This is a guide to the tests we must apply under the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) to determine whether we have a duty to rehouse you. It sets out the legal tests that all local authorities have to apply, to determine that a household is:
- has a priority need
- is not intentionally homeless
has a local connection
By law, you are homeless if you do not have a home here or abroad in which you have a legal right to live. You are also homeless if you have a home but it is not reasonable for you to continue living in it.
Being eligible for assistance means you are entitled to help with housing from a local authority, if you need it. Although most UK residents are entitled to such help, some people from abroad are not. You might not be eligible if any of the following apply:
- You are a visitor to this country
- You are a student from another country or a sponsored immigrant
- You are an illegal immigrant
- You are seeking asylum
- You claimed asylum but the Home Office refused to give you asylum
- You are not habitually resident in the UK or Ireland
The Home Secretary has said you no longer have a right to stay in the UK
You may have a priority need for housing if any of the following apply to you or to a member of your household:
- You are pregnant
- You are 16 or 17 years old
- Someone in your household is under 18 years of age (or under 19 if they are in full-time secondary education)
- You are 18 to 21 years of age and as a child you were placed in social services' care
- You are homeless because of fire, flood, or a similar disaster
- You are aged 60 or older
- You have a mental illness or disability which makes you vulnerable
- You have a physical disability which makes you vulnerable
- When you were a child you were placed in the care of a local authority, a health authority, foster parents, a children's home, or a care home and this has made you vulnerable
- You have been in this country's armed forces and this has made you vulnerable
- You have been in prison or remanded in custody and this has made you vulnerable
- You have left your home because of violence or threats of violence and this has made you vulnerable
- You are vulnerable for another special reason
To be vulnerable means you cannot fend for yourself so that you will suffer injury or harm where a less vulnerable person would not.
Note: the person/s with the priority need must also be eligible for assistance.
You may be intentionally homeless if you lost your home as a result of something you have deliberately done, or failed to do. It is impossible to list all the ways you could become homeless intentionally, however one of the most common is if you are evicted from your home because you did not pay your rent when you could have. Another is if you give up your home when it is reasonable for you to continue living there.
You will be intentionally homeless if we find that you have colluded with your landlord, parent or friend and fabricated a situation where you have been asked to leave your accommodation, in order to obtain housing via the council.
If you are unintentionally homeless, eligible for assistance and have a priority need for housing, you are entitled to housing from a local authority. In which case, we must either offer you a home or, if you are not connected to Westminster, refer you to a council you are connected to for it to find you a home. We may offer you a home if any of the following apply:
- You have a connection with Westminster because you have lived here for at least six out of the last twelve months, or three out of the last five years
- You have a connection with Westminster because you have a close relative (parent, child, brother or sister) who has lived in Westminster for the past five years
- You have a permanent job in Westminster
- You are connected to Westminster for some other special reason
- You have a local connection with another area, but someone in your application might experience domestic violence if they return there
- You are not connected to any council in this country. For example, if you have recently come here from abroad
If none of these apply to you we will refer you to a council to which you are connected. We will not force you to return to an area where you have experienced, or are likely to experience, violence.
If you have no connection with any area, we may still have a duty to house you or help you to obtain accommodation.
How to apply
If you think you might become homeless, please come to the Housing Options Service as soon as possible, so that we can try to prevent you from losing your home. Please bring the following documents with you:
- Proof of identity
- Full birth certificates or passports for all the people in your household
- Documents concerning the loss of your housing For example, letters from your landlord or the court informing you that you must leave
- Proof of income For example, wage slips, benefit books, P45, bank statements and savings books
- Details of where you have lived for the last five years tenancy agreements, rent books or receipts for rent , postmarked letters, bills, bank statements, medical cards
- If relevant, documents confirming you are married or divorced, you have custody of children, you are pregnant, you are asking for or have been given asylum
Find out more
What if my application is rejected?
If we find that we do not have a duty to find you a home, we will give you advice and information to help you find your own accommodation. If we decide that you have a priority need for housing but are intentionally homeless, we will also offer you accommodation for a short period (usually around two weeks) to give you time to find somewhere to live.
If you disagree with our decision
If we decide we do not have a legal duty to house you and you disagree with our decision, you may ask us to review it. You will have 21 days from the date you get our decision in which to do so.
If you ask us to review our decision, we will reconsider your case and give you our final decision in writing. We will try to do this within 4 weeks of your request.
If you think our reviewed decision is legally wrong, you can appeal to the County Court. If the court agrees with you, it has the power to change our decision.
Find out more about reviews.
Download our Complaints and Reviews (pdf) leaflet.
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