The law is very specific about who is homeless and eligible for help. The Housing Act 1996 states that every council in the country must, by law, ensure that enquiries are made into all homeless applications.
There are five enquiries which need to be made to find out what kind of help the Council has a duty to provide you with. It is important that you provide full and correct information when requested.
The Housing Act 1996 as amended by the Homelessness Act 2002 states that you are homeless if you have no accommodation available in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. This means that if you have suitable accommodation anywhere in the world which is available to you then you are NOT homeless. The Housing Act also says that you are threatened with homelessness if you are likely to become homeless within 28 days. You are also considered to be homeless if you have accommodation available to you but:
- It is not reasonable for you to live there with the people who would normally live with you as members of your family. This includes partners, children and carers.
- You are not legally entitled to occupy it because you have had a court order requiring you to leave, or you are a tenant with no right to remain where you are.
- Your accommodation is not reasonable for you to occupy. For example, it is in poor physical condition and is beyond reasonable repair, or you cannot get it repaired for a good reason.
- You are at risk from violence in the property.
Everyone is entitled to housing advice from their Local Council. If you need further assistance then the Council must find out whether you are eligible to receive further assistance. You will not be eligible for assistance if you are subject to immigration control, although there are exceptions. You will be subject to immigration control if you are not in one of these groups.
- A British Citizen or a Commonwealth Citizen (this will be shown on your passport) who has the right to live here.
- • A Citizen of one of the following countries: Austria; Belgium; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Ireland; Italy; Luxembourg; the Netherlands; Portugal; Spain; Sweden; and the United Kingdom. The exceptions to this rule, which mean you may be eligible for assistance
- You have been granted refugee status in the United Kingdom.
- You have been given permission to enter or stay in this country (providing you have not been told you cannot use public funds).
- You have permission to enter or stay in this country with no time limit.
- You are a citizen of Turkey, Malta, Iceland, Norway or Cyprus.
- You receive an income-based job seekers allowance or are in receipt of income support. In addition, you must be ‘habitually resident’, in other words you must live in this country. This means that even if you are a British Citizen, if you have lived away from the country for a length of time you may not be eligible for assistance. The “habitually resident” rule does not apply to you if:
- You have refugee status. You have exceptional permission to enter or stay in the country.
- You are an asylum seeker who is eligible for assistance.
- You are a “worker” for the purposes of EEC regulations.
- You have the right to live outside the UK under an EEC council directive. If you are NOT “eligible for assistance” then you will be given advice about how you can find accommodation, and it may be possible to put you in contact with other organisations who might be able to help you. If you ARE “eligible for assistance” then further enquiries will be made as explained below.
If you are homeless and eligible for assistance, then the Council needs to determine whether you are also in priority need. This is because the Council has a duty to provide immediate temporary accommodation, if needed, for people who are homeless, eligible for assistance, and who may be in a priority need.
You are considered to be in priority need if:
- You, someone you live with or someone who might reasonably be expected to live with you, is pregnant.
- You have dependant children living with you or who might be expected to live with you.
- You may be priority need because you are classed as vulnerable if you:
- Are an older person
- Have a physical or learning disability or mental health problems
- Had to leave your home because of violence or harassment
- Have been in care
- Were in the armed forces
- Have been in a young offenders institute or prison in the past
The council will not automatically consider you to be vulnerable if you fit into one of the above categories. For example, the council may decide that you are not vulnerable if you have an illness but it can be controlled by medication, or if you are over the age of 60 but are in hood health.
- You are aged 16 or 17, and are not:
- A relevant child (a child aged 16 or 17 who has been looked after by a local authority for at least 13 weeks since the age of 14 and has been looked after at some time while 16 or 17 and who is not currently being looked after) or,
- A child in need who is owed a duty under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 (The Children Act 1989 (s.20(3)) places a duty on social services authorities to provide accommodation for a child in need aged 16 or over whose welfare is otherwise likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide accommodation).
- You are homeless as a result of flood or other disaster. If you are not “in priority need” you are entitled to advice and assistance to help you to find your own accommodation, or to prevent you from losing any accommodation you may have at the moment. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness and in priority need then further enquiries need to be made.
By law, it is necessary to find out whether you are homeless through no fault of your own. If you lost your accommodation through a deliberate act which you knew would make you homeless then you can be found to be “intentionally homeless”. For example, you are “intentionally homeless” if:
- You sell or give up your home when there is no need to and you do not find other suitable accommodation before you sell or give up your home.
- You do not pay your rent or mortgage repayments when you can afford to.
- You ignore housing advice which would have prevented the loss of your home.
- You are evicted because of anti-social behaviour.
If you are intentionally homeless then you will be entitled to advice and assistance to help to prevent you from losing your home (if you have one). If you are already homeless then you may be entitled to accommodation for a reasonable period of time, usually 28 days, while you find accommodation of your own.
- You normally live here, or lived here in the past, of your own choice.
- You are employed here (other than in the Armed Forces).
- You have close family living here.
- There are other special circumstances which connect you to this area.