Homelessness: code of guidance

Code of guidance to help guide local authorities in their duties to assist people who are threatened with or who are experiencing homelessness.

Chapter 8: Accommodation

8.1 Summary - this chapter sets out a local authority's accommodation duties towards applicants who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and guidance on how the duties are fulfilled. It includes guidance on the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014.

8.2 When securing accommodation for applicants the priority for local authorities must be to minimise the risk of homelessness recurring. This is not only in the interests of the applicant, who should be able to establish, or re-establish, a settled way of life, but also in the interests of local authorities, as repeated applications give rise to additional administrative costs.

8.3 Accordingly, when making accommodation available, local authorities should always seek to secure long-term solutions to homelessness. This should include consideration of the wide range of factors which may impact on resettlement - in particular the household's requirements in terms of proximity to family and friends and the accessibility of healthcare, employment, education and training and support providers.

Local Authority Accommodation Duties

8.4 Local authorities have a range of accommodation duties under the homelessness legislation and these are described below in paragraphs 8.5 to 8.43. All references are to the 1987 Act unless otherwise stated.

Interim Duty To Accommodate (Section 29 of the 1987 Act, as amended by Section 9 of the 2003 Act)

8.5 If an authority has reason to believe an applicant is homeless it has an interim duty to secure accommodation until it has reached a final decision on their application. This duty continues during the process of review if one is requested.

8.6 Where the authority's decision is that it has a duty to provide accommodation under Section 31, the interim duty continues until the Section 31 duty is discharged. Ministers have the power to specify by statutory instrument accommodation which cannot be used to fulfil this interim duty - this power was used to make the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014, which revoked the 2004 Order of the same name.

The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014

8.7 Many local authorities, have been reducing the use of B&B accommodation for homeless families with children. The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 contained a provision which allowed Scottish Ministers to create regulations which would limit the use of B&B across Scotland, establishing consistency in this area of homelessness practice.

8.8 The Scottish Government has made the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 on standards which temporary accommodation for households with children and pregnant women must meet. The purpose of this Order is to put an end to the routine use of B&Bs and other unsuitable accommodation for these households.

8.9 Under this Order, local authorities cannot put households with children and pregnant women into "unsuitable" temporary accommodation unless exceptional circumstances apply. Exceptional circumstances are intended to give flexibility to councils when meeting their new duty, as well as giving families the ability to exercise choice in whether to stay in unsuitable accommodation beyond 14 days. An amendment to the 2014 Order via The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017 reduced the maximum time spent in unsuitable accommodation from 14 days to 7 days for the same group.

8.10 The Order is made under Section 29 of the 1987 Act, as amended, which gives local authorities the duty to provide accommodation to people who apply for homelessness assistance whilst their applications are being assessed, until it has reached a final decision on their application. This duty continues during the process of review if one is requested.

8.11 Note that these regulations do not just cover B&Bs, but go wider to cover any temporary accommodation used by local authorities in fulfilling this duty.

8.12 The regulations set out what is meant by unsuitable accommodation and then specify the circumstances in which the definition does not apply. In all other circumstances, unsuitable accommodation cannot be used. Some exceptional circumstances have an associated time limit of 7 days, others do not.

8.13 In the Order, in all circumstances, accommodation is unsuitable if it does not meet basic standards. The accommodation is always unsuitable if it is:

  • not wind and watertight; or
  • not suitable for occupation by children. The primary purpose of this is to ensure that the local authority is satisfied that overall, the accommodation does not pose significant risk to the safety of children. Local authorities will need to use their judgment in deciding the possible risk posed by any sort of accommodation, ideally after carrying out a risk assessment both of the accommodation and also of the people associated with the accommodation - residents and workers.

