A council’s decision
If you contact the council for help because you are homeless or threatened with homelessness the council will need to make certain formal decisions about what help they can provide to you. This section explains how you should be told about these decisions and what you can do if you do not agree with them.
What decisions do the council have to tell me about?
The council should notify you in writing of the following decisions:
- The outcome of their assessment of your case, including any decision that they are going to help to prevent you becoming homeless, or help to secure you accommodation;
- Any decision to refer you to another area because of your local connection;
- Any decision made following a review of your case where:
– the council were providing you with help to prevent you becoming homeless but you then become homeless; or
– the council were providing you with help to find suitable accommodation but that duty has come to an end;
- Any decision not to provide you with help, or to stop providing you with help – a ‘notice of end of duty’ letter (see below).
When will I get the decision?
The decision letter has to be sent to you or made available for you to collect from the council offices. The decision letter must say:
- what decision the council made
- if the decision is not in your favour, or is a decision to refer you to another area, the reasons why the council made that decision
- that you have the right to ask for a review of the decision within 21 days.
The council should carry out their assessment of your case without delay and, ideally, give you a decision within 10 working days. In more complex cases it might take longer than this. If you haven’t received a decision letter yet, the council may still be investigating your situation.
If you are told verbally of the council’s decision, ask the person you speak with to confirm it in writing and get advice. An adviser can check the reasons why the council made the decision and help you to request a review within the time limit.
A ‘notice of end of duty letter’
If the council decides to end any of the following duties it must send you a ‘notice of end of duty’ letter:
- ‘help to prevent‘ duty
- ‘help to secure‘ duty
- emergency or interim accommodation duty, or
- final duty.
A ‘notice of end of duty’ letter must be in writing and:
- state the reasons why the council has decided that the duty has ended,
- tell you that you have a right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.
If a ‘help to secure’ duty has ended the notice must also give details of the reasonable steps taken by the council and the outcome of those steps.
You should be able to understand from the letter why the council are not going to help you any further. If you have difficulty understanding letters then the council should try to meet you and explain the decision to you – making sure you know that you can ask for a review.
Can the decision be challenged?
Whether and how you can challenge the council’s decision depends on what the decision is and why you think it is wrong. There are four ways in which the council can be challenged:
Review Most decisions that the council makes about homelessness applications can be challenged by requesting a review.
County court appeal If the review is not successful, it may be possible to appeal to the county court. You must start your appeal within 21 days of the date you are informed of the review decision. You should get advice before taking this action as an appeal can only be brought on limited grounds.
Judicial review Not all decisions can be challenged by review and county court appeal. Some decisions, such as a refusal by the council to accept a homelessness application, can only be challenged by judicial review. Judicial review is complicated and you will need to get help from an adviser.
Ombudsman complaints The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales can investigate complaints about how the council has dealt with your homelessness application. In particular, it may be worth complaining to the ombudsman if there have been long delays or the council has discriminated against you. If the ombudsman finds the council did something wrong it can recommend that you get compensation.
How can an adviser help?
If you have applied to the council for help because you are homeless and the council has made a decision that you don’t agree with, get help immediately. An adviser can look into:
- the reasons why the council has come to that decision
- whether the decision can be challenged
- whether you can get other help if the housing department won’t help you
- what other housing options you may have.
If you are homeless and the council has told you that it can’t help, there may be other options open to you