Skip to main content

CIH Scotland

New Arrivals


Applying as homeless to local councils

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Local councils have a responsibility to provide temporary accommodation and help find long-term accommodation for some people who are homeless if they apply for help. They only have to help those who are:

  • eligible; and
  • legally homeless or threatened with homelessness within 28 days (i.e. they have nowhere in the world where they can reasonably live); and
  • not intentionally homeless (for example, failing to pay rent or giving up a home where you reasonably could have lived); and either:
    • have a local connection with the council's area (such as work, previous residence or family members living there)
    • no connection with any area.

For those who 'fail' these tests, there may be some other help offered. For example:

  • councils have to ensure that advice and information about homelessness, the prevention of homelessness and any services which may assist a homeless person are available free of charge to anyone in their district who needs it, whether they are eligible, intentionally homeless, or not
  • people judged to be intentionally homeless must be offered a limited period in temporary accommodation
  • people who have a local connection with another council's area will be referred to that area for further help.

Applications for homelessness help can be made to any council in Scotland.

If the council has reason to believe that the applicant may be eligible and homeless, they have to provide emergency accommodation while they investigate the case further.

If the case is an emergency, they will make arrangements to provide accommodation overnight or at weekends until offices open again to take the application. In an emergency, this service can be found by:

  • phoning the council's central number
  • contacting the local police
  • contacting Shelter's free advice helpline - 0808 800 4444 (open 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday).

In most cases people wanting help from the council will need to provide evidence of identity of all in the household, of their immigration status and of where they have lived before. An explanation of the types of documents that are needed is here. If the documents are not available for good reason, the council officer may want to see some other form of secure ID and get permission to contact the Home Office (where appropriate) to check on immigration status.

Where someone is only entitled to limited help as homeless (for example, because they are intentionally homeless), they can still go on the council waiting list or housing register.

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing