This is a guide to what you are entitled to under the law and how we can help you.

The 1996 Housing Act, Part VII (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) sets out the legal duties that all local authorities have towards people who are homeless.

We have a legal duty to make sure you have somewhere to live if:

  • You are homeless, and
  • You are eligible, and
  • You have a priority need, and
  • You are not intentionally homeless

All applications have to be investigated to check whether the council has a legal duty to help you. Homelessness law is very complicated and there are very specific definitions of the above categories.

Homeless

We will consider you to be homeless if:

  • You have nowhere to live;
  • You have been living somewhere, but you have no legal right to stay there and have been told to leave;
  • You have somewhere to live, but cannot get into it;
  • You have somewhere to live, but someone else who lives there has been violent towards you, or is likely to be violent towards you;
  • Your home is a caravan, or a houseboat and you have nowhere to legally park it, or moor it;
  • You have somewhere to live, but nowhere for the people who normally live with you;
  • You have been made homeless as a result of an emergency, such as fire, flood or some other disaster.

We will consider you to be threatened with homelessness if you are likely to become homeless within the next 28 days.

This may be because:

  • You have been taken to court by your landlord and the court has said you must leave, or
  • You have been living with friends or relatives who have told you to leave

Eligible

Certain categories of person are not eligible for assistance under the homelessness legislation, because they do not usually live in the UK or are subject to some form of immigration control. You are likely to be eligible for assistance if:

  • You usually live in the UK and are not subject to any form of immigration control;
  • You usually live in the UK and are subject to immigration control, but your right to stay here is not subject to any time limit or condition(s);
  • You have been given refugee status, or leave to remain here, as a result of an application for asylum;
  • You are an EU National with a right to reside or who is registered on the Workers Registration Scheme (this is for nations that joined the EU in 2004).

Eligibility is often very complex and you should take advice on this issue. Households who are not eligible for assistance from us may be eligible for assistance from social services.

In priority need

You may be in priority need for accommodation if:

  • You are 16 or 17 years old;
  • You are 18 to 20 years old and were looked after, accommodated or fostered between the ages of 16 and 18;
  • You have dependent children who are under 16, or under 19 if they are in full time education, who live with you;
  • You, or any member of your household is pregnant;
  • You are at risk of violence;
  • You have been made homeless as a result of fire, flood or some other disaster;
  • You are vulnerable.

To decide whether you are vulnerable we have to apply a specific legal test that has been established in homelessness case law that defines vulnerability.

You may be vulnerable because:

  • You are an older person;
  • You suffer from mental illness, disability, or physical illness;
  • You are at risk of domestic or other violence;
  • You are over 21 but used to be looked after, accommodated or fostered by social services;
  • You have served a custodial sentence or served in the armed forces.

If you are a priority need group you must also meet the eligibility criteria to be entitled to assistance.

Intentionally homeless

We may consider you to be intentionally homeless if you have become homeless as a result of something you have deliberately done, or failed to do. There are two areas we may consider.

The first area is:

  • The applicant must deliberately do something, or have failed to do something, the consequence of which s/he has ceased, or the likely result will be that s/he will have to cease, occupation of accommodation, which was or is available;
  • It must have been reasonable for the applicant to have continued to occupy accommodation, and;
  • The applicant must have been aware of all the facts before deliberately taking, or failing to take, the actions referred to above.

The second area of intentionality is:

  • The applicant enters into an arrangement under which s/he is required to cease to occupy the accommodation;
  • It must have been reasonable for the applicant to have continued to occupy the accommodation;
  • The purpose of the arrangement is to enable the applicant to become entitled to assistance under Part VII of the 1996 Act, and;
  • There is no other good reason why s/he is homeless or threatened with homelessness.

We are unlikely to consider you intentionally homeless if we decide that:

  • It was not reasonable for you to stay in your last home;
  • You left home because of violence or fear of violence;
  • Your home went with your job and you lost it through no fault of your own, or you gave it up for good reason,

Each application is looked at individually on its merits.

What is a local connection?

We also have to establish if you have a local connection with the borough. If not, we have to establish if you have a local connection with any other borough in England, Scotland or Wales.

Local authorities have agreed guidelines to help them decide whether you have a local connection with their borough. You may have a local connection if:

  • You have lived in the borough for six out of the last 12 months
  • You have lived in the borough for three out of the last five years
  • You have permanent employment in the borough;
  • You have a close relative who has lived in the borough for the last five years (e.g. mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter).

We may refer you to another council and ask them to assist you, if:

  • You have no local connection with the borough, but do have a local connection with another council;

We have to make sure that the other council has agreed to assist you before sending you there. While these arrangements are being made, we have a duty to offer you interim accommodation if this is required.

We will not force you to return to an area where you are at risk of violence.

If you have no connection with any area, we may still have a duty to house you or help you to obtain accommodation.

What assistance can you give me if my application is denied?

If we decide that we do not owe a duty to provide you with interim or temporary accommodation (because you are not eligible, not homeless, not in priority need or because you made yourself intentionally homeless), we will give you advice and assistance on how you may find a place to live.

If you receive a negative decision on your application, you can request a review of the decision within 21 days of the decision being made. The review must be completed within 56 days of your request, though the Council will complete the review as quick as possible. The review will be carried out by a senior officer who was not involved in the original decision.

Related websites

Contact us

Housing Options
Community and Housing Department
3rd Floor
Civic Centre
Morden
SM4 5DX

Telephone: 020 8545 3636

Out of hours: 020 8770 5000

Email: housingadvice@merton.gov.uk