8.14 Subject to the exemptions set out below, accommodation will also be unsuitable if it does not meet the following physical and location standards. The accommodation is unsuitable if it:

  • is outwith the local authority's area. This is to prevent households with children being placed out of area and into accommodation where other clients may pose a risk to children, which the local authority may not be aware of. It also helps to preserve access to support services offered by the local authority;
  • is not in the locality of facilities and services for the purposes of health and education which are being used, or might reasonably be expected to be used, by members of the household, unless those facilities are reasonably accessible from the accommodation, taking into account the distance of travel by public transport or transport provided by a local authority (Some authorities provide travel expenses to families to help children access schools that may otherwise be out of reach because they are living in B&B accommodation;)

The purpose of this is to allow households to access the same types of services that they have used in the past or can be expected to use in the near future. This is because many households who become homeless and are moved to temporary accommodation lose access to schools, and health provision. Whilst it is ideal for households to continue to be able to access the same facilities that they've accessed in the past - it is recognised that this is not always possible. So it is acceptable under this standard to ensure that similar facilities are accessible. LAs should also ensure that the facilities which are being counted as being accessible must be genuinely accessible to the household. It is no good ensuring that a household is near a GP if that particular GP will not allow the household onto their list;

  • lacks adequate bedrooms and adequate toilet and personal washing facilities within the accommodation for the exclusive use of the household. LAs should use their own HMO standards when considering if accommodation meets this standard;
  • does not have use of adequate cooking facilities - as above facilities should meet HMO standards. Note that cooking facilities can be shared with other households in the accommodation - subject to what HMO standards define;
  • does not have use of a living room (the purpose of this is to allow any children space to play and do homework) - again, as with the cooking facilities, this does not have to be for the exclusive use of the household;
  • is not usable by the household for 24 hours a day. The purpose of this is to prevent households being locked out of the accommodation for part of the day, as can be common practice in some sorts of temporary accommodation.

8.15 If the accommodation does not meet any of these standards then it is unsuitable accommodation in terms of the Order.

8.16 The Order provides exemptions in which accommodation does not meet the physical and location standards may be used. Note that the basic standard must always be met. Local authorities may use unsuitable accommodation which do not meet the physical and location standard if one or more of the following exceptions applies:

8.17 Exception 6(a). Where a local authority has reason to believe that an applicant may be homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as a flood, fire or other disaster. The use of unsuitable accommodation is not subject to a time limit in this case.

8.18 Exception 6(b). Where the local authority makes available accommodation which meets all the standards and the applicant expresses a wish to be placed in unsuitable accommodation. This is not subject to a time limit. The purpose of this is to allow for the fact that some applicants may choose to stay in unsuitable accommodation if it offers other advantages, for example proximity to family or employment. In this circumstance the applicant must have been offered suitable accommodation by the local authority - there must have been a genuine choice made available to the applicant. In addition, this must be an informed and uncoerced decision by the applicant, it must be subject to regular review, and the applicant must have had access to independent housing advice before making the decision. Note that the standards set out in Annex A must still be met.

8.19 Councils should ensure that the family has sufficient time to consider whether or not they wish to stay in the unsuitable accommodation. For example, contacting the family within two days of the 7 day deadline for them to leave, and asking whether or not they want to stay or not, will not give enough time for the family to consider the offer of suitable accommodation, and obtain independent advice to inform their decision. Best practice would suggest that on the point of entry to the unsuitable accommodation, the family's options are explained to them, and they can spend the 7 days accessing housing advice and considering those options.

8.20 Exception 6(c). Where the accommodation is used wholly or mainly to provide temporary accommodation to persons who have left their homes as a result of domestic abuse and is managed by an organisation which is not a public authority or a local authority; and does not trade for profit. The purpose of this is to allow accommodation such as women's refuges which may not meet all the standards but which nevertheless offer other advantages to the household.

8.21 Exception 6(d). Where the accommodation is owned by a local authority and services relating to health, child care or family welfare are provided to persons accommodated there. The purpose of this is to allow local authorities to continue to use accommodation which may not meet all the standards but which nevertheless offers other advantages to the household. Some LA-owned accommodation has associated services and many LAs consider it preferable for households to stay in such accommodation if they have issues which can be addressed through these support services.

8.22 Exception 7(1)(a). Where the applicant applies to the local authority for assistance outwith normal business hours. In this circumstance unsuitable accommodation can only be used for 7 days. The intention is for this exception to be used in the case of emergency "out of hour" presentations.

8.23 Exception 7(1)(b). Where there is no other accommodation suitable for occupation by an applicant with family commitments available to a local authority. In this circumstance unsuitable accommodation can only be used for 7 days.

8.24 If more than one exceptional circumstance applies, then the one which has no time limit will override one which does have a time limit. For example if a household presents as out of hours and expressly wishes to stay in particular accommodation which fails standards (but not the safety standard which must always be met) when other accommodation which meets all standards has been offered to them, then no time limit will apply.

