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6 Losing your Home

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1. Introduction

2. Will the council find me somewhere to live?

If you are homeless or likely to become homeless within 28 days, the local council may have to offer you somewhere else to stay or to live, temporarily or longer term. The council must offer you somewhere if all of the following apply to you:

  • you are homeless through no fault of your own;
  • you are in ‘priority need’; and
  • you are ‘eligible for assistance’.

The offer of somewhere to live should also apply to someone who normally lives with you as a member of your family or might reasonably be expected to live with you.

If you are not in ‘priority need’ or ‘eligible for assistance’ the council does not have to provide you with any accommodation but should still be able to advise you on your options.

If the local council believes that you are homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need, then it must make sure you have somewhere to live immediately while it makes enquiries and investigates your case. This could be bed-and-breakfast, hostel or hotel accommodation.

In England, if you or someone else in your household is pregnant or has responsibility for children, the council can house you in bed-and-breakfast accommodation in an emergency only, and then just for a maximum of six weeks. In Wales, the maximum time that any homeless applicant can spend in bed-and-breakfast accommodation will depend on the standard of the B&B and whether they are pregnant or have children.

The council must go on providing accommodation for you until it has finished investigating your case and has told you the decision. If a decision goes against you and you challenge it, the council can continue to house you while it looks again at your case, but it does not have to.

If the council offers you unsuitable accommodation, tell them why it is unsuitable (see ‘What if the council offers me somewhere unsuitable?´). But don’t reject it outright without getting advice first, because the council may refuse to find you an alternative.

Who is in priority need?
The rules that describe priority need in England are slightly different from those in Wales, but you are in priority need in either England or Wales if:

  • you have dependent children living with you;
  • you or someone you live with is pregnant;
  • you are homeless because of an emergency such as a fire, flood or other disaster;
  • you or someone you live with is vulnerable because of old age, physical disability or mental illness or for another special reason; or
  • you are 16 or 17 years old.

In England you will also be in priority need if you are:

  • considered vulnerable because you have been in the armed forces, prison, custody or detention in the past; or
  • considered vulnerable because you cannot stay at home due to violence or harassment or threats of these. This might be because of your religion, sex or ethnic origin, or for another reason; or
  • 18 to 20 years old and you were looked after, accommodated or fostered by social services at some time when you were 16 or 17 ; or
  • 21 years old or over and you are considered vulnerable because you were looked after, accommodated or fostered by social services at any age.

If you fall into one of the last two groups, both social services and the housing department may be responsible for helping you.

In Wales you are also in priority need if:

  • you are 18 to 20 years old and you used to be in care, or are at risk of financial or sexual exploitation;
  • you can’t stay at home, or you are at risk if you return home because of domestic violence or threats of domestic violence;
  • you have been in the armed forces and have been homeless since you left; or
  • you have been homeless since being in prison or custody, and you have a local connection with the area you apply to.

How does the council decide if I am vulnerable?
In deciding whether you are vulnerable, the council should consider your personal circumstances. It must decide whether you are less able to cope and are at greater risk of harm than anyone else who is homeless. You won’t automatically be considered vulnerable just because, for example, you have health problems or you have spent a long time in the army.

You should get advice if you are not sure, or if you think that you might be able to get help for some other reason. Your doctor, or your social worker or support worker if you have one, should be able to help you with your case if you or someone you live with is vulnerable.

Am I eligible for assistance?
Most people are eligible for assistance, including, in most cases:

  • British citizens who live in the UK;
  • people from European Union (EU) countries working here, though the rules are different for people from countries that joined the EU since 2004; and
  • people who have been granted refugee status or 'indefinite leave to remain'.

However, you will not normally be eligible for assistance if you are:

  • an asylum seeker; or
  • ‘subject to immigration control’.

Also, if you have recently returned to the UK after living abroad, even if you are a British citizen, the council must check whether you are ‘habitually resident’. If it decides you are not, you will not be eligible for assistance.

The law is complicated and you should get advice if you are not sure whether you are eligible for assistance. If you are an asylum seeker, you will not normally be able to get help from the housing department of the council. See the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Claiming Asylum’ for more information about your rights, and also for the names and phone numbers of organisations that can help you.

3. Does it matter how I become homeless?

4. What if the council offers me somewhere unsuitable?

5. What can I do if I disagree with the council´s decision?

6. Where can I go if I need somewhere to stay urgently?

7. What if my landlord wants to evict me?

8. What can I do if my landlord is harassing me?

9. Further help

10 About this leaflet

Logo of Shelter

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Shelter.

Leaflet version: May 2008

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