In some circumstances the council has a duty to provide or secure accommodation for people who remain homeless even after other help and advice has been given to them. This is known as the duty to secure accommodation, or “the final duty”.
Who does the council have to secure accommodation for?
If the council previously had a duty to help you secure accommodation (the ‘relief duty’) but that duty has now come to an end because:
- a period of 56 days has passed, or
- the council believes that it has taken all reasonable steps to help you find a home,
then it must review your case and decide whether it has a duty to actually provide you with accommodation (“the final duty”).
The final duty will apply if you:
- remain eligible;
- are in priority need;
- do not have suitable accommodation, or you have suitable accommodation but it is not likely that it will last for at least 6 months; and
- are not intentionally homeless (not all councils will consider or investigate this).
In some circumstances, where your household includes children or young people, the final duty may still apply even if the council have decided that you are intentionally homeless.
The final duty will only apply once other steps have been taken by both you and the council to try and find other solutions to your housing problem(s). For example, it may be that you were threatened with homelessness when you first asked the council for help and that you have therefore already received help to prevent your homelessness, followed by help to try and secure accommodation, but unfortunately you have been unable to find a solution together and remain without suitable accommodation.
The council should tell you in writing whether or not they have a duty to provide you with accommodation. The letter must either be sent to you or left at council offices for you to collect. If the council decides that it is not going to provide you with accommodation 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 help immediately. The procedure can be complex and you have to ask for a review within 21 days of receiving the decision letter.
The council can make investigations into whether you are in priority need or intentionally homeless (if they are considering this) during the ‘relief duty’ stage but should not make any decision on these points until you are being assessed for the final duty.
What type of accommodation can the council provide?
Once the council has decided that you are owed the final duty, then they must find accommodation for you and your household. The priority of the council should be to find somewhere settled for you and to try and prevent you becoming homeless again.
The council can either provide you with their own accommodation, or with that of another community landlord, or a private landlord. The type of settled accommodation offered to you will vary but may include:
- a secure or introductory contract with a community landlord in a council property;
- a standard contract with a private landlord (this must be available for at least 6months).
If the council are unable to find somewhere settled for you straightaway then they should offer you ‘interim accommodation’ in the meantime.
Accommodation is classed as ‘interim accommodation’ if it was given to you after the council had decided they have a final duty to secure you accommodation, but before they found something long-term for you. It also includes emergency housing which may have been given to you after you made your application but which continues after the council accepted the final duty.
The type of interim accommodation provided varies from council to council and could be a hostel or bed and breakfast accommodation, but it must be suitable for you and all members of your household. Bed and breakfast accommodation should generally only be offered as a last resort.
If you are already in emergency housing provided by the council, then the council may decide to extend this whilst they are looking for somewhere more settled for you.
Any accommodation offered by the council must be suitable for you and all members of your household. If you are offered somewhere (whether interim or otherwise) that you don’t think is suitable, get help urgently. An adviser may be able to help you convince the council that you should be offered something more suitable, or ask the council to review the suitability of the accommodation offered. Never turn down an offer without advice. Your council may not have to give you any more help.
For more advice about what is a suitable offer, click here.
When does the duty to provide accommodation end?
The final duty is an ongoing duty and will last until one of the following things happens:
You accept an offer of suitable accommodation
If you accept an offer of long-term suitable accommodation made by the council then their duty to you will end and they will not have to help you any further.
The offer made by the council may be of their own accommodation, or that of another community landlord or a private landlord. To qualify as long-tem, the offer must be of an occupation contract which is likely to last for at least 6 months.
You refuse an offer of suitable interim accommodation
The council may offer you interim accommodation whilst they are looking for something more settled for you (see above). If you refuse to accept an offer of suitable interim accommodation then the council can decide that they don’t have to help you any further.
The council can only decide that rhey aren’t going to help you further if they;
- are satisfied that the offer of interim accommodation was suitable for you and all members of your family;
- had sent you a letter warning you that if you refused the offer of interim accommodation they would not have to help you further;
- had sent you a letter telling you that you had a right to ask for a review of the suitability of the offer.
If you think the offer of interim accommodation is not suitable then seek urgent advice before making a decision to refuse it. Never refuse an offer without advice as it could mean the council do not have to help you further.
You refuse an offer of suitable accommodation
If the council offer you suitable long-term accommodation but you refuse to accept it then the council can decide that they don’t have to help you any further.
The council can only decide that they aren’t going to help you further if they;
- are satisfied that the offer of accommodation was suitable for you and all members of your family;
- are satisfied that the accommodation would have been available for at least the next 6 months had you accepted it;
- had sent you a letter warning you that if you refused the offer of accommodation they would not have to help you further;
- had sent you a letter telling you that you had a right to ask for a review of the suitability of the offer.
You should be able to view the accommodation offered to you before having to sign any occupation contract. If you think the offer of accommodation is not suitable, or the council are not giving you a chance to look at the accommodation before accepting it, then get help immediately. You have a right to request a review of the suitability of any property offered and an adviser may be able to help you with this.
You become homeless intentionally from interim accommodation
Becoming ‘homeless intentionally’ means that you deliberately did or failed to do something and became become homeless as a result. It might be that you did not keep to the rules of the accommodation or perhaps you have not paid the rent. For more information on what can be considered as ‘intentionally homeless’ click here.
If you become intentionally homeless from interim accommodation then the council can decide that they no longer have to find you long-term accommodation.
You voluntarily stop living at interim accommodation
If you move out of interim accommodation which was suitable for you then the council can decide that they no longer have to find you long-term accommodation.
You are no longer eligible
The council will not have to secure accommodation for you if it establishes that you are no longer eligible for help. This relates to your nationality, your usual residence and your immigration status.
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 they don’t 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 attended 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.
The council should always explain clearly to you the consequences of not co-operating . 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 help 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 secure accommodation for you then they 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.
For more advice about requesting a review of a decision that you disagree with click here.