8.25 The time limit of 7 days for some exceptional circumstances applies during any one period of homelessness, i.e. from presentation to resolution.

8.26 If a woman staying in temporary accommodation becomes pregnant then the local authority will be expected to act in accordance with the Order when they become aware of the pregnancy.

Referral to another local authority (Section 34 of the 1987 Act)

8.27 Where a local authority refers an application to another local authority on the basis of local connection (see Chapter 7 of this Code), the referring authority is obliged, under Section 34, to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation until the outcome of the referral is decided. Local authorities should bear in mind the possibility that transitional arrangements may be required when this duty expires (where the conditions for referral are satisfied but the notified authority has not yet provided accommodation or where the conditions are not accepted but the notifying authority does not have permanent accommodation available immediately).

Advisory Standards for Temporary Accommodation

8.28 In line with the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group recommendation to produce a new set of standards that are applicable to all types of temporary accommodation, the Scottish Government consulted in May 2019 on creating a set of advisory standards that are based on the Guidance on Standards for Temporary Accommodation[37] published by Chartered Institute for Housing (CIH) Scotland and Shelter Scotland in 2011.

8.29 Analysis of the responses showed that the majority of responders were in agreement that the CIH Scotland/Shelter Scotland guidance should be used as a basis to produce a new set of advisory standards that are aimed at ensuring that any time spent in temporary accommodation causes minimal harm by making sure that temporary accommodation is of good quality, safe, warm, affordable and there is a consistency of standards across all local authority areas.

8.30 A list of new advisory standards has now been produced which include the CIH/Shelter standards as well additional standards suggested by key stakeholders and people with lived experience of temporary accommodation, who responded to the Improving Temporary Standards Consultation. The standards cover 4 main areas that should be considered by Local Authorities: Physical, location, Service and Management. More detail of what is contained under each area is available at Annex A.

Temporary Accommodation with advice and assistance (Section 31(3)(b) of the 1987 Act)

8.31 Where the applicant is assessed as being intentionally homeless, the duty is to secure that accommodation is made available for such a period as will give the applicant a reasonable opportunity to find alternative accommodation for them.

8.32 These applicants must also be given advice and assistance in their attempts to find alternative accommodation, as set out in the Homeless Persons Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 2002 (see Chapter 9 of this Code.)

Discharge of temporary accommodation duty

8.33 A 'reasonable opportunity', should be assessed in terms of the circumstances of the applicant, including consideration of factors (such as disability, addiction, mental health problems, chaotic lifestyle and affordability) which may adversely affect their ability to secure accommodation; and also local housing conditions including how readily alternative accommodation is available in the area.

8.34 In any situation where an authority has provided advice and assistance which takes account of the availability of alternative accommodation, and takes account of the circumstances of the applicant, but no reasonable options have been identified, the applicant cannot then be deemed to have had a 'reasonable opportunity' of securing accommodation. The local authority's duty to provide accommodation therefore continues in this instance.

8.35 Where an applicant has a reasonable opportunity to secure accommodation and fails to take this opportunity the local authority's duty to provide accommodation ends. If the applicant then re-applies and is assessed again as intentionally homeless, the authority should assess whether the 'reasonable opportunity' afforded to the person is still valid and relevant to the applicant's circumstances.

8.36 In cases where the applicant's circumstances have changed, or where the advice and assistance is no longer relevant or current, then the authority will be obliged to accommodate them for a further period which is considered will give a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation. Conversely, if the applicant's circumstances have not changed, and the advice and assistance previously offered remains the most up-to-date and relevant possible, then local authority may be deemed to have discharged its duty.

8.37 A house let expressly on a temporary basis, for a term of less than 6 months, to fulfil a local authority's duties under Part II of the 1987 Act will not constitute a Scottish secure tenancy or a Private Residential Tenancy.

Permanent accommodation (Section 31(2) of the 1987 Act)

8.38 The 2001 Act amended the 1987 Act to clarify that where the applicant is assessed as being unintentionally homeless the authority has a duty to secure the provision of permanent accommodation.

