If you are homeless now, or at risk of homelessness, this leaflet tells you what help you can expect from the Council. This is only a summary of the law and we will discuss what it means to you when you contact us.

I have nowhere to live - what happens now?

If you are homeless or in danger of losing your home you should contact the Housing Options Team at Surrey Heath Borough Council and speak to a Housing Officer.

The Housing Officer can tell you about the rights you have in your current home, how you can protect and enforce those rights, the options and assistance you can get to help you find somewhere else to live, and who else is able to help and advise you.

If your home is at risk you will usually be advised to stay there for as long as legally possible as this give you time to sort out your housing difficulties, or look for a new home. You will be given advice and help which may be available with advance rent or a deposit. You will not be expected to stay if it is not reasonable for you to do so (for example if you are at risk of violence or if you can not afford to carry on living in the property).

When you come to the Council about your housing situation and we have reason to believe you are homeless or threatened with homelessness we then have to make further enquiries into your circumstances.

Housing Act 1996 Part VII

A "duty" is the help that the law says you must have and the Council has various duties to those people who find themselves homeless. The duty owed to you is decided by the enquiries that the Council makes into your circumstances.

The Council has to make enquiries to decide whether you:

  • Are "eligible" for assistance
  • Are homeless or threatened with homelessness
  • Have a "priority need"
  • Are homeless "intentionally"
  • Have a "local connection"

Let us look at each of these enquiries in more detail.

Am I eligible for assistance?

You will normally be eligible if you are a British citizen, a Commonwealth citizen who has the rights to live in the United Kingdom, or a citizen of a member state of the European Economic area.

You are not eligible for assistance if you are not habitually resident in the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Isles or if you are subject to immigration control. There are some exceptions to the rules and the Housing Officer will advise you more fully.

If you do not agree with the Council's decision about your eligibility, you can ask for it to be reviewed (see below)

Am I Homeless?

The law says that you are homeless if:

  • You have no accommodation in which you have a right to live
  • You have accommodation but cannot gain entry to it
  • It is not 'reasonable' for you to continue living in your accommodation
  • There is nowhere for all your household to live together
  • You are at risk of violence or threats of violence that may be carried out if you remain in your accommodation
  • Your home is a moveable structure and you have nowhere to place it.

If you are not homeless or threatened with homelessness then you will still be offered advice and assistance on the options available to help you solve your housing problems. If you do not agree with the decision that you are not homeless then you can ask for your case to be reviewed (see below).

Do I have a "priority need" for accommodation?

You have a priority need if:

  • You have a dependent child living with you, or who might reasonably be expected to live with you
  • You are pregnant or might reasonably be expected to live with a pregnant woman
  • You are 16 or 17 and not receiving certain help from social services, or under 21 and previously did receive certain help from social services
  • You are homeless because of an emergency such as a fire, flood or other disaster

You will also have a priority need if you are 'vulnerable' because of:

  • Old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or some other special reason
  • Having had accommodation from social services
  • Having been in the armed forces
  • Having served time in prison
  • Having had to leave your home because of violence or threats that are likely to be carried out.

If you are eligible for assistance, homeless and have a priority need, or if the Council considers you may meet these criteria, and you have nowhere to live, the Council will provide you with accommodation while the enquiries into your application are completed.

If the Council find you do not have a priority need and you do not agree with the decision you can ask for your case to be reviewed (see below).

Am I intentionally homeless?

You are homeless, or threatened with homelessness, intentionally if:

  • You deliberately do, or fail to do, anything that causes or is likely to cause the loss of your accommodation when it would have been reasonable for you to remain living there
  • You arrange to lose your accommodation solely to get assistance under the homeless legislation and there is no other good reason for your homelessness
  • You have failed to secure suitable alternative accommodation when it would have been reasonable to expect you to do so.

If the Council finds you intentionally homeless and you do not agree with the decision you can ask for your case to be reviewed (see below).

Do I have a local connection?

