In 2012 there were over 150,000 possession orders granted by the courts. This number is expected to increase this year following the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ in April 2013.
However, is enough being done to help people who find themselves homeless, and what would you do if you were faced with homelessness? Would you know where to turn?
Those who are homeless or believe they are going to become homeless can seek help from their local authority, and ask for help in securing emergency and temporary accommodation.
A recent Channel 4 documentary titled, ‘How to Get a Council House’ highlighted a few people’s journeys through the ‘homeless’ procedure, however, perhaps it did not go far enough to illustrate what is at times a very complex procedure, and the difficulties people experience in securing a new home.
The documentary was filmed in London. But here in the North West some local authorities have been accused of gate keeping and some people also find that they are not offered a homeless interview. Without this interview the local authority does not owe a homeless person any duty to provide them with temporary accommodation. Instead the local authority may provide some advice in relation to finding new accommodation and then allow people to face homelessness alone. This clearly leaves people who may be very vulnerable to cope with their situation alone. One reason for this may be to ensure that a local authority’s statistics for homeless people remain as low as possible, another possibility is due to limited resources available to a local authority. However, this is worrying, not only because people are being left helpless, but also because we do not truly know the extent of how many people are homeless here in the North West.
After presenting as homeless a local authority should aim to make a decision about a person’s homeless status within 33 days. This means the local authority will consider whether or not somebody actually is homeless, and if so whether they are unintentionally homeless, and lastly whether they are in priority need.
There are several set categories that somebody must fall into in order to be classed as in priority need. However, sometimes somebody is not correctly identified as being in priority need and this can have disastrous effects for them. If the local authority decides somebody is not in priority need then they will no longer be provided with temporary accommodation. Alternatively, a local authority may fail to offer somebody suitable accommodation following their decision. In this event their decision can be appealed. This can be a complex process, and at Stephensons we can help people who find themselves homeless by guiding them through the process, and ensuring that they are given all the support and help they are owed by the local authority.
By Karen Devine, housing law team