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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 make sure free housing advice and information is available to anyone in their area.  This is to prevent homelessness or help homeless people find accommodation.  But if, even after following the advice and using the information, you are still homeless or threatened with homelessness, you may be able to ask the council for more help, including temporary accommodation and help finding long-term accommodation.  But councils only have to offer all this help to those who are:

  • eligible; and
  • legally homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days (i.e. they have nowhere in the world where they can reasonably live); and
  • in priority need (because there is an eligible child, pregnant woman or vulnerable person in the household); and are
  • not intentionally homeless (for example, failing to pay rent or giving up a home where you reasonably could have lived - in Wales some councils may not apply this test); 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' one or more of these tests, there may be some other help offered. For example:

  • councils have to ensure that housing advice and information is available free of charge to anyone in their district who needs it, whether they are eligible, in priority need, intentionally homeless or not
  • people who are not in priority need and eligible can still get some priority on the housing register
  • 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.

If they are homeless, eligible, not intentionally homeless and have a local connection they can also get an assessment of their needs and a personalised plan laying out the steps the council and the applicant must take to end the homelessness.

Applications for homelessness help can be made to any council in England and Wales.

If the council has reason to believe that the applicant may be eligible, homeless and in priority need, 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
  • in England,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 Wales, contacting Shelter Cymru on 0845 075 5005.

In most cases people wanting help from the council will need to provide evidence of identity of all in the household. People wanting the council to provide them with temporary or longer term accommodation will need to provide evidence of their immigration status and of where they have lived before. Go here for an explanation of the types of documents that are needed. 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 not in priority need or are intentionally homeless), they can still go on the council waiting list or housing register. All applicants who are eligible, and are either homeless or threatened with homelessness, will be helped by the council either to stay in their existing accommodation or to find alternative accommodation. However, the council will only provide accommodation itself if the applicant has a priority need, or the council has reason to believe that the applicant may have a priority need.

Chartered Institute of Housing

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Chartered Institute of Housing