Homeless or threatened with homelessness?
If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you can ask any local housing authority for help. This is known as making a homeless application.
You should seek help at the earliest possible opportunity - do not delay.
If you are homeless the local housing authority you approach will owe more duties to you if you have a local connection to their area and you should consider this when deciding which local housing authority to ask for help.
How to ask Torridge District Council for help
You can self refer to the Council's Housing Options Team by:
Registering on Client Self-Referral Portal - Housing Jigsaw
Alternatively, you can telephone the Council on 01237 428700 and ask for Housing Options; or
Visit the Council's offices at Riverbank House, Bideford, although it is unlikely that you will be able to see a Housing Options Officer without a pre-arranged appointment.
If you have nowhere to stay tonight you should telephone or visit the Council offices as early in the day as you can.
In an emergency outside of normal office hours you should telephone 01237 428700.
An officer from the Housing Options Team will contact you to discuss your housing situation.
If the Council does not have reason to believe that you are eligible and homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days, you will be provided with appropriate advice and assistance over the telephone. The advice given to you will be confirmed in writing.
If there is reason to believe that you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days, you will be given an appointment for an interview with a Housing Options Officer during which a homelessness assessment will be carried out.
You will be given the choice of a telephone interview or an interview at the Council's offices at Riverbank House, Bideford, Devon EX39 2QG. Depending on your circumstances, the assessment may take up to 90 minutes to complete.
During the assessment the Housing Options Officer will look at why you are homeless or facing homelessness. You will be asked for details of where you live and where you have lived before. The Council must also consider your housing and support needs, particularly:
- size and location of housing
- what you can afford
- any special needs relating to disability or ill health
The Council will need to undertake enquiries into your housing situation and support needs and you will be asked to sign a declaration to confirm that the information you have given is correct.
You will be asked to tell the Council which agencies or individuals you consent for the Council to contact for the purpose of preventing you from becoming homeless, or helping you to secure housing if you are already homeless. You do not have to agree to the Council sharing your personal information with other agencies in order to receive assistance from the Council, but the help you receive may be limited or less useful if your personal information cannot be shared with relevant agencies.
Personal Housing Plan
After your assessment you will be given a personal housing plan setting out the reasonable steps that you and the Council will undertake to prevent you from becoming homeless or to help you to secure housing if you are already homeless. The aim is to help you to secure suitable housing for at least the next 6 months. Your personal housing plan will relate to your assessment and you will be asked to agree to the steps that are included in the plan. If you do not agree to the steps, the Council will decide what steps should be taken and record your reasons for disagreeing on the plan. You will be given your personal housing plan at the end of your assessment or soon after.
Your personal housing plan will be specific to you, but the reasonable steps that the Council may agree to undertake may include:
- Negotiating or mediating with your landlord, or friends or family
- Approaching prospective landlords on your behalf
- Making referrals for supported accommodation
- Making referrals for tenancy support, or debt and budgeting advice
- Supporting you to claim benefits
- Helping to you access financial assistance for a deposit and/or rent in advance
If you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to undertake reasonable steps set out within your personal housing plan, the Council may bring to an end or limit its assistance.
If the Council decides that you are not homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days, or you are not eligible for help, you will not be given a personal housing plan. Instead you will be given appropriate information and advice. The advice given to you will be confirmed in writing.
If you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days
If you are threatened with homelessness within 56 days and you are eligible for assistance you will be owed a Prevention Duty. You will be owed this duty regardless of whether you have a local connection to the Torridge area. The duty means that the Council must take reasonable steps to help prevent your homelessness over the next 56 days. The Council will try to help you to remain in your existing accommodation or, where this is not possible; will provide you with help to find a new home.
The Council will keep your personal housing plan under review whilst working with you under a Prevention Duty to ensure that actions remain relevant and appropriate.
The Council will tell you when the Prevention Duty has come to an end and explain why.
If the Prevention Duty has come to an end because you have become homeless and you have a local connection to the Torridge area then a Relief Duty will be owed to you.