8.39 Permanent accommodation is defined by Section 31(5)(a), and (d) as accommodation secured by a Scottish Secure Tenancy or, in the private sector, by a Private Residential Tenancy. Section 31(5)(c) allows for the provision of a short Scottish secure tenancy where a member of the applicant's household is subject to an ASBO or where an order for repossession has been made against the prospective tenant(s), within the past 3 years, on grounds of anti-social behaviour or illegal/immoral activity.

The Homeless Persons (Provision of Non-permanent Accommodation) (Scotland) Regulations 2010

8.40 Local authorities may provide accommodation other than permanent accommodation in the circumstances prescribed by The Homeless Persons (Provision of Non-permanent Accommodation) (Scotland) Regulations 2010. These circumstances are:

a) a housing support services assessment has concluded that the applicant or any other person residing with that applicant requires a level of housing support services which make permanent accommodation inappropriate; and

(b) as a result of that housing support services assessment, the local authority is providing an applicant or any person residing with that applicant with transitional accommodation together with:

(i) all services required in terms of the housing support services assessment and a record of the services to be provided;

(ii) access to independent advice and information services in connection with the services mentioned in sub-paragraph (i);

(iii) a timetable, agreed with the applicant, for the provision of the transitional accommodation and housing support services and a record of the timetable;

(iv) a review date for the provision of services and transitional accommodation, not later than six months from the date on which the transitional accommodation was first provided;

(v) an undertaking to provide permanent accommodation when a housing support services assessment identifies that this would be appropriate; and

(vi) a mechanism to monitor the use of transitional accommodation and the long term outcomes for each applicant.

8.41 Local authorities should ensure that the individual circumstances of the applicant are examined on a case by case basis and that the regulations are not invoked automatically for certain categories of applicants (e.g. young people or people with learning difficulties).

Threatened with homelessness (Section 32(2) of the 1987 Act)

8.42 Where an applicant is still in accommodation but is assessed as being unintentionally threatened with homelessness, a local authority has a duty to ensure that accommodation does not cease to be available for occupation.

8.43 If it is not possible to prevent the loss of the accommodation, the authority must ensure that other housing becomes available. Unless there is a change of circumstances the household will still be unintentionally homeless and therefore this accommodation should be provided on a permanent basis.

Provision of accommodation:

Temporary and transitional accommodation

8.44 Homeless people should not be placed in temporary accommodation unnecessarily, and their time there should be as short as possible. Care should also be taken to avoid moves between temporary placements particularly for households with children. Moves are disruptive, and can exacerbate existing social or health problems including mental illness, hinder continuity of education and employment, can lead to repeat homelessness and in the worst cases can cause families to split up. Temporary accommodation will also tend to be more expensive than permanent accommodation, particularly if there are moves from one temporary accommodation to another.

8.45 However, it is recognised that homeless people may sometimes need to be accommodated in temporary accommodation until permanent accommodation becomes available; or in transitional accommodation for the purposes of providing support which will enable them to sustain a tenancy in the long term (nb "transitional accommodation" means accommodation that is non-permanent accommodation as prescribed by The Homeless Persons (Provision of Non-permanent Accommodation) (Scotland) Regulations 2010.)

8.46 In all cases the ultimate aim should be to move residents of temporary or transitional accommodation on to permanent accommodation, as quickly as possible whilst also ensuring that this is only done at a time when the household is able to sustain permanent accommodation. The objective should be to enable people to have a home of their own which meets their needs, and enables them to live independently. Care should be taken to provide for the particular needs of families, young people and groups who currently find it difficult to access or sustain any form of accommodation - such as people with problematic alcohol or drug use, people with mental health problems and people with challenging behaviour.

8.47 Where temporary accommodation is required, there are standards which should apply to all accommodation provided, irrespective of the type or tenure of the property, to ensure consistent high quality accommodation is provided. These standards are set out fully in Annex A.

Bed and breakfast

8.48 It is essential that local authorities explore all alternatives to bed and breakfasts, hotels or other similar establishments, and use them only as a last resort. They are expensive, and can never be regarded as a permanent home for applicants. If local authorities do arrange bed and breakfast in guest houses or hotels, they should ensure that it is for as short a period as possible. The arrangements must allow homeless people to use the rooms during the day and should include access to cooking facilities.


