HOMELESSNESS & PRIVATE SECTOR ACCOMMODATION
Since November 2012, there have been some important changes to homelessness provision by local councils. These changes mean that homeless people who the council have a duty towards may now only be entitled to private sector accommodation. Previously, homeless people could refuse a council’s offers of private sector accommodation and wait until secure, social housing became available (this waiting period has often been unacceptably long in temporary accommodation of a poor condition ). Now, if a council maktes an offer of a 1 year tenancy in private sector accommodation, people will be forced into taking this offer or face the council ending its duty towards them.
Councils have also been granted the power to change their social housing allocations policy. Many London councils have changed their social housing allocations policies so that many homeless people are no longer in high enough priority to stand a chance of getting much needed social housing. The new social housing allocations policies drawn up by councils vary from council to council, dividing and prioritising some homeless people over others, for example employment status. Councils are also increasing the amount of time someone has lived in the borough for before they can access the waiting list.
These policies make social housing more difficult for everyone to access.
New social housing allocations policies also allow councils to cut their social housing waiting lists making it look like there is no demand for social housing, when there is huge demand for secure, affordable housing. We want to ensure that everyone gets the quality, secure, genuinely affordable housing we all need! Local councils do not have to force their residents into the private sector, they should allow people to demand the social housing they need! We’re planning actions, sharing information, and providing support for each other on these issues.
Important information exists that homeless people being forced into the private sector should be informed of. There are ways that to challenge being forced into inappropriate private sector accommodation. If you need support with challenging a council’s decision and want to help others in similar position, just attend a meeting of one of LCAP’s many local groups.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
- If you made your homelessness application with your council on or after 9 November 2012 the council may offer you a private rented sector accommodation. This is an assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord, that has a minimum fixed-term of 12 months.
- If you made your homelessness application before 9 November 2012, you have a choice about whether or not to accept this offer. If you decide not to accept the offer of a private rented sector accommodation the council must continue to house you in temporary housing and make further offers of settled accommodation at later dates.
- Any private rented sector offer that the council makes must be suitable for you. If you feel that the accommodation is unsuitable, for example, because of your health, the size of the accommodation, the location, or the cost, then you can ask the council to review the offer and tell them why it is unsuitable for you. It is strongly advisable to accept the private rented sector offer and make the appeal at the same time. If you were to refuse the offer and the council decided that the property was suitable for you, then it does not have to offer you another property.
- Private rented sector offers made to homeless people must meet certain standards. Government regulations and guidance has a checklist of “circumstances in which accommodation is not to be regarded as suitable for a person”. If you think any of the points on the next page are relevant to the property being offered to you, then raise this with the council. If they ignore the concerns you have raised and insist you accept it, then it is strongly advisable to accept the offer and make an appeal at the same time.
Accommodation in the private rented sector is not suitable if:
- It is not in a ‘reasonable physical condition’
- The landlord has not taken reasonable fire safety precautions or precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning – or if there isn’t a current Gas Safety certificate.
- The landlord is not a “fit and proper person to act in the capacity of landlord”. This could be because they have committed offences such as fraud, dishonesty, violence, or contravened any rule of landlord or tenant law – or have practised any kind of unlawful discrimination in the carrying out of business.
- It’s a hostel-type “House of Multiple Occupancy” (HMO) but doesn’t have a licence to operate as one.
- If the landlord has not provided an adequate written tenancy agree- ment (for example, the local authority should make sure the tenancy agreement is clear and does not contain any hidden charges for repairs or professional cleaning at the end of the tenancy).
If you are forced into the private sector and become homeless within two years of the date you accepted the private rented sector offer, then special rules apply. If your section 21 notice (eviction notice) has expired, you are ‘eligible’ and you are not found to be ‘intentionally homeless’ the council must provide you with temporary accommodation until it can provide settled accommodation (even if you are no longer ‘in priority need’ the council still have a duty to you). If you apply to the council before the section 21 notice expires, they must try to help you keep your home. Challenging a council’s decisions is not easy, especially if you do it alone. That’s why LCAP groups help people to fight for their needs together. Come along to a meeting to get, and give, support!