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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 if :

  • you are in one of the categories of people who are eligible; and
  • you are legally homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days (i.e. you don’t have a home in the UK or abroad where you can reasonably live); and
  • you are in priority need (because in your household there is an eligible child, pregnant woman or vulnerable person); and
  • you are not intentionally homeless (for example, you didn't pay your rent or you gave up a home where you could reasonably have lived); in Wales some councils may not apply this rule; and
  • either:
    • you have a 'local connection' with the area where you are making the application (such as work, you lived there before or you have family members living there), or
    • you have no connection with any area.

Even if you 'fail' these tests, there may be some other help offered. For example:

  • you can ask your council for housing advice and information - this is available free of charge to anyone in their district who needs it, whether they are eligible, in priority need, intentionally homeless or not
  • even if you are not in 'priority need' you can still get some priority on the housing register if you are eligible
  • if you are judged to be 'intentionally homeless' you must still be offered a limited period in temporary accommodation
  • if you have a local connection with another council's area you will be referred to that area for further help.

If you are homeless, eligible, not intentionally homeless and have a local connection you can also get an assessment of your needs and a personalised plan to end your homelessness.

You can apply for homelessness help to any council in England and Wales.

If the council has reason to believe that you may be eligible, homeless and in priority need, they have to provide emergency accommodation while they investigate further. If your situation is an emergency, they will make arrangements to provide you with accommodation overnight or at weekends until offices open again so you can make your 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 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday)
  • in Wales, contacting Shelter Cymru on 0845 075 5005.

In most cases if you want help from the council you will need to provide evidence of the identity of all the people in your household. If you want the council to provide you with temporary or longer-term accommodation you will need to have evidence of your immigration status and of where you have lived before. Go here for an explanation of the types of documents that are needed. If you have a good reason why you can't provide the documents, 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 your immigration status.

If you are only entitled to limited help as homeless (for example, because you are not in priority need or are intentionally homeless), you 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 you have a priority need.

Chartered Institute of Housing

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Chartered Institute of Housing