Please call us or visit our main Chichester office so we can talk to you about whether you need to see an officer for housing advice or make a homelessness application. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, you can make a homeless application within 28 days. You can do this at any time during our opening hours (Monday to Thursday, 8.45am - 5.10pm and Friday, 8.45am - 5pm).
- Legal definition
- Priority need
- Who is eligible for assistance?
- Intentionally homeless
- Local connection
- What assistance can I receive?
During your interview, the Housing Officer will ask you a range of questions to establish whether we have a legal duty to provide you and your household with temporary accommodation until suitable housing is found. For this to happen:
- you must be homeless;
- you must be eligible for assistance;
- you or someone in your household must have a priority need.
The final two considerations are whether:
- you are intentionally homeless;
- you have a local connection to the Chichester district.
We aim to inform you in writing of our decision within 33 working days of your interview.
There are several ways in which a person can be legally defined as homeless:
- You have no accommodation available in the UK or abroad.
- You have no legal right to occupy accommodation in the UK or abroad.
- You are a split household and have no accommodation available for the whole household.
- You have accommodation but it is unreasonable for you to continue to live in there.
- You have accommodation but living there means you or a member of your household is at risk of violence.
- You have accommodation but you are unable to secure entry.
- You live in a moveable structure but you do not have anywhere to legally moor or park it.
The law identifies groups of people who are considered to be more at risk or less able to fend for themselves if made homeless. The law also requires us to provide accommodation on a temporary basis until alternative accommodation can be secured or it is determined that the homelessness was caused deliberately.
The five categories of people who are 'priority need' include:
- pregnant women, or any person who resides with a pregnant woman
- households with dependent children
- all 16 and 17 year olds, provided they are not a 'relevant child' (relevant children remain the responsibility of social services) or a child in need (a local authority owes a duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989)
- all 18 to 20 year olds (other than 'relevant students'), who are 'former relevant children'
- anyone who has lost their accommodation as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster
The law also defines vulnerable people as 'priority need'. A person may be vulnerable as a result of:
- old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or other special reason, or someone who lives with a person who is vulnerable in this way
- having been looked after, accommodated or fostered and is aged 21 or over (other than ' relevant students')
- having been a member of her Majesty's regular naval, military or air forces
- having served a custodial sentence, been committed for contempt of court or similar offence, or been remanded in custody
- having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence
If you cannot demonstrate that one of the above categories describes your circumstances, then although you may be homeless, we will not have a duty to accommodate you temporarily. However, we will provide you with advice and assistance to resolve your housing needs.
To qualify for help under the homelessness legislation, you must be eligible for assistance. There are a number of tests for eligibility. Some are based on immigration status; some on entitlement to claim social security benefits; some on your right of residence; and some on the nature and quality of your residence. The best way of being able to establish if you are eligible for assistance is to bring along to the interview your passport and proof of any entitlement to welfare benefits (Child Benefit, Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance).
Homelessness applications - reviews and appeals
Our written decision will explain that you have a right to request a review. You must do so within 21 days of being told of the decision. The reviewing officer will be senior to the investigating officer, and will have no previous knowledge of your case. You may find it helpful to seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, or a solicitor before requesting a review. The review can take up to eight weeks.
What happens if the decision is upheld at review?
You have the right of appeal to the county court if you are not satisfied with the decision of a homelessness review. The appeal should be made on a point of law from the review decision. If you decide to appeal, you must do so within 21 days of the date you were notified of the review decision. Our primary role is to make sure that we have correctly understood and applied the law and have followed a fair decision-making process. An appeal to the county court does not allow the court to consider the facts (save in very rare circumstances). The normal result of a successful county court appeal is that our earlier decision is quashed and it has to make a new decision.
We have to consider whether your homelessness has occurred genuinely, or whether it was avoidable.
If we conclude that you are intentionally homeless it means that:
- You deliberately must have done, or failed to do something, and because of your actions, or lack of action, you had to leave accommodation that was available to you.
- The accommodation you left must have been reasonable for you to continue to occupy.
- You must have been aware of all the relevant facts before deliberately taking or failing to take the actions.
The following scenario puts this difficult test into context:
Mrs X lives in private rented accommodation and claims Housing Benefit, which covers the total rent. One month Mrs X decides to use her Housing Benefit allowance to pay for car repairs. The landlord serves Mrs X with an eviction notice because she has failed to pay her rent. Mrs X leaves the accommodation after the eviction notice expires.
Mrs X deliberately failed to pay her rent. This caused her landlord to serve her with notice and required Mrs X to leave her home. The accommodation was affordable because her entitlement to Housing Benefit paid the full rent and so the accommodation was 'reasonable to continue to occupy'. Mrs X knew that if she failed to pay her rent that her landlord might evict her but she chose to do it anyway.
You have a local connection with the Chichester district through:
- Normal residence, where the residence was of your own choice. If you have lived in the district for the past six months out of the last year, or three years in the last five.
- Being employed in the district. If you are currently employed in the Regular Armed Forces in the Chichester District, you will be awarded a local connection.
- Family associations (mother, father, adult children, sister, brother).
- Special circumstances.
A local connection is established if any one of the above categories applies to either you, or anyone in your household.
|Ineligible for assistance||We have no duty to provide accommodation to you, but will give you general advice.|
|Eligible, homeless - but not in priority need||We have a duty to provide advice and assistance to help you secure accommodation. This duty applies whether you are intentionally homeless or not.|
|Eligible, homeless, priority need, intentionally homeless|
|Eligible, homeless, priority need, unintentionally homeless||We must secure accommodation for you and your household. This is known as the main housing duty. Before we undertake this obligation, we are entitled to make enquiries into your local connection.|