8.49 Local authority hostels, or hostels run by voluntary bodies, can be a useful form of short-term accommodation, as long as these hostels are reasonably small-scale and are an appropriate environment in which to deliver support if required. They may therefore be appropriate for the needs of some individuals. Different models of hostel accommodation may be suitable for different applicants: for example, small high-support units may suit some young people or communal accommodation can enable households at crisis point to have some relief for a short period from coping alone; and the company of other people who have gone through similar problems can be helpful.

8.50 However, local authorities should be clear which people are suitable for each hostel (outside bodies will have admission criteria for their own hostels), and seek to place people according to such factors as their support needs, if any, and the likely length of stay. Hostels required to register with the Care Inspectorate under the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 will be regulated by the Inspectorate against the requirements of the Act and its associated regulations. The relevant Care Inspectorate quality frameworks and inspection regimes will also reflect the Health and Social Care Standards (2017)[38].

8.51 Move-on arrangements should be clearly planned from the time the person experiencing homelessness first enters the hostel - move on will vary according to the individual's needs, for example from direct access to medium term supported accommodation, in addition to move on permanent accommodation. The management of hostels should be resident-centred, and staff trained in the necessary skills according to the needs of the residents. In some cases, support services will be supplied by social work, health, training or other agencies.


8.52 For some homeless applicants, particularly single people without support needs, lodgings in privately owned accommodation may offer suitable housing. Local authorities should seek to establish and maintain links with owner occupiers and other potential landlords who are willing to offer lodgings to homeless people. Authorities should ensure that the accommodation offered is of an acceptable standard.

Private sector leasing

8.53 The leasing of private sector accommodation can add to the supply of good quality temporary accommodation, including in sparsely populated areas where normal lets may occur infrequently. In particular, it can be used in rural areas to continue 'winter only' lets over the summer where the occupants would otherwise become homeless. However, such leases may be expensive, though usually cheaper than bed and breakfast. There may be advantages to the local authority undertaking the management of the property itself rather than leaving this to the landlord. This is particularly useful where several successive placements are expected during the course of a lease, or support services have to be provided.

Mobile homes

8.54 Although mobile homes or caravans may sometimes provide temporary accommodation for single people or childless couples; or in more remote areas to allow people to remain close to families, friends or employment, they are generally not satisfactory, even as temporary housing. Any mobile homes used must be built to modern day standards with high levels of insulation, security and stability, and sites must comply with Scottish Government 'Model Standards for Residential Mobile Home Site Licenses'.[39]

Local authority stock

8.55 Where a local authority is using its own stock to provide temporary or transitional accommodation, it should ensure that this allows a balance to be struck with duties to provide permanent accommodation to other applicants. A regular turnover of council properties used for temporary accommodation should be considered, to avoid particular dwellings being identified and possibly stigmatised as 'homeless accommodation', while allowing a cost-effective life span for individual properties. Local authorities may also wish to consider engaging the local communities in which these properties are located in order to counter any negative stereotyping of those experiencing homelessness.

Permanent accommodation

8.56 Section 32(5) of the 1987 Act states that a local authority cannot fulfil its accommodation duties to a homeless household through the provision of accommodation which is overcrowded within the meaning of Section 135, may endanger the health of the occupants, does not meet any special needs of the household or is not reasonable for the applicant to occupy.

8.57 Under Section 32(8) of the 1987 Act any accommodation provided must be suitable for occupation by any children in the household so far as is consistent with their best interests. Local authorities should have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Government in May 2011 on 'Meeting the Best Interests of Children Facing Homelessness'[40].

8.58 Local authorities' duty to secure accommodation for unintentionally homeless people would be fulfilled by a single offer of housing, even if this is refused by the applicant, provided that the offer was a reasonable one. Those experiencing homelessness should however be treated on the same basis as other housing applicants to local authorities in relation to the number of offers of accommodation they receive, where the local allocation policy is offers based.

Determining a reasonable offer

8.59 In general local authorities should take into account the importance of offering homeless people a genuine choice of accommodation, as this is more likely to ensure sustainable resettlement. In meeting urgent homelessness cases, local authorities may have to use what houses may be immediately available, including non-council housing. However, in considering what is a reasonable offer, local authorities should take into account the particular circumstances and needs of the applicant and their household. (see also Chapter 5 of this Code).

