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 will be required to intervene at earlier stages in order to prevent homelessness and to take reasonable steps to help those who become homeless to secure accommodation irrespective of whether they are in priority need or not, and irrespective of whether they may be considered intentionally homeless.
There are three major new duties in the Act, namely duties to:
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 either homeless or threatened with homelessness, we will carry out an assessment which 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 personalised 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 secure that your existing accommodation does not stop being available for your occupation.
The Act extends the period of being threatened with homelessness from the previous 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 suitable accommodation available to you, and there is a reasonable prospect that it can be occupied for at least six months. The prevention duty can also end if you deliberately and unreasonably refuses to cooperate with us, or becomes 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 is owed to all eligible applicants, irrespective of priority need and whether or not you might be found intentionally homeless. If the you have no local connection to Ashford, we can refer the relief duty to another 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 6 months, if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation of at least six months’ duration or if you deliberately and unreasonably refuses to co-operate with the relief process.
The main homelessness duty
Where we are unable to relieve your homelessness by providing, or assisting you to obtain, suitable accommodation within 56 days, what happens next depends on whether you are found to be in “priority need”, as defined within the Housing Act. If you do not have a priority need, we will have no further duty to you.
If you are in 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 personalised housing plan, we will only owe a duty to make a ‘final accommodation offer’ – which will usually be a six months’ tenancy of private rented accommodation.
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.
If you prefer, you can complete the Housing Assistance Referral.