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Homelessness FAQs

For the Council to be able to provide you with homelessness support and assistance, there are certain things we need to know to determine whether you qualify for assistance, and that we have a duty to help you under the law.

Our Legal Duty

The law states we must help you in some way if you are eligible for assistance and are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days.

In some cases, we will provide emergency accommodation to those we assess as being in priority need for accommodation, whilst considering their application and any other duties we may owe to help them secure suitable longer-term accommodation. In other instances, we may only have to provide advice, based on the circumstances of the customer. Please see priority need section below.

Below are the things we routinely need to consider when assessing all applications for homelessness assistance.

Homelessness is defined as having no home in the UK or anywhere else in the world available to access and which is reasonable to occupy. You do not have to be street homeless to be considered as homeless. You can be regarded as homeless if the following applies:

  • you are already homeless, and you have nowhere to go
  • you have been served notice by your landlord
  • you have been asked to leave your accommodation by family or friends you have been staying with
  • you cannot afford your rent, or your accommodation is in disrepair
  • you are at risk of violence or harassment or feel unsafe

If you believe you are at risk of homelessness, please contact us immediately by completing this form

You must be eligible to be able to get help with your housing needs from the Council. Essentially, eligibility is about your right to reside in the UK, without being subject to immigration controls, and your right to access public funds like social benefits. You may not be eligible for homelessness assistance if:

  • You are a foreign national with no right to work in the UK;
  • You do not have settled status in the UK as a European Union Citizen
  • You are an asylum seeker; or
  • You are a British Citizen who has been resident abroad for a significant period.

For you to make a homelessness application to the Council, you must be eligible for assistance as outlined above, otherwise, your application will not be taken further.

You are in priority need for accommodation if any of the following applies:

  • You have children who are part of your household that are dependent on you. These are typically children under 16 years old, or under 19 years old, if studying fulltime.
  • You, or your partner, is pregnant
  • You are homeless as a result of an emergency, such as fire, flood, or other disasters
  • You are vulnerable in some way, for example, as a result of old age, mental illness, physical health problems or vulnerable for any other reason
  • You are between the ages of 18 and 20 years and have spent time in care
  • You are over 21 years old and have spent time in care and become vulnerable as a result
  • You are at risk of violence or exploitation, including domestic and racial abuse
  • You are vulnerable because of time spent in hospital, prison, or the armed forces.

It is important to note that the assessment of vulnerability for the purposes of priority need is ill-defined. Each application is determined on a case-by-case basis.

If, after assessment, you are considered to be homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need for accommodation, you will be offered temporary accommodation, whilst we investigate your application and work collaboratively with you to resolve your homelessness.

We may also help you find suitable accommodation for the longer-term, either in the social or private rented sector, if we are satisfied that you have not deliberately made yourself homeless.

If we decide you are not in priority need for housing, we will still offer you help to relieve your homelessness; however, you will not be offered temporary accommodation. Additionally, if, at the end of 56 days, our efforts to help relieve your homelessness have not been successful, we will have no further duty to you with respect to your housing needs. We will offer you advice and assistance on finding another home, which is likely to be in the private rented sector.

Whilst we are helping you to resolve your homelessness, we will also be looking closely at the circumstances that led to your homelessness, and whether you contributed to it. If, it is established and we are satisfied that you deliberately did or failed to do something that led to the loss of your home, we will find that you have made yourself intentionally homeless. In such a case, our duty to help relieve your homelessness will subsequently, come to an end as set out in the law and we will no longer have any further duties to assist you with your housing needs.

You can apply to any local authority for assistance if you are homeless; however, if you do not have a local connection to that Council, you could be referred to a different Council for help with your housing needs.

Local connection refers to the links you have to an area whether through residency, employment, family associations or any other special reason. If we are satisfied that you have no local connection to our area, we may refer you to the local authority to which you have a connection for homelessness assistance.

Please contact our Housing Options Team immediately by registering for housing support and advice here.

If you are already homeless and sleeping on the streets, our Rough Sleeper Initiative Team can help. Please contact them in an emergency on telephone: 07887501046 or via email: rsi@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk.

We will assess your circumstances and if we are satisfied you are eligible for assistance, we will refer you to hostel accommodation provided by partner agencies. If we believe you are in priority need for accommodation, we may offer you temporary accommodation in the interim, whilst we work with you to find suitable longer-term accommodation.

If you are homeless outside our office hours, please contact our out-of-hours service on 01823 368 244 from 5pm for support. You should only call this number if you are homeless on the day of your call, and do not have access or cannot make your own arrangements for alternative accommodation.

The out-of-hours team will assess your circumstances in line with the requirements of the law before deciding on a way forward. Any approach made to our out-of-hours service will be referred to our Housing Options Team to follow up the next day, if the team have not already spoken to you about your housing issues.

In line with government advice, we will encourage you to remain in your home if it is safe to do so. We will always explore the option of keeping you in your current home in the first instance unless it is not reasonable, or safe for you to remain there.

We will also consider other housing solutions, like finding alternative accommodation in the private rented sector or completing a Housing Register application, where appropriate. We will expect you to fully cooperate with us to prevent your homelessness. Any steps taken by you to obstruct our efforts in this regard could have a negative impact on your application, with respect to any further duties that may be owed to you for homelessness assistance.

Within our Environmental Health Department, we have a group of officers that specializes in private sector housing and address related issues in our district. We may refer you to this team for support if required.

They will visit your accommodation to assess and address any disrepair issues with your landlord. Appropriate enforcement action will be taken by the team, if your landlord fails to make good any disrepair identified in your accommodation within the timeframe set to do so.

Furthermore, if there are works or adaptations required in your home, we will discuss and encourage your landlord to carry these out.

We will always do what we can to help you remain in your current accommodation, unless we are satisfied it is not suitable or reasonable for you to continue to occupy.

For further information, please visit our Environmental Health web pages and read our advice on private renting. 

Yes, you can, depending on your circumstances. As part of our efforts to prevent you from becoming homeless, we will carry out an assessment of your finances to determine whether you can afford your current home, and how we can assist you, if there is a shortfall, to ensure you meet your rental payments. This may include negotiations with your landlord to reduce your rental amount or agreeing a rent repayment plan.

We may also refer you to the Citizens Advice Service for financial and debt advice. We are working closely with the Citizens Advice Service to ensure our residents get the right advice and support they need to deal effectively with their financial issues at an early stage, to avoid the situation from escalating and prevent them from becoming homeless. You will be given advice on how to fully maximise your income and information on other benefits you may be entitled to such as a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

You are required to have the following documents available to help with our enquiries into your homelessness application:

  • Proof of identity e.g. valid passport or full birth certificate for all members of your household
  • Proof of residency in the UK (if applicable)
  • Proof of residence at the address you are having to leave e.g. a utility bill, tenancy agreement or Council Tax bill
  • Proof of income e.g. wage slips, benefit entitlements, child benefit etc.
  • Last three months’ bank statements
  • Your address history for the last five years
  • Proof of any medical condition you have and medication you have been prescribed

Provision of these documents is also required to help process your Homefinders Somerset Housing Register application with us. Please ensure they are submitted promptly to avoid delays with registration.