8.60 Local authorities should also take into account the sustainability of the accommodation for that particular applicant. Examples of poor practice might include placing people in hard to let housing which may merely exacerbate the problems which led to homelessness in the first place, leading to homelessness recurring; or placing families with social or other problems in the same area, which can cause problems for both those from the area itself and for housing management.

Reasonable preference

8.61 Local authorities and Registered Social Landlords have a duty under Section 20 of the 1987 Act to give reasonable preference in the selection of their tenants to people assessed as being homeless.

8.62 It should be noted that this reasonable preference extends to all those who are assessed as homeless, regardless of the outcome of any further assessment for intentionality. Homeless people should always be included in local authorities' mainstream allocation system as from the date of their application, rather than at a later date. This duty to give reasonable preference also extends to those who have unmet housing needs, are living in unsatisfactory housing needs and are social tenants who their landlord considers to be underoccupied.

8.63 What degree of preference is 'reasonable' is a matter for each social landlord and this should be set out in their Allocations policy. At the very least, homeless people should not be given lesser preference than the other specified groups. These reasonable preference requirements do not prevent priority being given to other groups of applicants besides those listed in Section 20, and local authorities still have to consider applications from homeless or other people on their individual merits. In January 2019, the Scottish Government published the 'Social Housing Allocations in Scotland: A Practice Guide'[41] to offer practical assistance to staff with responsibility for reviewing, monitoring and updating allocation policies and procedures to ensure they comply with current legislation.

Choice-based lettings

8.64 Any scheme operated must meet statutory requirements particularly in terms of assessing and prioritising applicants who meet the reasonable preference criteria. A choice-based system must be consistent with statutory duties under the homelessness legislation, including discharge of any duty owed. Further information on choice based lettings can be found in the 'Social Housing Allocations in Scotland: A Practice Guide' (see link in footnote 41 below.)

Accommodation held by RSLs/voluntary organisations/private landlords

8.65 Under Section 35 of the 1987 Act, the local authority has freedom to fulfil duties to provide accommodation for homeless people either by making use of council housing or by obtaining accommodation from other providers in the social rented or private sectors.

8.66 Where a local authority has a duty under Section 31(2) to secure the provision of accommodation for an applicant, a Registered Social Landlord in its area must, within a reasonable period, comply with an authority's request to provide this accommodation unless it has a good reason for not doing so (section 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001).

8.67 The Scottish Government has issued guidance under Section 5(7) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 on the length of the reasonable period and on what constitutes good reasons for non-compliance with a request. This sets out that where a request is made, an RSL should comply by providing accommodation within 6 weeks unless it has a good reason for not doing so. The guidance states that where a RSL is unable to make appropriate accommodation available within 6 weeks this shall constitute a good reason for non-compliance. The RSL shall also have a good reason for non-compliance if the only accommodation it has available is of a specialist nature and this is not appropriate for the applicant.


8.68 Section 6 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 allows Ministers to set a period within which the local authority and RSL should reach agreement as to whether the reason is good before arbitration is triggered. The time period is set, by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (Appointment of Arbiter) Order 2002, as 5 working days.

8.69 Local authorities should enter into constructive and supportive relationships with RSLs in their area to ensure that the arbitration process is only invoked as a measure of last resort. Section 5 of the 2001 Act requires that a RSL must comply with any reasonable request for information about its stock made by a local authority for the purposes of coming to a decision about rehousing a person experiencing homelessness. It also requires a local authority to have regard to the wider availability of accommodation in its area when requesting that an RSL provide accommodation.

8.70 Local authorities should take into account the view of the applicant and should also be prepared to take a flexible approach to withdrawing requests where necessary, in the light of new information. An example might be where the authority is made aware that the applicant perpetrated an act of domestic abuse against a person residing in the area.

Nomination Agreements between LAs and RSLs

8.71 Historically local authorities and RSLs have a nomination agreement in place where local authorities nominate applicants from their own lists for an agreed percentage of an RSL's annual vacancies. Nomination agreements acknowledge that more people are likely to join the local authority's housing list than that of an RSL. Nomination agreements should have clear aims and be based on a robust analysis of need and demand. There should also be clear guidelines for accepting or rejecting nominees and for resolving disputes.

