Help to secure you accommodation
If you are eligible for help and homeless, the council must help to secure suitable accommodation for you and your household. This is known as the duty to help to secure accommodation, or “the relief duty”.
The relief duty is owed to all eligible homeless applicants regardless of priority need and intentionality.
Who can get help under the ‘relief duty’?
Your local council must help you to secure accommodation if:
You do not have to be sleeping on the street to be considered homeless. You may be considered homeless even if you have somewhere else to stay, if, for example, that place is not reasonable for you to continue to live in.
You do NOT have to be in priority need to receive this help and it should be provided regardless of the reasons why you became homeless.
If the council decides that you are entitled to this help but you do not have a local connection with the area, it may decide to consider whether you can be referred to another council to receive this help. The council can only do this if they are satisfied that you are in priority need and unintentionally homeless and that certain criteria are satisfied. See our pages on local connection for more details.
How do I get help under the ‘relief duty’?
If you are homeless you should contact your local council and ask for help. You should ask to make a homelessness application.
The council should take an application from you and carry out an assessment of your housing needs. The council should help you to secure suitable accommodation under the ‘relief duty’ if:
- you are homeless, or
- the council have already tried to help to prevent you becoming homeless, but have been unsuccessful in doing so.
The council should tell you in writing whether or not they are going to provide you with help. The letter must either be sent to you or left at the council’s offices for you to collect. If the council decides not to give you any help the letter must explain the reasons why. You may be able to ask the council to review its’ decision. If you want to do this get advice immediately. The procedure can be complex and you have to ask for a review within 21 days of receiving the decision letter.
What help can the council give under the ‘relief duty’?
Once the council has decided that you are eligible and homeless, it must take ‘reasonable steps’ to help you secure suitable accommodation. This does NOT mean that the council has to house you, only that it must take ‘reasonable steps’ to help you find somewhere suitable to live.
The council can give the help itself or it can arrange for someone else to help you, such as a specialist housing or debt adviser.
This help is time limited – the council only has to give this help for a maximum of 56 days from the date you are told in writing they are going to help you.
What are ‘reasonable steps’?
When deciding what are ‘reasonable steps’, the council should look at the circumstances and particular needs of your household. The council should talk to you about what steps would be appropriate in your case and agree the steps to be taken with you.
Examples of the reasonable steps a council could take are:
- providing you with a grant or a loan to pay a tenancy deposit or rent in advance on a new home;
- helping you set a realistic budget so that you can afford to pay for somewhere new;
- actively helping you arrange or apply for accommodation with another organisation, for example with a Housing Association, or an organisation that provides Supported Housing;
- actively helping you arrange or apply for private rented accommodation, shared housing or suitable, sustainable accommodation with family or friends;
- if you are at risk of abuse, helping you find a safe home or refuge, and/or referring you for legal advice if needed;
- helping you with an application for a Discretionary Housing Payment or to the Discretionary Assistance Fund;
- providing you with a furniture pack for a new home.
These are just examples of what steps the council might offer to take for you. They may offer other help which is not on the list. If there is some help that you think the council can provide which would help you secure accommodation then talk about that help with them.
When deciding what steps to take, the council can consider what resources they have available.
The council should agree with you the steps that are going to be taken. Some councils may agree a Personal Housing Plan with you. Ask for a copy of this so that you can see what has been agreed. If you do not have a Personal Housing Plan ask the council to write down the steps that have been agreed and give you a copy.
You should make sure you do everything that is agreed on the plan and go to any appointments that are arranged for you.
What if the council has already provided me with some help to prevent my homelessness?
If the council has already taken steps to help stop you becoming homeless, but despite this you are now homeless, the council should review your case and look to see what other reasonable steps they can now take to help you find accommodation.
If you already have a Personal Housing Plan, they should review this with you.
What about emergency housing?
If the council has reason to believe you may be:
- Eligible for help, and
- Have a priority need
then it should provide you with emergency (or ‘interim’) housing while it is taking steps to help find you other, more long term, accommodation.
How long does the council have to give me help under the ‘relief duty’?
Once the council has accepted it has to help you secure suitable accommodation under the relief duty it must provide you with help until one of the following things happens:
- A period of 56 days has passed
The ‘relief duty’ only lasts for a maximum of 56 days.
During the 56 day period the council should have worked with you and other agencies to take all reasonable steps to help you secure accommodation.
If the 56 day period ends and the council tell you that they are not going to help you any further then they should :
– inform you in writing;
– set out what reasonable steps you agreed would be taken;
– explain what help it offered you;
– explain why those steps failed.
If 56 days has passed and you think that the council did not take reasonable steps to help you then you might be able to request a review of the decision not to help you any further. If you want to ask for a review, you must do so within 21 days of being informed of the council’s decision that the duty to help you has ended. It is best to get advice before you do this as it can be complex. For more advice about requesting a review of a decision that you disagree with click here.
