Homeless People - council duty to re-house

If you will become homeless within 28 days your local authority (council) only has to re-house you immediately if you are one of the following:

a) You are a pregnant woman, (this includes anyone living with you).

b) You have children who rely on you financially and they need somewhere to live.

c) You need special help either because you are old, mentally disabled, physically disabled or other special reason.

d) You became homeless because of a flood, fire or another disaster.

e) You are a child aged 16 or 17 and you are not in local authority care, or recently left long-term care. (In Wales 16 or 17 year olds will be regarded as in priority need, regardless of whether or not they have been in care.)

f) Any person aged 18, 19 or 20 who is at particular risk of sexual or financial exploitation, (applies to Wales only).

g) Any person who is not yet 21 years old, but who was at any time between the ages of 16 and 18 being looked after, accommodated or fostered, but are no longer. This does not apply if that person is also in full-time, further or higher education, (social services would be responsible for accommodating those students), (this applies to England only).

h) Persons aged 21 or over who have become vulnerable as a result of having been looked after, accommodated or fostered, (this applies to England only).

i) A person who is 18, 19 or 20 and who has at any time been privately fostered, lived in a children's home or been in the care of a local authority, health authority or voluntary organisation, (this applies to Wales only).

j) Any victim of any form of violence, (except self-inflicted) who has left their home as a result of violence or threats and has become vulnerable as a result, (this applies to England only).

k) Any person who has been subject to domestic violence, is at risk of domestic violence or would be if he or she returns home, (this applies to Wales only).

l) A person who formerly served in the armed forces and has been homeless since leaving those forces, (this applies to Wales only).

m) Any person who is vulnerable as a result of having been a member of the regular naval, military or air force, (this applies to England only).

n) Any person who is a former prisoner and has been homeless since leaving custody and has a local connection with the area of the local authority to whom they apply, (this applies to Wales only).

o) Any person who is vulnerable as a result of having been in custody, (this applies to England only).

If you fall into any one of the categories a - o above then you are eligible to be given priority when it comes to council housing.

You are entitled to apply to the local authority for information so that you can understand and assess how your application is likely to be treated, including whether you will fall into one of the groups above.

A person is considered homeless if there is no accommodation available for them in the UK or elsewhere in which they have an interest, or a licence to occupy or occupy under a right given to them by law, or by a court order, or it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy that accommodation.

Even if a person is unintentionally homeless and of priority need, the local authority has a discretion to refuse to re-house them if they or a member of their household have been guilty of "unacceptable behaviour". This must be the sort of behaviour which would have entitled the local authority to get a possession order if that person had been a secure tenant, (e.g. rent arrears, nuisance, or annoyance to neighbours, damage or neglect to the property, using the property for unlawful or immoral purposes etc). Also at the time of the application the tenant must still be unsuitable due to their behaviour or the behaviour of one of their household.

Initially the local authority will provide temporary accommodation for as long as it takes to find secure accommodation.

Any accommodation offered must be suitable for your needs. The local authority must inform you that you have a right to challenge the suitability of the accommodation offered. You can still request a review of the suitability of the accommodation and accept the accommodation at the same time.

"Persons subject to immigration control", are not eligible for housing assistance. These are classed as people who require leave to enter or remain in the UK. Asylum seekers and their children and other people who have recently come from abroad and are not entitled to benefits are therefore not entitled to be housed. The exception is if they are already a secure or introductory tenant or an assured tenant in accommodation allocated by the local authority of they fall into a permitted class of persons, this class is to be defined through regulation by the Secretary of State. This has not yet been done, but is expected to include:

a) Refugees.

b) Persons granted exceptional leave to remain, (which is not subject to a condition that they cannot claim benefits).

c) People who are nationals of a state which is a signatory to the European Convention on Social & Medical Assistance or the Council of Europe Social Charter and who are habitually resident in the UK, Channel Islands or Republic of Ireland.

d) People with indefinite leave to enter or remain which is not subject to any limitation or condition and who are habitually resident in the UK, Channel Islands or Republic of Ireland.

Your local authority must have an advice service to help you if you are about to be made homeless, but unless you fall into the categories above the local authority does not need to re-house you, they will simply advise you. This advice must be provided by someone or a body other than the local authority. Such advice and assistance must support you in your effort to find secure accommodation and the local authority must assess your housing needs before providing the advice and assistance. This advice must be free. They can also provide other types of assistance such as a loan, furniture or make available to you the services of it's staff.

If you want to re-housed because you are homeless then you should go to your local housing department and fill in an application form. While the council are considering your application they must provide you with temporary accommodation if they believe you may be homeless and eligible for accommodation and in priority need. You can reject offers of temporary accommodation if you do not think they are suitable. The local authority must give you the same number of offers or range of choice as those tenants seeking a transfer or a new home. However, if you reject a final offer then this will end the local authority's duty to re-house you. You can however challenge the suitability of the offer.

If the local authority decide that you made yourself homeless or that you don't fit into any of the list a - o (at the top of this page), or that you have a connection with another local authority, they can refuse your application. You may then have to leave the temporary accommodation that they have found for you.

If a decision is made against you, you can ask the council to consider the decision again by taking it to a panel at the council whose job it is to review decisions. You are entitled to request details of what facts in your case were taken into account when deciding whether or not to allocate accommodation to you. This must be set out in writing. You can also appeal to the County Court against any decision reached by the review panel, but only if the review panel got the law wrong when making their decision. There is a time limit of 21 days of receiving the review panel's decision in which to appeal to the County Court. The County Court has a discretion to consider appeals even if they are brought after this time limit.

If you decide to review or appeal the council's decision they can continue to offer you temporary accommodation, but they do not have to (they have a discretion). However, you can apply to the County Court to challenge a decision not to continue your temporary accommodation.

The local authority also has power to provide secure accommodation for you if you are unintentionally homeless, but not in priority need. They can either provide you with their own secure accommodation or secure accommodation from other landlords, or provide you with advice and assistance which leads to you obtaining accommodation.

The local authority can also use its powers to offer non-secure tenancies for a limited period to "key workers" to give them an opportunity to find more settled accommodation.

Local authorities are under a duty to review the suitability of accommodation offered to homeless persons. In addition local authorities should carry out an audit of the current level of homelessness in their district and what is being done to prevent such homelessness in their area. They should then develop a strategy to prevent homelessness and to find accommodation for those who are, or may become homeless.

They must also provide satisfactory services to help those who are or may become homeless. A new homelessness strategy will have to be published by the local authority at least every 5 years. The results of the local authority's homelessness review and strategy must be made available free to the public for inspection, with copies provided on request, (a fee can be charged for providing copies).

Under the Homelessness Act 2002, local authorities no longer need to keep a housing register to decide how to allocate accommodation. Instead local authorities can introduce their own systems to decide on how to allocate their accommodation to applicants.

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