Housing advice for non-UK citizens

Published: 30 July 2010

For UK citizens, getting help with housing from local authorities can be a complicated business. Unfortunately, for citizens of other countries, the process can be even more complex.

Like their counterparts in the UK, non-UK citizens seeking support with housing from local authorities are not guaranteed help just because they are living with HIV. However, their HIV status may still be a factor when applying for help.

Who is eligible for help?

A non-UK citizen may be eligible for help with housing if they:

  • are a European national with a right of residence who is habitually resident in the UK, or
  • have been granted refugee status, indefinite leave to remain, discretionary leave to remain or humanitarian protection.

However some people who have leave to remain may be granted it with the condition that they have ‘no recourse to public funds’. These individuals cannot access social housing or housing for people who are homeless. Options for someone with ‘no recourse to public funds’ and no money of their own are very limited and will vary from place to place. People in this situation often have to rely on friends for accommodation. If someone is sleeping rough, finding a specialist local organisation, or sympathetic day centre where they can access showers and food can make a big difference.

Asylum seekers

Whilst asylum seekers cannot normally receive accommodation from a local authority, they may receive it from the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

To be eligible for this help asylum seekers must have:

  • no access to alternative support
  • be able to prove that refusing support would be a breach of their human rights
  • claimed asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after arriving in the UK.

Asylum seekers provided with housing by the UKBA have no say in which part of the country they live in and cannot move on without permission.

If an asylum seeker’s claim for asylum is accepted, they have 28 days to find alternative accommodation. At the end of this period their right to assistance from the UKBA ends and they will have to apply to their local authority for help.

At this stage the Home Office can offer an interest-free loan of between £100 and £1000 to help them cope with housing needs such as providing a deposit, or buying essentials for their home.

An individual may be refused asylum, but be unable to return to their country (for example, because they are unfit to travel or because there is no safe route to the country). A refused asylum seeker may be eligible for continued UKBA support while they remain in the UK. This is known as ‘section 4’ support, and consists of accommodation and supermarket vouchers.

Housing problems for asylum seekers with HIV

Shelter have identified that housing provided for asylum seekers by the UKBA is often of very poor quality. In particular, a 2001 study by the charity revealed 86% of houses were unfit for the number of occupants, while nearly a fifth (17%) were unfit for human habitation.

Poor-quality housing has serious implications for people living with HIV. It can stop people taking their treatment effectively and leave them prone to diseases which may weaken their immune system.

Exceptions for asylum seekers with HIV

Although most asylum seekers cannot get support from their local authority, there are some exceptions.

Under Section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948, asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers who are particularly vulnerable may be entitled to help with housing. Section 21 states that local authorities have a duty to provide housing to people ‘who by reason of age, illness, disability or any other circumstances are in need of care and attention which is otherwise not available to them’.

In theory HIV-positive asylum seekers may be able to claim for housing assistance under the terms of Section 21. However, in practice their right to do so has been contested in court. In 2008 the House of Lords ruled that the local authority in Slough did not have to provide housing for an HIV-positive asylum seeker under the Act.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.