time

Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

Find out if you can get help

You can get council help if you're eligible and you're legally homeless or have been threatened with homelessness.

Check if you’re eligible for help

You’re usually eligible for help if you’re a British or Irish citizen living in the UK. If you’re a British or Irish citizen recently returned to the UK, the rules can be complex. It’s best to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice

If you're from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for housing help you need to show you have either:

  • settled status
  • a right to get housing help in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’

Your right to reside depends on things like your work, family and personal situation. You can check if you have a right to reside.

To stay in the UK after 30 June 2021 you need to apply for ‘settled status’ or ‘pre-settled status’. It’s best to apply as soon as you can.

Your housing help will stop if you don’t have settled status or pre-settled status by 30 June 2021.

You can apply for:

  • settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more
  • pre-settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for less than 5 years – and were living here by 31 December 2020 

Your family members might also be able to apply – even if they arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020.

Check how to apply for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit.

If you're from outside Europe

You might be eligible for housing help if you’re a family member of someone from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. They’ll need to have either:

  • settled status
  • a right to get housing help in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’

Your family member’s right to reside depends on things like their work, family and personal situation. You can check if they have a right to reside.

You might be eligible for housing help if you’re a family member of someone who was born in Northern Ireland and they’re a British or Irish citizen – or both. First you’ll need to get ‘pre-settled status’ or ‘settled status’ – check if you can apply for pre-settled or settled status on GOV.UK.

If you have settled status, you can apply for housing help. 

If you have pre-settled status, the rules are complicated – talk to an adviser to check if you can apply for housing help.

You might also be eligible if you’re:

  • a refugee - this is if you’ve claimed asylum and been given refugee status and leave to remain in the UK
  • a habitual resident in the UK with indefinite leave to remain - this can’t be subject to any conditions such as ‘no recourse to public funds’

Find out more about staying in the UK after Brexit.

Check who has 'recourse to public funds'.

If your client is subject to immigration control

They’ll still be eligible if:

  • they’ve got refugee status
  • they've got indefinite leave to remain in the UK, including settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and haven’t been given that leave subject to a sponsorship undertaking. A sponsored immigrant is not eligible unless their sponsor has died, or if, there was more than one sponsor, all the sponsors have died, or more than five years have passed since they entered the UK or since the undertaking was given, whichever is later
  • they've got exceptional leave or discretionary leave to enter or remain in the UK, this includes a DDV concession if they have one, and they don't have a 'no recourse to public funds' condition -  check who has recourse to public funds
  • they've been given ‘section 67 leave’ after being resettled as a child who doesn’t have a parent or other adult responsible for them
  • they were moved from the migrant camp in Calais between 17 October 2016 and 13 July 2017 to be with their family in the UK
  • they were moved from the migrant camp in Calais between 17 October 2016 and 13 July 2017 to be with their family in the UK

  • they've been granted humanitarian protection under the Immigration Rules
  • they've got limited leave to enter or remain in the UK under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act and don't have a 'no recourse to public funds' condition -  check who has recourse to public funds
  • they’ve got limited leave to enter the UK if they’re an Afghan citizen and have been employed by the UK Government while in Afghanistan - check Immigration Rules part 7 at GOV.UK

Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) concession

If your client is in the UK on a partner visa and their relationship has broken down due to domestic violence, they might be able to get a short period of leave with the ability to claim public funds under the Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) concession from UK Visas and Immigration.

Check your client has the right visa as the partner of a British citizen or person with indefinite leave to remain. They have to be either their:

  • husband, wife, civil partner, proposed civil partner or fiancé(e)
  • partner who they’ve lived with for at least 2 years

If your client has a partner visa, they might be granted permission to stay under the DDV concession if all the following apply:

  • their relationship has broken down due to domestic violence
  • they can't accommodate or support themselves
  • they intend to apply to stay permanently in the UK under the domestic violence rule

The DDV concession provides 3 months limited leave while your client applies for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence rule. There are no conditions on recourse to public funds, which means they can apply for benefits and homelessness assistance. Your client can apply for the DDV concession on GOV.UK.

The housing authority's decision on eligibility

After considering your client’s immigration status and other circumstances, the housing authority will decide if they satisfy this test and are eligible.

More information about how to challenge the housing authority's decision on eligibility.

If you're stateless

You can apply for housing help if you:

Check if you’re legally homeless or threatened with homelessness

To get help from the council you’II need to be either legally homeless or threatened with homelessness.