You have a local connection if:

  • You are living, or have lived in the area, by choice, for 6 out of the last 12 months, or 3 our of the last 5 years
  • You are employed in the area, (although not on a casual basis or as a member of the armed forced)
  • You have a family association with the area (which means that you have parents, adult children, brothers or sisters, who have lived in the area for 5 years)
  • You can point to special circumstances, which the Council will consider on an individual basis.

If the Council finds you do not have a local connection and you do not agree with the decision you can ask for your case to be reviewed.

Not 'Eligible' or Homeless

If you are considered not eligible or not homeless the Council will still provide you with advice about keeping your current accommodation or looking for somewhere else to live.

Not in 'Priority Need'

If you are considered eligible, homeless but do not have a priority need we will look at your circumstances and advise you what housing there is in the area and how you can find somewhere to live. This will include advice on advance rent and deposits and may mean that we refer you to an agency that we work with who provide housing and advice.

If you have not yet had to leave your home we will help you to keep that home.

'Intentionally' Homeless

If you are found to be eligible, homeless, in priority need but intentionally homeless we will provide you with accommodation for a while so that you have a chance to find another home. We will work with you to help you do that by assessing your circumstances and providing you with advice and assistance.

If you have children, we will ask you if you would like to be referred to Social Services, who will be able to assess your family's needs to see if they are able to help you. This does not mean they will be looking to take your children away from you - they will be looking at what help can be given to you.

No 'Local Connection'

If you do not have a local connection with Surrey Heath the Council will refer you to a Council where you have a local connection, provided that you are not at risk of violence there. They will then have the "main housing duty" (see below).

If you have no connection anywhere in Great Britain then the main housing duty will be with the Council to which you have applied for assistance.

The 'Main Housing Duty'

If the Council finds that you are eligible, homeless, in priority need, unintentionally homeless and with a local connection we will provide you with temporary accommodation. This may be hostel accommodation, a 'private let' through a housing association, or a combination of these.

Unfortunately, although the Council has the aim of ending the use of bed and breakfast except in emergencies, we are not in that position at the moment. If you are placed in bed and breakfast it will be for the shortest time possible.

The temporary accommodation the Council provides for you will last until you:

  • Are no longer eligible for assistance
  • Accept an offer of accommodation from the Council's Housing Register
  • Accept a private sector tenancy
  • Refuse a reasonable offer of accommodation
  • Voluntarily stop living in the accommodation
  • Become intentionally homeless from the accommodation (eg by not paying your rent, causing a serious nuisance, etc.).

How do I secure permanent accommodation in Surrey Heath?

If you are accepted a homeless the Council has a duty to provide you with accommodation until you find settled housing. This duty will only end when:

  • you are made a final offer of a Housing Association tenancy or shared ownership property from the Housing Register (please note Surrey Heath Borough Council has a policy of only making one offer of suitable accommodation); or,
  • you are made a private rented sector offer of a home with private landlord (follow this link for details of how the private sector offer works).

What if I don't agree with the Council's decision?

If you do not agree with the Council's decision on certain aspects of your application you can request that a more senior officer review the decision. You will be advised on how to do this when you are informed of the Council's decision.

If you are not successful on review you can appeal to the County Court on a point of law. You can also use the Council's Complaints Procedure if you do not feel you have been treated fairly or make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman if your application has not been administered correctly.

Do you need further advice?

The above is a summary of the law in relation to homelessness: as well as the Housing Act 1996 (as amended), the Council must have regard to guidance from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and to case law (that is decisions already made in a Court of Law).

Please make an appointment to see a member of the Council's Housing Needs Team to discuss the above or any other housing issues in relation to your individual circumstances.

For independent advice you can contact Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, or seek advice from a solicitor.

Shelterline - 0808 800 4444
Citizens Advice Bureau - Camberley 01276 684342

Please note carefully

It is a criminal offence for someone to try and get help with housing by making an application and deliberately misleading the Council or withholding information from the Council. Those who apply must also inform the Council of any changes in their circumstances. The Council will take action where there is evidence of someone making a false application because it stops us from being able to help those who qualify for and need our assistance. If we prosecute someone and they are found guilty they may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 as set out under Section 214 of the Housing Act 1996.