Homelessness Reduction Act
The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into effect on 3 April 2018. This legislation has brought in a raft of changes to the way Local Authorities in England deliver homelessness duties and amongst other amendments, introduced two new duties - Prevention Duty and Relief Duty - to the Housing Act 1996.
The primary focus and objective of this legislation is to prevent people from becoming homeless, with an emphasis on reducing the need for people to go into emergency accommodation.
Another key priority of the legislation is to deliver better outcomes for single homeless persons, who may be homeless or threatened with homelessness.
Under the Homeless Reduction Act, we are required to provide information and advice to everybody contacting our Homelessness Service who is homeless or threatened with homelessness. The advice will include information on:
- preventing homelessness
- securing alternative accommodation when homeless
- the rights of people who are homeless or facing the threat of homelessness and the legal duties of the local authority
- the help available to people who are threatened with homelessness; and
- how to access the help that is available
We are also required to provide specialist information and advice for specific vulnerable groups who may find themselves threatened with homelessness or without accommodation.
The new legislation means that all applicants who are eligible and about to become homeless will be entitled to receive advice and assistance to prevent them from becoming homeless.
Duty to Prevent Homelessness
All eligible persons who are about to become homeless within 56 days will be owed a Prevention Duty. If you are already homeless, please see Relief Duty below.
During the Prevention Duty, we will take reasonable steps to prevent applicants from becoming homeless, irrespective of their local connection, priority need status for accommodation, or whether they have become threatened with homelessness due to their own actions (see homelessness FAQs page). The steps involved will include assisting applicants to remain in their current accommodation or helping them to find a suitable new place to live, often in the private rented sector.
In line with the requirements of the legislation, applicants are expected to work collaboratively, and engage in a meaningful way, with the Council’s efforts to prevent their homelessness. To this aim, we will work jointly with applicants to create a Personalised Housing Plan, which will set out the reasonable steps that both sides will be required to take to prevent service users from becoming homeless.
The Prevention Duty will last for a period of up to 56 days; however, if you are tenant who has been served a valid notice, our prevention duty will continue, until we determine that your accommodation is no longer reasonable for you to occupy.
Duty to Relieve Homelessness
In the event we are not able to prevent you from becoming homeless, the Relief Duty will be owed. Under the Relief Duty, we must take reasonable steps to help you secure suitable accommodation. As with the Prevention Duty, the Relief Duty lasts for up to 56 days and is available to all applicants who are eligible and homeless, regardless of their priority need status for accommodation. If you do not have a local connection to our district, we may refer your application to another local authority.
If you are considered to be a priority need household, for example, you are considered to be vulnerable or have dependent children, we will provide you with interim accommodation, whilst taking reasonable steps and working together to help you secure suitable alternative accommodation, which is likely to be in the private rented sector.
Your Personalised Housing Plan will be updated accordingly, and new actions may be agreed to help you secure suitable alternative accommodation, to reflect the change from prevention to relief.
Ending the Relief Duty
Our duty to relieve your homelessness can be brought to end in the following prescribed ways:
- if we are successful in our efforts to relieve your homelessness and are satisfied that you have suitable accommodation secured for you, which will be available for at least 6 months
- if we have taken reasonable steps for 56 days to help you secure accommodation. If this has not been successful, and you are in priority need and it has been determined that you are homeless through no fault of your own, you will be owed the main housing duty
- if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation, which is expected to be available for at least 6 months
- if you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate with our efforts to relieve your homeless, as set out in your Personalised Housing Plan. If you are in priority need for accommodation and not homeless intentionally, you will be made a final offer of a tenancy in the private rented sector for a period of at least 6 months, but you will not be owed the main housing duty
- if you intentionally lose accommodation that we have provided to you under the Relief Duty
- if you accept or refuse a final offer of accommodation
- if you cease to be eligible for housing assistance
- if you withdraw your application or we are unable to contact you
Through each step of the above processes, you will be notified in writing of the decision made and can request a review, if you do not agree with the Council’s decision on your application.
Personalised Housing Plan
If you approach us for homelessness assistance, the law requires us to carry out an assessment of your circumstances and needs, and any support that you may require to prevent you from becoming homeless in the future. We will work with you to create a Personalised Housing Plan to fulfil this obligation.
Personalised Housing Plans are issued under both the Prevention and Relief duties. The Personalised Housing Plan will set out the reasonable steps that both you, and we will take to prevent or relieve your homelessness. It will comprise of mandatory and recommended steps, which may perhaps be connected to your wider circumstances.
Some of the actions under your Personalised Housing Plan may for example, include you working with a Money and Debt Management Advisor, if you are experiencing financial difficulties and in rent arrears. A referral will be made to the Advisor for support with your issues and you will be expected to fully cooperate with efforts to negotiate a favourable outcome for you.
A review of your Personalised Housing Plan will be carried out by your appointed Housing Case Manager at regular intervals, to check on progress and/or update the plan as required.
We could issue you with a notice bringing either the Prevention or Relief Duty to an end, if we have determined that you deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate with the mandatory actions and steps set out in your Personalised Housing Plan.
The Main Housing Duty
If, after 56 days, our efforts to relieve your homelessness have not been successful, and we are satisfied that you have fully complied with required actions set in your Personalised Housing Plan, we will make a decision on whether you are owed the main housing duty. If, following investigations, you are assessed as being homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and did not become homeless intentionally, we will have a duty to secure suitable accommodation for you for the longer term. The offer of suitable accommodation could either be private or social housing; however, it is more likely to be in the private rented sector and may well be outside of our district.
Requesting for a Review
If you disagree with any of the decisions we have made on your homelessness application, you can challenge this by requesting a statutory review. You may tell us why you think we are wrong and give us new information to support your case. If you wish, you may get someone else to put your case forward on your behalf. Please contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444 or the Citizens Advice Service on 0344 488 9623 for independent advice and support on this matter.