You’re legally homeless if:

  • you have nowhere to live in the UK or abroad
  • you have a home but you can’t access it - for example, if your landlord has unlawfully evicted you by changing the locks
  • it wouldn’t be reasonable for you to stay in your home - for example, because of violence, poor conditions or you can’t afford it
  • you have nowhere you can keep your home if it’s moveable - for example, if it’s a caravan or house boat

You're classed as being threatened with homelessness if:

  • you have to leave your home within 8 weeks - for example, if you're asked to leave somewhere temporary
  • you're given a valid section 21 notice to leave your home and the notice ends within 8 weeks

What help can you get

If you qualify for help the council will first check if they can help you find a new home if you’re already homeless. If you’re threatened with homelessness they’II see if they can help you stay in your home.

You’II usually be given help for 8 weeks. If you're threatened with homelessness and have been given a valid section 21 notice you must be given help for longer.

If you’re threatened with homelessness and your situation changes so you become legally homeless you’II get help for another 8 weeks. You’II be given help to find a new home.  

The council has to work with you to put together a written housing plan, saying exactly how they’II help you stay in your home or find a new one.

For example, if you’re threatened with homelessness they might be able to negotiate with your landlord so you can stay in your home. If you’re already homeless they might be able to give you a deposit to get private rented housing. Find out more about getting a housing plan.  

If the council can’t help you stay in your home or find a new one they’II check if they can give you other help. You might be able to get emergency housing or longer- term housing.

Find out if you can get emergency housing

You can get short-term emergency housing straight away if the council think all these things might apply:

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

If you're threatened with homelessness you can't get emergency housing, but if you later become legally homeless you might be able to get it.

If you're offered emergency housing you could be placed in a bed and breakfast or hostel while the council decides if you qualify for longer-term housing. Find out more about getting emergency housing.

You can check what to do if you have nowhere to stay tonight and you can’t get emergency housing.

Check if you’re in priority need

You’II be in priority need if you’re:

  • living with a child - this will usually include a child aged 16 to 18 if they’re in full-time education or training
  • pregnant or living with someone who is  
  • homeless because of an emergency - for example a fire or flood
  • 16 or 17 and you’re not living with your family and social services can’t help you - check when you can get help from social services
  • 18 to 20 and you were living in care

You’re also in priority need if it would be more difficult for you to cope with being homeless because of your needs. This is known as being ‘vulnerable’. You might be vulnerable for example because of a disability or old age.

If you’re more vulnerable because of coronavirus

You’re likely to be considered in priority need for emergency housing if the government identified you as 'extremely vulnerable’ because of a medical condition.

Your local council might also decide you’re in priority need right now because your health or age make you more vulnerable to coronavirus. For example, if you have been a rough sleeper in the past or have a health condition that means you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’.

You can check what extremely vulnerable means on GOV.UK.

If you don't have a priority need

The council should check if anyone else in your household has a priority need. This includes anyone who it would be reasonable to expect to be living with you. For example, your partner might not be able to live with you because your home is overcrowded.

The council might not check if anyone else in your household has a priority need, so make sure you tell them if anyone does. This will help you get the help you need.

If you were previously considered to be in priority need

In certain cases you can still be treated as being in priority need after you're given housing by the council. This would apply if you were placed in private rented housing and had to reapply for homeless help within 2 years through no fault of your own. Your council should offer you somewhere else to live in this case.

Find out if you can get longer-term housing

If you qualify for emergency housing help, you might be able to get longer-term housing if you didn’t cause your homelessness, known as being ‘intentionally homeless’

The council might also refer you to another council to be housed if you don’t have a local connection, for example by living in the area for sometime.

If you qualify for help you might be offered a council or housing association flat or house, but you could be offered a private rented home instead. Find out more about getting housing from the council.

Check you didn't cause your homelessness

You usually won't get longer-term housing if the council thinks you made yourself homeless. This includes if you:

  • left a home you could have stayed in
  • didn't make rent or mortgage payments you could afford
  • made arrangements with someone to become homeless - for example, getting family to evict you when you didn't have to move out

Having a local connection

If you qualify for longer-term housing the council will only have to give you housing if you have a local connection. Don't worry, you'll still be housed but it might be by another council.

If you don't have a local connection the council can refer you to another council that you have a connection to. They can't do this if you would be at risk of violence in that area. For example, if you have an abusive ex-partner in the area. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you're referred to an area where you would be at risk.

The council might accept you have a local connection to your area if:

  • you've been living in the area for some time - usually for the last 6 months
  • you work in the area
  • you have family living in the area

Find out more about showing you have a local connection.

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?

Please tell us more about why our advice didn't help.

Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.