What is priority need?
When an applicant makes a homeless application to a local authority, this is one of the instrumental tests local authorities consider in detail to decide what duty, if any, an applicant may be owed.
Who satisfies the priority need criteria?
Some categories of person are considered to be in priority need for housing assistance in accordance to s.189 Housing Act 1996. This includes those who:
- are pregnant;
- have dependants residing with them or might reasonably be expected to reside with them;
- are aged 16 or 17;
- are a care leaver age 18 to 20;
- are homeless because of fire or flood; and
- are vulnerable.
What does vulnerable mean?
A range of factors are considered to ascertain if an applicant is more vulnerable than an ordinary homeless person. If they do meet this test, they will be considered vulnerable for the purposes of having priority need.
S.189 Housing Act 1996 states that an individual has a priority need for accommodation if a person is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness, learning or physical disability or some other reason or with whom such a person resides or might reasonably be expected to reside. However, it is important to note that these factors do not automatically render an applicant to be in priority need.
Supporting clinical letters assist to confirm an applicant’s health conditions and generally shed light on any harm they may suffer should they be made homeless.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some applicants may be considered to be more vulnerable than others due to underlying health conditions. In some cases, these individuals have greater protection and satisfy the priority need criteria.
In addition to this, being a victim of domestic violence is also a possible cause for establishing vulnerability.
What happens if I am considered to be in priority need?
Where an authority has reason to believe that an applicant to be homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need, the authority must provide accommodation pending inquiries. The threshold for this is very low as applicants do not have to prove that they are in priority need at this stage.
The main housing duty comes into play when the duty to relieve homelessness comes to an end. This is where local authorities must take steps to ensure that accommodation becomes available to an applicant who is homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless.
What happens if I am found not to be in priority need?
The authority will provide an applicant with a decision in writing to explain why they are not in priority need for housing assistance. This is known as a s.184 decision.
If you have received a not in priority need decision and you disagree with this, you have 21 days to request a review of this decision. Contact our housing experts today on 0808 252 5231 to find out how we can help you.