Homelessness - Support And Guidance
Who should I contact if I am homeless?
If you find yourself homeless, or threatened with homelessness, you should call us straight away on 01233 331111. The Customer Services Team will take some details from you and determine whether you need to see a housing options officer that day.
We have a legal duty to provide anybody who is homeless, or threatened with homelessness, with advice and appropriate assistance. The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 significantly amends the Housing Act 1996.
Under the Act, local housing authorities are required to intervene at earlier stages in order to prevent homelessness. We also have to take reasonable steps to help those who become homeless to secure accommodation. We are obliged to help regardless of whether they are a priority need or are considered intentionally homeless.
The following are the three major new duties in the Act:
1) Assess all eligible applicants and agree a personal housing plan.
2) Take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness.
3) Relieve homelessness by helping you to secure accommodation.
(1) Duty to assess
If we are satisfied that you are eligible for assistance and you are either homeless or threatened with homelessness, we will carry out an assessment. The assessment will look at the reasons why you are homeless (or threatened with homelessness), what your housing needs are, and what support needs you may have.
Following this assessment, we will work with you to agree a personal housing plan. The plan will record actions to be taken by both parties to obtain/retain suitable accommodation.
(2) Duty to prevent homelessness
We now have a duty to take reasonable steps to help you - as long as you are eligible for assistance and are homeless (or threatened with homelessness) - to prevent you being evicted from your existing accommodation.
The Act extends the period of being threatened with homelessness. This has been extended from 28 days to 56 days. The prevention duty will therefore start eight weeks before the anticipated date of actual homelessness, and will last for a period of 56 days. However, it may be brought to an end earlier where we are satisfied that you have found suitable accommodation. We will consider if there is a reasonable chance that it can be occupied for at least six months.
The prevention duty can also end if you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to cooperate with us, or become homeless. In these cases, you will proceed to the ‘relief’ stage.
(3) Duty to relieve homelessness
Where you are homeless and eligible for assistance, we will take reasonable steps to relieve homelessness by helping you to secure suitable accommodation. This duty applies to all eligible applicants, regardless of priority need and whether or not you might be found intentionally homeless. If you have no local connection to Ashford, we can refer the relief duty to another local authority with which you do have a connection.
The relief duty lasts for a period of 56 days and can be brought to an end if you find suitable accommodation which is likely to last for at least six months. The duty will also end if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation of at least six months’ duration or if you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate with the relief process.
The main homelessness duty
If you do not have a priority, we will have no duty to provide accommodation to you after the 56 day relief duty ends.
If you are a priority need, and are not intentionally homeless, we will owe you the ‘main’ housing duty (under section 193 Housing Act 1996).
However, if you have refused a suitable final offer at the relief stage, the main duty will not apply and we will owe no further duty. If you have deliberately or unreasonably refused to co-operate with the steps set out in your personal housing plan, we will only owe a duty to make a ‘final accommodation offer’. This final offer will usually be a six months’ tenancy of private rented accommodation.