When does a Local Authority have to provide me with emergency accommodation?

28 Apr 2020 | Muna Adam

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Absolutely anyone can be struck down by misfortune and find themselves in a situation where they are homeless. Though many will prefer to turn, at least at first, to friends and family for help – this is not always possible. Sometimes you may have to turn to the Local Authority. With the current pandemic, hard times are hitting harder so this blog is intended to help make more people aware of their rights.

The easiest way to work out whether the Local Authority must provide you with emergency accommodation is to think of it as a path with hurdles. You must get over each hurdle before you are owed an emergency accommodation duty.

First hurdle – eligible for assistance

The first hurdle is whether you are “eligible for assistance”. You will generally be eligible for assistance if you are a refugee, a British Citizen or (for the moment at least) an economically active EU or European Economic Area national. This is a complex area and involves consideration of immigration status. Whether you are “eligible” or not the Local Authority must still provide you with advice and information about homelessness.

Second hurdle – homeless

The second hurdle is whether you are actually homeless. This could be because you have no where you are legally allowed to live.  For example, if you have been kicked out of your family home or bailiffs have evicted you. It could also be because it is not reasonable for you to continue to live in your home– for example, if you are being harassed or threatened by neighbours, or you are a victim of domestic violence.

If you pass these first two hurdles, then the Local Authority will owe you a duty to take “reasonable” steps to help relieve your homelessness.

Third hurdle – priority need

The third and final hurdle is whether the Local Authority has reason to believe you are in priority need. The Housing Act 1996 (as amended) and secondary legislation set out the different categories of people who are in priority need of accommodation. In summary these are:

  • Pregnant women
  • People with dependent children
  • Children aged 16-17 and not in care (in which case you should seek legal advice as you might be owed “care” duties – Osbornes Law can assist in these types of cases)
  • Care leavers under 21 years old
  • People made homeless because of an emergency like a flood, fire or other disaster
  • Vulnerable people. You can be vulnerable due to old age, mental illness, handicap, physical disability or other special reason. You could also be vulnerable due to being a person fleeing domestic abuse or violence, or due to time spent in care, prison or the armed forces.

The legal test for vulnerability has been clarified further in case law but this is complex and beyond the scope of this blog.

If you approach a Local Authority seeking emergency accommodation and you are not provided with it you should seek legal advice and representation. At Osbornes Law we have an experienced and dedicated housing and social welfare team ready to help. 

Blog post written by Muna Adam

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