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Does the Council have to help me if I am homeless?

Posted on 5th September 2018

There are different ways a Council can help you if you are homeless, from providing emergency housing, to temporary accommodation, to giving you access to the housing register.

You can also approach if you are threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days, for example if your landlord has given you notice. You may also be homeless is you have a home but you cannot live in it, such as if you are fleeing domestic violence.

Homeless Prevention

Since April 2018, local authorities are bound to try and help you stay in your home, by negotiating with your landlord or family, wherever possible. If your home is not suitable, they should not try to help you stay there unless it involves making it more suitable for you.

Emergency housing

This is interim housing while the Council makes further enquiries about your homelessness status.

To be eligible for emergency housing you must give the Council reason to believe that you are homeless, have a priority need, and meet the immigration and residence rules. We have explained what these terms mean below.

Temporary housing

Once the Council has accepted that you meet these tests and are not intentionally homeless then the Council will have a duty to ensure that you have accommodation. This will usually take the form of temporary housing. We have explained what intentional homelessness is below.

Access to the housing register

The Council also has a duty to give a reasonable preference on the housing register to certain groups including people who are homeless. This means that as someone who is homeless, you may be awarded additional priority points on your local housing register. You should be aware, however, that the additional points are often not sufficient to obtain social housing.

Assistance renting in the private sector

Most local authorities will offer rent and deposit schemes to prevent people becoming homeless when they do not have the funds to move. You may also be offered a property in the private sector as part of the councils duties to you. Sometimes, you will be made just one offer. You should always take advice is you are considering refusing a direct offer of accommodation.

Definitions

Priority need

Priority need means that you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Pregnant women and those who reside with them
  • Households with dependent children who live there (or might be expected to live there)
  • All 16 and 17 year olds with exception of children who are the responsibility of social services, missing children, or children removed from their parents or guardians.
  • All 18 to 20 year olds who were looked after in the years between 16 to 18 but are no longer
  • Any person who has lost their accommodation as a result of an emergency
  • Anyone who is vulnerable, due to things such as age, illness, experience of domestic violence or having served a custodial sentence (as well as other examples)

The definition of ‘vulnerable’ can be difficult to define, you must be significantly more vulnerable than the ordinary homeless person.

Immigration and residence rules

Some people are not eligible for homelessness assistance because of their immigration status. Usually this will be non-EU citizens who do not have leave to remain with recourse to public funds, or non-UK EU citizens who are not economically active. There are a number

Intentionally homeless

A person will be deemed intentionally homeless if the following all apply:

  • They deliberately do, or fail to do, something which causes them to lose their home
  • There is no other reason that they would have had to leave home
    It would have been reasonable for them to continue to occupy their former home.

However, there is an exception to this rule, which applies if the person acted in good faith when they did whatever it was that caused them to lose their home.

Reviews

If for any reason you are not considered eligible for assistance, you should be given this decision in writing and with reasons. You have 21 days to ask for a review of most decisions that are made, you should seek advice immediately if you do not agree with the decision.

Gatekeeping

From time to time local authorities will try to avoid the duties that they have to offer help and assistance, usually due to budgetary restrictions or misunderstandings in the application of the law.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and your local authority refuses to help you or tells you they are unable to give you any advice or assistance, you can insist on receiving that decision in writing. You should also seek legal advice to help you get the assistance you are owed.

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