If you might become homeless

Our priority is to help you avoid becoming homeless. We can do this by negotiating with the people you live with or your landlord, giving you advice, or by helping you find another home quickly.

If we cannot stop you from becoming homeless we may have to give you temporary housing while we investigate if we have a duty to provide longer term housing.  In the first place this is likely to be hotel type accommodation. Half of our temporary accommodation is outside Westminster.

Councils no longer have a duty to offer homeless people a council or housing association home but can instead offer them a property with a private landlord.

This is a guide to the tests we must apply under the 1996 Housing Act (as amended by the 2002 Homelessness Act) to decide whether we have a duty to house you. 

1. Homeless

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.

2. Eligibility

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

3. Priority need

If any of the following apply to you or to a member of your household you may have a priority need for housing:

  • 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.

4. Intentional homelessness

You may be intentionally homeless if you lost your home as a result of something you have deliberately done, or failed to do. For example, if you are evicted from your home because you did not pay your rent. Or 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.

5. Local connection

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.

6. How to apply

Contact the Housing Options Service as soon as possible if you think you might become homeless.

 Housing Options Service

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, such as: 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

How we can help

  • if you are a private tenant or leaseholder we can help to resolve disputes with your landlord to prevent or delay your eviction
  • if you are living with relatives or friends, we will mediate on your behalf to try and keep you in your home
  • we can help you claim housing benefit to clear your rent arrears and prevent your eviction
  • we can provide information about low cost home ownership
  • we can provide information about accessing hostels and private rented accommodation
  • we can see if you are eligible for a loan from our eviction prevention fund which offers small interest free loans to reduce or clear rent arrears

Read our leaflet taking control of your finances.

If we are unable to prevent your homelessness you may need to make a homeless application. If we accept your application you are likely to be placed in temporary accommodation.

Find out more

Download our leaflet Applying for housing as a homeless person May 2014 (PDF) or visit our Housing Options team.

What if your 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 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.

7. Temporary accommodation

If the lease on your temporary home is coming to an end, the Housing Options Service (HOS) will help you move.

This could also be a great opportunity for you to look at alternatives to social housing. For example if you consider renting a place yourself from a private landlord we could give you up to £2000 towards the deposit and first month's rent. You may also qualify for low cost home ownership.

If you are unable to try either of these options and you have not successfully bid for a permanent home by the time the lease ends, we will offer you another temporary home.

If the lease on your property is ending and you need advice, contact the Housing Options Service.

Refusing temporary accommodation

When making offers of accommodation we follow a temporary accommodation placement policy

You are entitled to one offer of suitable temporary accommodation only. Under the Housing Act, if you refuse an offer of suitable accommodation our duty to provide you with housing will end.

If you think the home we have offered is unsuitable, please talk it through with us before you make any decisions.

It is also a good idea to get independent legal advice before deciding whether to refuse an offer.

If you want us to review, you must ask within 21 days of receiving the offer. You must tell us why you think the property is unsuitable and give us any information supporting your case.

If you have recently moved to temporary accommodation in a new area and you are having difficulty finding a GP or doctor to register with, please email the Temporary Lettings Team: hoscustomerservices@wcchos.org.uk


8. Homelessness, employment and learning project

If you are at risk of homelessness or living in temporary accommodation, we can help you to find work or training.

Find out more.

Call us on 020 7641 4019 or email help@westminster.gov.uk.

Last updated: 25 October 2017
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