If you are still homeless after the period of 56 days and meet specific criteria, the council should review your case and consider whether they have to actually provide accommodation for you under the duty to secure accommodation.
- The council is satisfied that it has taken all reasonable steps to help you
In some cases, the council may decide that it has done everything it can to help you find accommodation and there is nothing else it can do within the rest of the 56 day period.
Before making a decision not to help you any further the council must be sure that it has taken all reasonable steps to help you, having regard to the resources it has available to it. If there are other steps you think the council could be taking make sure you tell them straightaway.
If the council tells you that it is not going to help you any further because it has done everything it can then it should :
– inform you in writing;
– set out what reasonable steps you agreed would be taken;
– explain what reasonable steps were taken;
– explain why those steps failed.
If you think that the council did not take reasonable steps to help you then you might be able to request a review of the decision not to help you any further. A review must be requested within 21 days and it is best to get advice before you do this as it can be complex. For more advice about requesting a review of a decision that you disagree with click here.
If you remain homeless and meet certain criteria, the council should review your case and consider whether they have to actually provide accommodation for you under the duty to secure accommodation.
- You find suitable accommodation which is likely to be available to you for the next 6 months
If you have found suitable accommodation which you can stay in for at least the next 6 months, the council does not have to give you any further help.
It does not matter how you found the accommodation – it may have come about as result of the help that the council has given you or not. The accommodation may be of any type, including from a private landlord or as a result of moving back home, provided the council is satisfied that the accommodation is suitable for you.
The council also has to be satisfied that the accommodation will be available for at least the next 6 months. If you have signed a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy with a private landlord for a period of 6 months or more then the council is likely to say it no longer has to help you.
The accommodation must be available for you to actually move in to, not just a promise from a landlord that you will have accommodation at some date in the future.
If you have moved back home, for example because the council helped you sort things out with your family, then the council must be satisfied that it is not just a temporary arrangement and that you will be able to stay back at home for at least the next 6 months.
- You refuse an offer of suitable accommodation
If the council offer you suitable accommodation but you refuse to accept it then the council can decide that it does not have to help you any further.
The council must be satisfied that the accommodation they offer you would have been available for at least the next 6 months had you accepted it.
The offer can be from any person and can include an offer from friends or family, private accommodation, supported and/or hostel accommodation, and council or housing association housing.
If the offer is for hostel or some other temporary accommodation, the council must be satisfied that it is likely that you can stay there for the next 6 months, and that you will be able to keep to any of the rules set by the landlord. If the council think that you will only be able to keep to the rules with some help or support then it should make arrangements for this support or help to be given to you before it offers you the accommodation.
If you are offered accommodation that you do not think is suitable, it might be best to accept the offer and ask for a review of it’s suitability rather than refusing the offer and risking not having any further help.
- You are no longer eligible
The council will not have to help you secure accommodation if it establishes that you are no longer eligible for help.
- There has been a mistake of fact
If the council find out that mistaken facts led to them deciding that they had to help you, then they can withdraw that help immediately.
A mistake of fact might happen if you knowingly don’t tell the council something when you apply for help or you give false information, for example, telling the council that children live with you when in fact they live somewhere else.
You may be committing an offence if you make a false statement or intentionally withhold information from the council.
- You withdraw your application
If you withdraw your application then the council no longer has to help you.
The council may decide that your application has been withdrawn if it does not hear from you in more than 3 months. It is therefore a good idea to stay in contact with the council.
If the council decides that your application is withdrawn then they will probably ask you to reapply.
- You unreasonably fail to co-operate with the council
The council can refuse to give you any more help if they think that you are not co-operating with them. This could be because:
– you have not turned up at sessions that have been arranged by the council to help you, for example benefit appointments or mediation sessions
– you have not given the council the information they have asked for to help you
– you will not agree to steps that the council suggest could help you.
Before the council can decide that they are not helping you they should look at all of your circumstances and try to find out why you are not co-operating. If you need some help or support to do the things the council are asking of you then they should try and provide this. For example, you may need a support worker to explain things to you or to help you get to appointments etc.
If the council are thinking about ending their help to you they should tell you in advance so that you have the chance to start co-operating. The council may send you a letter warning you about what they are thinking of doing and giving you the opportunity to put things right.
If the council say they are no longer going to help you because you are not co-operating with them then get advice immediately. At the very least the council should still give you some basic advice about housing options.
What if I don’t agree with the council’s decision not to help me any further?
If the council decides that it no longer has to help you to secure accommodation then it must inform you in writing. The letter must tell you the reasons why the council have made this decision and that you have a right to request a review of the decision within 21 days of being notified of the decision.
For more advice about requesting a review of a decision that you disagree with click here.