This information explains our legal duty if you are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless soon. Our housing options team will be happy to give further detailed advice.
What are my rights?
If you are homeless, or threatened with homelessness within 56 days of contacting the council, we have a duty to help you in some way. For some people we have to provide emergency temporary accommodation whilst we investigate their situation to see if we have a duty, by law, to secure suitable accommodation. For other people we will only have to provide advice.
Am I homeless?
You do not have to be living on the streets to be homeless. You can be considered as homeless if you:
- have nowhere to live
- have been taken to court by your landlord or mortgage lender and the court has said you must leave
- have been living with friends or relatives who have asked you to leave
- are living in a home that is unfit for habitation owing to its condition or lack of services
- are unable to afford your rent
- are afraid to go home because someone living there has been, or may be, violent to you.
What should I do if I think i am going to be homeless?
If you are threatened with homelessness please contact our Housing Options team for advice on 020 8207 2277. We aim to prevent you becoming homeless and find the best solution to your housing needs.
You will need to complete some forms, which we can help you with. A member of our housing team will then contact you and, depending on your circumstances, you will either be asked to attend an initial assessment at our offices in Borehamwood or will be given advice over the telephone.
If you are required to attend an initial assessment this will usually last between one and two hours.
We will check that:
- you are eligible for help
- you are homeless, or becoming homeless
If you have a priority need, you could be offered temporary accommodation.
What should I bring with me to the first interview?
- proof of your homelessness (i.e. a court order, eviction notice)
- proof of income (i.e. wage slips, benefits, child benefits)
- proof of identity (i.e. passport, driving licence)
- proof of residence at the property you are having to leave (i.e. a utility bill in your name)
- proof of any benefits received (i.e. child benefit/housing benefit etc)
- proof of your right to reside in the UK (if applicable)
- full birth certificates for any children
- last 3 months' bank statements
What if I become homeless when your offices are closed?
We provide an emergency service outside normal office hours. If you become homeless outside office hours and have absolutely nowhere you can stay until the office re-opens please phone our out-of-hours emergency switchboard.
What do you mean by eligibility?
You have to be eligible to be entitled to housing via the council. Eligibility is a very complicated issue, and is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Eligibility is a legal definition and it refers to your right to remain in the UK and your right to access public funds. You may not be eligible for help if you are:
- an asylum seeker
- from a foreign country
- a UK citizen who has been living abroad.
Please note: You must be eligible for help in order to make a homelessness application. If you are not eligible your application will not be processed further.
What do you mean by priority need?
You have a priority need if:
- you are responsible for dependent children, usually those under 16, or under 19 years old if in full time education
- you, or your partner, is pregnant
- you are homeless as a result of an emergency, such as a fire or flood or other disaster
- you are suffering from mental illness, disabled or vulnerable for another reason.
If we are satisfied that you are eligible for help, homeless and in priority need, we will:
- find you somewhere to stay while we investigate the circumstances of your homelessness
- find you suitable accommodation for you to live in, (if you did not deliberately make yourself homeless and we have not been able to prevent you becoming homeless.) This could either be with a private landlord or a housing association.
What if i do not have a priority need?
If we decide you do not have a priority need, you will still be offered advice and assistance to try to prevent you becoming homeless but you will not be offered temporary accommodation.
What kind of housing does the council think I need?
You must discuss this with your homelessness prevention officer. You would need to discuss the type of accommodation that can be suitable for you and your household.
What happens if I don’t take the steps in the Personal Housing Plan that is issued to me?
If you don’t take the steps in the plan the Council may end its duty to help you. It is therefore important you take the steps in your plan, which you have discussed with your Homelessness Prevention Officer.
To end the duty we would have to be sure you have deliberately refused to take one of the steps and that your refusal was unreasonable. We would warn you in writing first if we are thinking of ending our duty because you are not co-operating with the Council.
What happens if I don’t want my homelessness to be prevented and I want to move out of my current accommodation anyway?
We will always encourage you to remain in your current accommodation if it is suitable for you. However, if you are considered to be eligible and are about to become homeless, we can explore your housing options with you and assist you in your search for alternative accommodation. We can also help you to apply to go on the Council’s housing register.
What happens if I cannot afford to rent privately? Can the Council still help me?
We can assess your income and advise you on what you would be able to afford for your rent. We can also help you to apply for benefits such as Housing Benefit and Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
What if I am having problems with the relatives I live with or with my landlord?
We can assist you by talking to your landlord/relatives to help address any issues you may have. We can mediate with your landlord/relatives and will try our best to resolve the problems in order to ensure you can continue to live in your accommodation.
What if I am struggling to pay my rent in my current accommodation?
We can make an assessment to see if your current accommodation is affordable for you, negotiate your rental amount with your landlord, negotiate a rent repayment plan with your landlord. If you are in arrears we can refer you to Citizen’s Advice for financial and debt advice. We will try our best to ensure that your accommodation remains affordable for you.
What if my current accommodation is not suitable to continue to live in?
We can refer you to the Private Sector Housing Team so that they can visit your accommodation to assess any issues in the property. If there are works or adaptations required in your home, we can discuss with your landlord to encourage them to carry these out. We will do everything we can to try and help you remain in your current accommodation. If your accommodation is unsuitable to live in, and you are eligible for assistance and a vulnerable person, we can offer you emergency accommodation while we work with you to find alternative suitable accommodation.
What if my home is no longer safe to live in due to abuse or threats of violence?
If you are eligible and there is a risk of violence against you, we can refer you to a place of safety such as a hostel or refuge. If this is not available, we can offer emergency accommodation while we work with you to find alternative suitable and safe accommodation elsewhere.
What if I am already homeless on the streets?
We can assess your circumstances and if you are eligible, we can refer you to hostels or help you with your search for accommodation. If you are considered to be a ‘vulnerable person’ we can offer you emergency accommodation while we work with you to find suitable accommodation for you to live in.
Advice for Vulnerable Groups
With the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, it is now a statutory duty to provide specific advice for vulnerable groups. Below you will find further information in relation to housing and homelessness for vulnerable groups.
Armed Forces - HMBC Advice (PDF 210kb)
Care Leavers - HMBC Advice (PDF 226kb)
Domestic Abuse - HMBC Advice (PDF 207kb)
Hospital Discharge - HMBC Advice (PDF 196kb)
Released from Prison - HMBC Advice (PDF 203kb)
Substance Misuse - HMBC Advice (PDF 200kb)