If you become homeless and do not have a local connection to the Torridge area you may be referred to another local housing authority in an area to which you do have a local connection.
If you are homeless
If you are eligible for assistance, homeless and you have a local connection to the Torridge area you will be owed a Relief Duty. The duty means that the Council must take reasonable steps to relieve your homelessness over the next 56 days. The Council will try to help you to find suitable housing, but will not necessarily be under a duty to secure accommodation for you.
The Council will only be under a duty to secure emergency accommodation for you if there is reason to believe that you may be in priority need.
The Council will keep your personal housing plan under review whilst working with you under a Relief Duty to ensure that actions remain relevant and appropriate.
The Council will tell you when the Relief Duty has come to an end and explain why. If you are in priority need the Council will also tell you what further duty is owed to you at the end of the Relief Duty.
Local connection and referrals
If you are homeless and ask the Council for help, the Council will consider if you have a local connection to the Torridge area. If you do not have a local connection to the Torridge area you may be referred to another local housing authority in an area to which you do have a local connection. If there is reason to believe that you may be in priority need, and you require emergency accommodation the Council will accommodate you whilst a referral is made to another local housing authority. You cannot be referred to another local housing authority if you are at risk of domestic abuse or other violence in that area.
What if I am in priority need and still homeless when the Relief Duty ends?
The Council will tell you what further duty is owed to you.
If the Council decides that you are homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need and homeless through no fault of your own you will be owed a main housing duty. This means that the Council will be under a duty to secure temporary accommodation for you whilst the Council works with you to try and arrange longer term housing with either a private landlord or a social landlord.
If a main duty is owed to you, but you do not have a local connection to the Torridge area, you may be referred to another local housing authority in an area to which you do have a local connection. The Council will accommodate you whilst a referral is made to another local housing authority.
The Council will tell you when the main housing duty has come to an end and explain why.
If the Council decides that you are homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need, but intentionally homeless the Council will not be under a duty to provide you with longer term housing, but will accommodate you for a reasonable period whilst work continues to help you to secure suitable housing.
Accommodation secured for you by the Council
If the Council is under a duty to secure you accommodation, you may be offered accommodation in a homeless hostel, a self contained or shared house, or bed and breakfast.
You will only be offered bed and breakfast accommodation in an emergency and as a last resort when there is no alternative accommodation available, and if you are a young person or a household with family commitments the Council will make every effort to move you into more suitable accommodation as soon as possible.
Where possible the Council will secure you emergency accommodation within the Torridge area. However, the Council must consider your personal circumstances; including accessibility to employment, disruption to children's education, and accessibility to caring responsibilities, support networks, local services and amenities, and these factors, together with the limited supply of emergency accommodation within Torridge, may mean that you are placed outside of the Torridge area.
You should raise any concerns you have over the suitability of the emergency accommodation you have been offered with the Council.
There will be rules in the accommodation that you are provided with. These rules will be reasonable and if you do not abide by them and lose your accommodation as a result of a deliberate act or omission, or because you voluntarily cease to occupy the accommodation, the Council may no longer have a duty to secure accommodation for you.
You will be told if you have to pay rent and a service charge for your accommodation. The Council will ensure that the amount you have to pay is affordable and if you are on a low income you will be assisted to claim housing benefit. If you do not pay your rent and service charge you may lose your accommodation.
If you are being accommodated whilst under a Relief Duty, the Council will carry out more detailed enquiries to determine if you are in priority need. If the Council decides that you are not in priority need your accommodation may, with reasonable notice, be brought to an end whilst a Relief Duty continues to be owed.
You should tell the Council if you would prefer to stay with friends or family, rather than stay in accommodation secured for you by the Council. Providing that the Council agrees to the arrangements you have made, you will be referred to as being 'homeless at home' and help to find suitable housing will continue.
Challenging a decision made by the Council
When the Council makes a decision on your homeless application you will be told about the decision in writing and told why the decision has been made. You will also be told if you may ask the Council to review the decision.