Local authorities frequently make unlawful decisions in relation to applications for help made by those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Being “homeless”, so far as the law is concerned, does not mean necessarily being street homeless. It also, for example, includes being in accommodation which it is not reasonable to continue to occupy.
We are frequently instructed to get local housing authorities to consider their homelessness duties where they have tried to fob off the person concerned, or to challenge the suitability of accommodation made available to a homeless applicant.
The homelessness process is complex and may involve:
- Considering a challenge to the initial failure of the authority to consider its homelessness obligations or to provide initial temporary accommodation or even to make a decision;
- Assisting with a review of a homelessness decision made where that decision is against the interests of the homeless applicant;
- Representation on an appeal to the County Court on a point of law against a review decision;
- Other challenges to decisions made by local authorities in relation to the nature of any duty which it might owe a homeless applicant, for example duties owed to those who are said to be vulnerable (in “priority need”) but who are also said to be intentionally homeless.
Each homelessness case depends on the specific facts of the case and it is not normally possible to give general advice. It is very important to consider each of our clients’ cases on an individual basis so as to give appropriate advice on what remedy might be available to each client.
When dealing with homelessness cases we may also advise and assist in relation to decisions made by local authorities on applications made for long term social housing under their allocation schemes. In some cases the scheme itself may be unlawful as it may not comply with the law on housing allocations or the decision on an individual case may be unlawful as it may not have been made in accordance with a lawful allocation scheme.
Unfortunately, the legal aid scheme does not allow us to advise and assist those who are not homeless in relation to their housing applications.
There are some people who are not entitled to mainstream help with their housing on the ground that they are homeless. This might apply to those who have been found to be intentionally homeless or who have children living with them but who local authority housing departments are not allowed to help because of the immigration status of the person concerned. There may be an entitlement to help from the council’s Children’s Services Department.