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The Homelessness Test

The Homelessness Test


If you have been made homeless you can apply to your local council or housing association for accommodation.


The legal definition of homelessness is a very broad term. It is not only those who are sleeping on the streets who are considered homeless, you may also be eligible for help from your council if you;


  • Rely on friends or family for temporary accommodation
  • Live out of a hostel or night-shelter
  • Live somewhere that is so overcrowded or unhygienic that it might be damaging to your health


If you are considered legally homeless then your council must help you. The amount of help you can receive depends on your circumstances.


According to The Housing Act 1996 (amended 2002) enquiries must be made into all homeless applicants in order to establish what kind of help should be given.


In order to be eligible for long-term housing assistance from your council you must meet several criteria. You must be


  • Legally homeless
  • A priority for help
  • Unintentionally homeless
  • Eligible to live in the UK


Some councils also stipulate that you must have a ‘local connection’ this means you;


  • Have lived or worked in the area
  • Have close family in the area
  • Need specialist health care in the area


If you do not qualify as having a ‘local connection’ the council may pass you over to a different council.


Legally Homeless


In order to receive help from your council you must be considered legally homeless or likely to become legally homeless in 28 days. You can apply for long-term or emergency housing if you are considered to be legally homeless.


There are several ways you can be considered legally homeless if;


  • You have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets – you could still have a home but if you cannot access it (e.g. landlord has illegally evicted you or an ex has changed the locks) you are still considered legally homeless
  • You have been evicted or face eviction
  • You’ve had your home repossessed or face having it repossessed
  • You’ve been asked to leave by family or friends
  • You are at the risk of violence or abuse
  • You are staying in a hostel or refuge
  • You can’t afford to live in your home – this involves not being able to pay for basic living expenses after paying your rent or mortgage
  • You live in overcrowded or unhygienic conditions
  • You are unable to live with your family or partner
  • You have nowhere to put your boat or caravan


A Priority for Help


In order to be considered a priority in need of help from your council, you or someone in your household must meet one of the following conditions. You will be considered a priority if;


You have children in your household (your own children, step-children or other children in your care) who are;


  • Under 16
  • Under 19 and in full time education or training
  • You are pregnant
  • You are aged 16 or 17


You are a care leaver aged 18 – 20, you will qualify if you have spent at least 24 hours in care when you were 16 or 17 years old. This covers;


  • Foster Care
  • Children’s services
  • Any other accommodation covered by social services


You, or a member of your household is considered ‘vulnerable’ this covers;


  • Old age (people aged 60 and over may be considered vulnerable)
  • Physical or learning disabilities
  • Mental health problems
  • Fleeing domestic abuse or violence
  • Time spent in care, prison or the armed forces


You will not be automatically considered vulnerable if you fall into one of these categories; the council will consider how any of the conditions will affect your daily life and whether you will be able to cope with being homeless.


Unintentionally Homeless


  • To qualify for long term help you must be homeless through no fault of your own. You will not receive help if you are responsible for becoming homeless, this would make you ‘intentionally homeless’.
  • Being intentionally homeless could be a result of;
  • Being evicted because of anti-social behaviour
  • You left housing that you could have stayed in
  • You didn’t pay rent or mortgage




If you have immigration or residential restrictions the council may not be able to help you. In order to be considered eligible you must be one of the following;


  • A British or Irish citizen living in the UK
  • Are from the EU or the EAA and are living and working in the UK
  • Have Home Office permission to stay in the UK and are allowed to claim benefits


Get in Touch


If you have been made homeless, you will be able to apply to your local council or housing association for accommodation. Our lawyers can help you with this application and advise you how to proceed once you know the outcome.


If the authorities reject your request for accommodation, you are entitled to have the decision reviewed. Our specialist housing team can prepare the required documents and follow up on the result once it has been received. Applications to appeal housing decisions have very strict deadlines so we recommend that you contact us as soon as possible if you are in this position.


We are able to advise on all homelessness matters and suggest that you get in touch with one of our specialist housing solicitors as soon as possible if you are facing or have been made homeless.


For expert legal advice on Homelessness matters such as what to do if you are in priority need, legally homeless or unintentionally homeless, do not hesitate to call Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors in confidence on 0333 772 0409


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