This page explains what is meant by Housing Options, outlines the advice offered by the council to people who are homeless or who are likely to become homeless, and what the Housing Service Team can do to help. This page should help you to understand how the council can help you resolve the problems that you face.
Who can be helped by the Housing Service?
The council has duties under various Housing Acts to help people who are homeless.
As soon as you are faced with homelessness or even if you think that you might become homeless in the future you should contact the Housing Service Team for advice.
Once the service is aware of your problem you will be offered advice on how to prevent the homelessness and help you stay in your home.
If this advice is not successful, and you do become homeless the service would look to help you find somewhere to stay. This will usually happen whilst an assessment of your housing needs is made. The assessment will look at all your housing needs and may help you find accommodation.
It is important to remember that the council only has limited resources which it can use to meet your accommodation needs. Havant is an area of very high demand for social housing.
Each year there are more applications for social housing than can be helped with the result that most people will have to wait several years before they can be considered for a permanent offer of social housing.
If you are able to contact the service as soon as you become aware that you will be needing help it will increase the chances of either preventing the homelessness or of finding somewhere else to stay.
What is a Housing Options interview?
A housing options interview will examine the housing needs that you and your household may have and will help identify what can be done to meet those needs.
As part of the Housing Options interview you will be given advice on staying in your current accommodation or offered advice to find suitable accommodation.
The advice that is often offered is:
- Negotiate a settlement with a parent or relative to allow you to stay living at home whilst you are looking for somewhere else
- Negotiate with your landlord to extend your tenancy
- Arrange for support services to be provided to help you maintain your tenancy
- We can help with sorting out housing benefit
- We can help you to find alternative accommodation
- We can help you make an application for social housing
Young people aged 16 or 17 will be offered a joint assessment by Social Services and the council’s Young Persons Housing Advisory Officer.
At the interview as part of the assessment you will be required to follow up some tasks your self. On some occasions the problem is resolved immediately but mostly it will take time before your problem is resolved and the advice that has been offered becomes effective.
During this time you will be able to seek further help from your Housing Advisory Officer or any other member of staff within the Housing Service Team.
Please remember that this is a very busy service and that it is not always possible to answer your enquiry immediately. If your Housing Advisory Officer is not available simply leave a message and they will get back to you as soon as possible.
What happens if I do become homeless?
If the approach undertaken in the Housing Options interview is not successful and you do lose your accommodation the council will still continue working with you to help you find accommodation. You will be asked to provide proof of your and the members of your household’s identity and provide documents such Court Orders, notices to quit and letters from your landlord and solicitor.
It will be your requirement to ensure that the information you provide to the council is accurate. Giving false information is a criminal offence.
For further advice from Shelter - the housing and homelessness charity - please go to england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice.
Who is considered to be homeless?
You are considered to be homeless if:
- You have nowhere to live in the United Kingdom or anywhere else in the world
- You cannot live in your home because of threats of violence or actual violence
- You cannot live with all of your family
- You do not have the owners permission to stay e.g. you are a squatter
- You have been illegally locked out of your home and cannot get back in
- Your home is a boat, mobile home or caravan and you have no lawful site or mooring
- You have somewhere to live but it is not reasonable for you to remain there. This may be because of a threat of violence or harassment from someone living in or near your home or because of overcrowding or bad housing conditions. To decide if it is reasonable to remain the council may compare your housing situation with the housing conditions of other people living in the borough.
Homelessness is usually considered if you are likely to lose your accommodation within 28 days.
If you are leaving hospital or prison, or are a care leaver there are special arrangements that have been agreed by the council to assess your needs. Please contact your social worker or probation officer for advice.
Who is not eligible for assistance?
You are probably not eligible for assistance if:
- You are an asylum seeker or have been refused asylum
- You have limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom but cannot claim public funds or you are an over-stayer
- You are not habitually resident in the United Kingdom or have no right of residence
The law in this area is very complicated so you should get specialist legal advice if you think that any of these circumstances apply to you or think that you may not be eligible for assistance. If you are living abroad you are strongly advised to seek advice before you return to the United Kingdom.
Who is in priority need?
You are in priority need if:
- You are responsible for dependent children (usually those under 16, or under 19 if they are in full time education.)
- You are pregnant
- You are homeless as a result of fire flood or other disaster
- You are aged 16 or 17
- You are a former care leaver
- You are vulnerable as a result of old age, disability, learning difficulty, mental health or some other special reason such as a result of violence, having served a long custodial sentence, having been a member of the armed forces.
Who is intentionally homeless?
Some people will not be helped if they are considered to be intentionally homeless. This will be if:
- You decide to leave a home which you could have continued to occupy
- You deliberately lost your home
- You did not take up an offer of accommodation
- You deliberately arranged to become homeless
If the decision is that you are intentionally homeless the Housing Service may still help you find somewhere to stay so that you are given the opportunity to try to secure settled accommodation.
What is a local connection?
If you are homeless, eligible, in priority need and not intentionally homeless the council is also required to check whether you have a local connection with the area. If you do not have a local connection you might be referred to an area where you do have a connection.
You have a local connection if you:
- Live or have lived in the Havant Borough area for six months in the last year or three out of the last 5 years
- Have permanent employment in the Havant Borough
- Have a close relative (parent, brother, sister, or children) you wish to live near and who have lived in Havant in the last 5 years
- Have some other reason which creates a connection with the area. Time spent in, college, prison or hospital will not usually count as a local connection. If you have left an area because of domestic violence the rules are slightly different. In these circumstances if you have no local connection with Havant you would not be referred back to any area where you would be at risk of further violence.
The homelessness duty
The council will assess all applications and give a written decision in each case explaining what duty is owed and how this will be met.
Where the council does not accept a duty, advice will be offered to help resolve the situation. Where the applicant is homeless, eligible, in priority need, not intentionally homeless and has a local connection a full homelessness duty is accepted by the council.
The homelessness duty means that accommodation will be arranged until suitable settled accommodation can be secured. A private landlord or Housing Association will provide the accommodation. It will always be an assured shorthold tenancy. The definition of "suitable settled accommodation” is either a housing association assured tenancy or in some circumstances supported housing. Due to the serious shortage of social housing securing settled accommodation may take several years.
You will also need to complete an application form for social housing - through Hampshire Home Choice - this will be assessed and banded according to your housing needs. All social housing applications are assessed in accordance with the council’s Allocation Policy. Priority is awarded to your social housing application based on housing need and waiting time. Once an offer of “suitable settled accommodation” is made the council’s homelessness duty is considered to have been discharged.
What to do if you disagree with a homelessness decision
If the council has made a decision which you believe to be incorrect you have a right to ask for a review.
- Before asking for a review it is always best to contact the Housing Advisory Officer if you wish to challenge a decision.
- If this approach is unsuccessful you could arrange an interview with the Housing Service Manager.
- The final stage is to request a formal review of the decision. This must be made in writing within 21 days of the homelessness decision have been made.
- The review will be completed by an officer who has not been involved in the case.
- Within 8 weeks you will receive a formal response from the council.
- If you disagree with the council’s Review you might be able to appeal to the County Court. This can only be made on a point of law so that it would be best to seek expert legal advice if you wish to proceed with court action.