If you’re homeless or likely to become homeless in the next eight weeks, you have the right to be assessed by your local council for help. This is called making a homeless application. We know this can feel overwhelming, so we have broken the process down into nine steps.
The council can be slow to deal with and the process may not be straightforward, but it’s worth persevering. Even if they don’t offer you accommodation, you will get a housing officer assigned to you who can create a support plan to help you to find suitable accommodation.
Step 1: Find your local council
Enter your postcode to find your local council.
Step 2: Gather your documents together
The council will need to see certain documents to be able to process your application. These are listed below.
Having the documents with you when you call or visit the council will help things go more smoothly. If you need urgent help and don’t have them all, contact the council anyway. Then sort out the paperwork as soon as you can.
The documents you will need are:
Proof of your identity. An identification (ID) card, driving licence, birth certificate or passport.
Evidence you’re homeless or facing homelessness. For example, an eviction letter from your landlord or a letter from the person you were living with explaining that you can no longer stay there.
Proof of your income. Wage slips, bank statements or proof of benefit claims.
Proof of any medical conditions you have, like a recent letter from your specialist doctor.
Proof of your immigration status.
Step 3: Prepare to talk to the council
It might be hard to talk about your personal situation and history, but it’s really important that you give the council a full picture of why you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and why you need support.
If you can, write down what you want to say before you speak to the council. Then you can read your notes out loud, or refer to them your notes when they ask you questions.
If you can, have a friend or an adult you trust with you for support. This might mean they go with you to the council offices or sit next to you while you have a phone call. Explain that you give permission for the person to answer questions on your behalf. You can put your phone on speaker to do this if you’re on a call.
You might be feeling unsafe at home. It can be reassuring to know that the council can’t contact anyone who will put you at increased risk without your consent.
If you would like Centrepoint to be on the call with you, contact our Helpline.
Step 4: Visit, call or email your local council – or contact us
Contacting by email
You can use one of our template letters to email your local council and ask them to assess you for a homeless application.
Phoning or visiting
You can call or visit your local council. Ask to speak to the homeless team as you want to make a homeless application. A brief chat with someone at the main desk or reception is not making a homeless application. It should involve speaking with a housing officer.
The housing officer you speak to might:
assess you straight away
make an appointment to interview you
ask you to come back on a different day
ask you to complete an online form
Note down the name, phone number and email address of the housing officer you talk to. If they don’t get back to you in three to five working days, contact them again to chase up your appointment for a homeless application.
Asking us to make contact for you
If you’d like, we can contact your local council on your behalf and ask them to assess you for a homeless application. Contact our Helpline if you’d prefer to do this.
For urgent help
If you need urgent help in the evening or at the weekend, use the out of hours council services. Ask to talk with whoever deals with homeless applications outside office hours.
Step 5: The assessment: answer questions about you and your situation
The housing officer will ask you to come to a meeting, have a telephone appointment or to fill out an online form. If you talk to the housing officer, the assessment could take around an hour. You may get a verbal decision on the application at the end of this meeting.
To decide whether they can register you as homeless or at risk of homelessness, the housing officer must look into five things which they will ask you about:
1. Your situation
This covers why you are or will be homeless. You must provide the council with ‘a reason to believe’ that you are homeless or threatened with homelessness. This might be because:
your property has become unaffordable
you don’t have a way to access your property anymore
you have been kicked out of home.
Ideally, you will have documents to prove this.
2. If you are eligible
You are eligible if you are a British or Irish citizen. You are also eligible if you have settled status under the EU settlement scheme, have indefinite leave to remain, refugee status or humanitarian protection. Find out more about being homeless or at risk of homelessness when you’re not from the UK.
If you are not a British or Irish citizen, you may need more specialist advice. Applying for help with homelessness could affect your right to stay in the UK. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before making a homeless application to check this.
