At Hodge Jones & Allen, we have seen a recent increase in the number of new clients approaching us for legal assistance, having refused a final offer of accommodation for being unsuitable.
A final offer of accommodation is for permanent accommodation that will bring and applicant’s homelessness and the local authority’s duty to provide housing to an end.
There is an expectation that as the accommodation is, in their view at least, unsuitable and they have a right to review to pursue these arguments, that they will be successful in having the offer withdrawn. However, the reality is rather grim and this FAQ is aimed at those who have received an offer and not yet made a decision.
Who decides whether accommodation is suitable for me?
It is for the local authority to assess and decide whether accommodation is suitable based on the facts before them. They will have the final say on this.
Does the local authority have to consider my household in the assessment?
Yes, the accommodation must be suitable for the applicant and all members of their household who reside with them, or might reasonably be expected to reside with them
Will they take my disability into account? I can’t use stairs
When assessing the suitability of accommodation offered to disabled people, or people with another protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, this will form part of the assessment. In this case we suggest making your disability known to the local authority from the outset and try explain how it’s affects you i.e. that you cannot use stairs and require a ground floor or lifted property, so they have these facts for the assessment.
My final offer of accommodation is located 300 miles away from my family, how can that be suitable?
A local authority must properly consider the particular circumstances of the applicant and their household and the availability of accommodation before securing accommodation out-of-area. Unfortunately, this can be limited to what is available at the date of the offer.
An example of some of circumstances they will take into account include, but are not limited to, any disruption to education, employment, caring responsibilities, medical care and support.
But my children’s father will be 300 miles away if we move, is that lawful?
Firstly, we suggest that if you have children who maintain a relationship with their non-resident parent that you make this known to the local authority at the earliest opportunity so it can be considered as part of the assessment. It is generally accepted though that if the location of the offer of accommodation would prevent or interfere with the children seeing that parent, then the offer will not be lawful. Before making any decision you should seek urgent legal advice.
What happens if I accept the final offer when it isn’t suitable, won’t the local authority use my acceptance against me?
Where a local authority makes an offer of accommodation, the applicant can accept the offer and request a review of its suitability within 21 days of the offer. The acceptance will not be viewed as your agreement that it is suitable.
As it is the local authority who determines whether the accommodation is suitable, challenges upon the issue of suitability often do not succeed and Hodge Jones & Allen will always advise you in the strongest possible terms to accept an offer of accommodation and to then request a review of the suitability of the accommodation you feel is not suitable.
A review may take 56 days to complete and you may be required to move to the property until the review is completed. This may well involve a period of disruption for you. The local authority will consider the facts as they stand at the date of the review, you will need to explain why the accommodation is not suitable for you and how it is affecting you and your household.
If you are ultimately unsuccessful in having the offer withdrawn, you will remain in the permanent accommodation.
What happens if I refuse a final offer as its unsuitable?
If you have read the above and still wish to refuse the offer, then please be aware that your refusal will also bring the duty to house you to an end without further notice. The offer will not be kept open for you if you refuse it. We suggest that you seek urgent legal advice before you make this decision.
Can I still seek a review of the suitability if I refuse?
Yes, the right to seek a review applies whether you accept or refuse an offer of accommodation. The difference when you refuse a final offer is that the authority will no longer have any duty to house you and if you are in temporary accommodation you will need to ask the council to use their discretion to continue to accommodate you whilst they complete their review.
When you refuse a final offer of accommodation, then the facts considered during the review will be limited to the time the offer was made, for example, if you were employed at the time of the offer and then lose your employment during the review process, the affordability of the accommodation offered will still be assessed as if you were working.
If you are ultimately unsuccessful in having the offer withdrawn, then you will be left without any accommodation.