Local authorities must have strategies and systems to meet the needs of homeless people in their area and therefore using homelessness legislation can be one way of obtaining suitable housing to meet your needs. There are a number of circumstances in which disabled people can be considered as "homeless". This is not restricted to the traditional understanding of homelessness as "rooflessness".

There are many situations that can lead to you being considered homeless, including:

• If your house is not big enough for both you and your personal assistant/carer, or

• If you cannot take a bath or shower, or

• If you could not escape in the event of fire (for instance, if you use a wheelchair and the house is accessed by steps which cannot be ramped).

These are only a few examples. There could be many other reasons why your current accommodation is unsuitable or dangerous for you to live in. If it is not reasonable to expect you to stay in your current accommodation, then you may be considered "homeless".

The local authority must provide advice and assistance to anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness. It has a statutory duty to provide you with interim accommodation while your circumstances are being investigated. If the local authority decides to accept your application it then has a duty to offer you reasonable permanent accommodation as quickly as possible. If they refuse to offer you accommodation you should get legal advice immediately.

If you are considering leaving your house, get advice first - you will need a good legal reason to leave if you are to avoid being deemed to be intentionally homeless. You will be considered intentionally homeless if:

• You deliberately did or failed to do something which directly led to you becoming homeless and you were aware of all the facts and consequences of your actions in connection with this

• Your last accommodation was reasonable for you to continue to occupy.

It is important to stress that this area of the law is complicated and advice should be sought at all stages. It is also suggested that any house offered should be inspected not only by you but also by an Occupational Therapist who should prepare a report about its suitability to your needs. If the house is not suitable then the Occupational Therapist's report should be presented to the housing authority with a request that they consider the report prior to finalising the offer.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you should go to the housing department of your local authority and apply for housing. Make sure they know that you are applying as a homeless person, and not just asking to be put onto the normal waiting list.

Homelessness legislation can also help owner-occupiers. If you are likely to become homeless because of mortgage arrears and repossession you may be eligible for help from the Scottish Government's Home Owner's Support Fund. This consists of two schemes - the Mortgage to Rent and Mortgage to Shared Equity schemes. Under the Mortgage to Rent scheme the Government can arrange for a social landlord to buy your home and for you to continue to live there as a tenant.

The Mortgage to Shared Equity scheme involves the Scottish Government taking a financial stake in your home so that you do not have to pay so much every month towards your mortgage.

Some councils, housing associations and lenders offer mortgage rescue schemes, which allow you to continue living in your home, as a tenant or part-tenant/part-owner, if you are unable to meet the full payments for your mortgage. However, mortgage rescue schemes operated by private companies may not be as affordable or have the same safeguards as schemes run by a registered social landlord or local authority.

Homelessness legislation is very complex so if you are in doubt about your rights, get advice. Advice is available from solicitors specialising in housing law, your local Citizens Advice Bureau, a Law Centre, Shelter, or the local social work department.

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