3. If you are in ‘priority need’
You are classed as a priority, if you:
are at risk of domestic abuse
are under 18. If you’re aged 16 to 17, social services usually have to help you with housing. Find out more advice for under 18s.
are under 21 and have left care
have lost your accommodation because of an emergency such as a fire or flood
have a ‘vulnerability’, such as a disability or have served in the armed forces.
4. If you’re ‘intentionally homeless’
This usually means you’re homeless because of something you’ve done or failed to do. That might be leaving home even if it’s safe to be there, or leaving your property if the landlord hasn’t asked you to. It can be hard to prove this. The council must give you a letter with reasons if they decide you're intentionally homeless. Being kicked out by your parents or fleeing abuse does not mean you’re intentionally homeless.
Even if you're intentionally homeless, you'll still get a personal housing plan.
5. If you have a connection to the local area
This means that you have:
lived in the area for six of the last 12 months, or three of the previous five years
a permanent job in the area
a close family member who has lived in the area for five years or more.
But if you’re homeless or at risk of homelessness because of domestic abuse or violence in your local area, you can approach any local authority for support.
Contact the Centrepoint Helpline if you have any questions around these five topics.
Step 6: Wait for the council’s decision
If the council decides you’re eligible, homeless and in priority need, then they must offer you suitable accommodation immediately.
If they need more time to assess your situation but think you may be in priority need, they may still offer you emergency accommodation. This emergency accommodation is likely to last until they formally reach their decision.
It’s hard to say how long it will take the council to make a decision. If they don’t come back to you after five working days, it is best to chase them. Call or email the housing officer that you spoke to. They must come back to you within eight weeks of the assessment with a decision.
Step 7: Ask for the decision in writing
Ask for a decision in writing if the council has decided you are not in priority need. This is sometimes called a Section 184 Decision Letter. It’s a document you are entitled to, although you may not get it on the same day that your decision is made. You can go back to collect it or ask the council to email it to you.
It's important to get this letter if you believe that you should be classed as priority need and want to challenge the council’s decision.
Contact the Centrepoint Helpline to find out what your next steps are if the council says they can’t help you.
It is your right to ask for an appeal if you disagree with the decision the council makes. You have 21 days to ask the council to review their decision. It’s a good idea to get legal advice before attempting to do this.
A solicitor will want to see your decision letter and, if they believe you have a case, they may be able to take the council to court to ask for a judicial review. This is a type of legal case that provides a way for people to test the lawfulness of decisions made by public bodies, like councils.
Some decisions can only be challenged by applying to court for a judicial review, for example if:
the council refuses to accept your homeless application
the council refuses to give you emergency housing when you first apply for help or while you’re challenging your homeless decision
you think the emergency housing you’re offered is unsuitable
If you’re on a low income, you may be able to take the council to judicial review using legal aid, which means you don’t have to pay for it.
To find out if your case can be challenged, contact one of the following:
The Civil Legal Advice Line on 0345 345 4 345.
A Law Centre. Find your nearest one here.
Or contact the Centrepoint helpline and our advisors will connect you with local services that can offer legal advice.
Step 9: Work with the council on your personal housing plan
Even if the council says you can’t get accommodation from them after you have made the a homelessness application, they still have a duty to ‘relieve’ your homelessness. This is because of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
This means that your council should work with you to complete a personal housing plan which should last 56 days. The plan will set out the steps that you and the council need to take so that you can stay in, or find, suitable accommodation. For example, it could include:
Providing financial support to help you into private rented accommodation
Referral to other types of housing, such as hostels
Helping you to get a safe place to stay if you’re sleeping rough
The steps that the council put in your personal housing plan must be realistic and include your views. You can ask for them to be reviewed and should do this if you think anything has changed in your circumstances. (For example, if you lose your accommodation or job.)
Check that you can achieve everything that the housing officer is suggesting that you do in the housing plan and ask for it to be changed if you can’t. Similarly, if your housing officer isn’t sticking to the personal housing plan, you can ask them to take the steps they’ve agreed to.