8.72 RSLs should make sure that their allocation policy reflects arrangements for referrals under Section 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. Councils and RSLs can agree to offset Section 5 referrals against nomination quotas, but they do not have to. The achievement of a quota is not a 'good reason' for refusing a Section 5 referral. Nomination agreements should be regularly reviewed to ensure they reflect changing needs and demand. The Section 5 referral protocol is currently being reviewed by SFHA and COSLA and an updated protocol will be published shortly.

Other sources of accommodation

8.73 Local authorities should ensure that empty houses within their stock are used wherever practicable to help to relieve homelessness in their areas, either by housing homeless households in them directly, or by relieving pressure elsewhere to create room for those experiencing homelessness. Local authorities should not impose unreasonable restrictions on subletting or other forms of multiple occupancy in their own stock (or indeed in the private rented sector). Subject to the available resources, Cash Incentive Schemes can help to release existing council housing for homeless people and other applicants. Transfers within a council's stock can make available suitable housing for homeless people, while also meeting the needs of other tenants.

8.74 Voluntary bodies may offer another source of accommodation, especially those which specialise in housing people with special needs. Local authorities have powers under Section 39(2) to assist voluntary bodies to tackle homelessness, including making available staff, assistance, premises, furniture or other goods.

8.75 Accommodation in the private rented sector will be an option for some applicants. The local authority should build up contacts with reputable and registered private landlords. Many private landlords can offer accommodation quickly, and sometimes outside working hours, or on public holidays. The local authority may be able to arrange contracts with private landlords to provide such a service; and can, if necessary, use its powers under sections 24 - 26 of the Local Government Act 1988, with the Secretary of State's consent, to give assistance to private landlords in providing it, for example by paying for rent deposits or rent in advance. Before making such arrangements with private landlords the local authority should ensure that the landlord is registered[42], that the properties meet the repairing standard[43] and that the landlord will use the Scottish Government's Model Private Residential Tenancy Agreement[44].

8.76 All local authorities should provide access to a rent deposit or guarantee scheme in order to allow homeless people, and others in housing need, to access private sector rented housing more easily (see paragraph 2.98 of this Code for further information.)

8.77 For some people house purchase may be a possibility, at least after their immediate problems have been resolved. A mortgage or loan can help to establish a family permanently in the private sector. Local authorities may wish to offer advice to formerly homeless families on purchasing a house, when their housing and financial situation has stabilised. Local authorities may find it useful to develop close links with the local property market. Information on sources of advice on all options for financing house purchase should be made freely available to homeless people, especially those financial packages which may be attractive to people on lower incomes such as shared ownership.

8.78 For homeowners facing financial difficulties and possible repossession and eviction from their home there are measures in place which may offer help and support. These include independent money advice, help from the Scottish Government e.g. Home Owners Support Fund (HOSF) and legal aid to help with legal issues relating to mortgage difficulties.

8.79 Home owners at risk of repossession may be eligible to apply to the Scottish Government's Home Owners Support Fund. It consists of two schemes:

  • Mortgage to Rent - where a social landlord purchases the property and the applicant continues to live there as a tenant.
  • Mortgage to Shared Equity - where Scottish Government buys a stake in the property allowing the applicant to reduce the secured loan.
  • Potential HOSF applicants should be referred to an accredited money adviser such as CAB or the Council's own money advice service.

Out-of-area placement

8.80 As a general rule a local authority should always rehouse a homeless household within its own area, particularly where temporary accommodation is being provided. However in rare cases the local authority may need to consider placing homeless people in another local authority's area, although this should be done only with the household's consent. The local authority should retain responsibility for such outplacements. Note that the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 defines the use of temporary out-of-area placements as "unsuitable accommodation" for households with children or pregnant women which can only be used in the exceptional circumstances defined in this Order - see paragraphs 8.7 - 8.26 of this Code for more details.

8.81 Outplacements may be appropriate in cases of, for example, domestic abuse or external violence, or in the case of an ex-prisoner who would face local hostility if returned to his home area. In some cases such an outplacement may be nearer to the applicant's home area than a placement elsewhere in the local authority's area or provide suitable accommodation or access to healthcare which is not currently available in the placing local authority's area.

8.82 When considering an out of area placement, the local authority should consider the costs to the household, such as increased travelling costs or in some cases disruption of education and employment; and to itself of for example maintaining contact with the household and offering any support required. It should also notify the local authority in whose area the household is placed (though that local authority cannot block the placement). If there is any risk associated with the placement then it should notify the local authority in whose area the household is placed of the placement and also of the associated risk. Local authorities should consider what sort of arrangements need to be put in place to ensure that other local authorities are informed promptly of out of area placements.

8.83 In considering an out of area placement for persons made homeless by domestic abuse or external violence, local authorities should give first importance to the expressed fears and wishes of those concerned. Local authorities should adopt the general rule that the new location should remove them from the range of the perpetrators of the violence. The application of this rule should take account of the particular circumstances, for example likely travel routes for the person who has suffered the abuse or violence and for the perpetrator.


8.84 An applicant can be asked to pay a reasonable charge for any accommodation provided directly by the local authority; or a reasonable amount for accommodation supplied by another housing provider but paid for by the local authority (Section 35(2) of the 1987 Act). In deciding what is reasonable, the local authority should take account of what the applicant can pay in the longer term. If an applicant is being asked to pay for accommodation provided by or paid for by the local authority then the applicant should be informed in advance of the cost of the accommodation. They should also be assisted when applying for benefit to cover the cost of such accommodation. The local authority should take account of, and advise of, the likely level of benefit when considering charges.

Special circumstances

8.85 Local authorities should make specific provision for the accommodation and support of people experiencing homelessness with disabilities and respond quickly to requests for adaptations to housing stock which will prevent the occupier from becoming homeless. People with disabilities can be statutorily homeless if they are unable to occupy their present accommodation without excessive hardship or risk to personal safety (see paragraph 5.12 of this Code).

8.86 Local authorities should also be sensitive to the needs of people who have become homeless as a result of domestic abuse. Local authorities should ensure that safe emergency supported accommodation is available for those who have experienced domestic abuse, taking into account the diverse needs of disabled people, people from black and minority ethnic groups and those with addiction problems. Women's Aid refuges are a useful source of temporary accommodation for women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse, and local authorities may find it cost effective to assist voluntary bodies to provide such specialist provision. Beyond securing the provision of emergency accommodation the local authority should also ensure the availability of suitable long term accommodation and support, taking account of the views of the applicant and the paramount importance of minimising the risk of further incidents of abuse and/or homelessness. (See paragraph 8.81 above on the use of outplacements in cases of domestic abuse.)

8.87 If social work service considers that a person needs a greater degree of care and support than is available, it may offer that person a place in accommodation provided by them under Section 59(2)(a) of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, or for young people under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, in response to the local authority's duty under the homelessness legislation.

Maintaining contact with rehoused homeless people

8.88 When people have been rehoused either permanently or temporarily the local authority should maintain contact with them, particularly in the early weeks, to enable them to settle and to ensure early action is taken to avoid their becoming homeless again. This is particularly important for people who are not rehoused in local authority stock, and will be essential where the local authority is organising support for them. The co-operation of the social work service, local Health Board, appropriate voluntary organisations and other local agencies should be sought as required.

8.89 These arrangements will also apply to those people who are not rehoused under the homelessness legislation but are otherwise vulnerable - young people moving into their first tenancy or people who have recently left institutional surroundings (hospital, prison, local authority care or the armed forces.)

8.90 Where people experiencing homelessness have multiple and complex needs, the Housing First model can ensure permanent, mainstream accommodation with wraparound support. Housing First can provide stable accommodation with person centred support for those who may have particular challenges in sustaining tenancies and who may have a history of repeat homelessness or rough sleeping.

Housing support duty

8.91 The Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 introduced a duty, under Section 32B of the 1987 Act, on local authorities to conduct a housing support assessment for applicants who are unintentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness and who they 'have reason to believe' need housing support. Regulation 2 of The Housing Support Services (Homelessness) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 prescribes four types of housing support services which apply for the purposes of the duty. These are for advising or assisting a person:

  • with personal budgeting, debt counselling or in dealing with welfare benefit claims
  • to engage with individuals, professionals or other bodies with an interest in that person's welfare
  • in understanding and managing their tenancy rights and responsibilities, including assisting a person in disputes about those rights and responsibilities
  • in settling into a new tenancy

The 'Housing Support Duty to Homeless Households - guidance for local authorities'[45] was published in 2013 to assist local authorities in complying with the new duty.


Email: stephen.o'connor@gov.scot

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