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Archive for the ‘Gatekeeping’ Category

If you’re Homeless or threatened with homelessness in 28 days and want assistance from a Local Authority then a Local Authority should treat you in accordance with the Housing Act 1996, particularly Part VII. In addition to this they should take note of guidance contained within the Homelessness Code of Guidance.

Unfortunately for you the Department for Community and Local Government don’t like  Local Authorities acting in accordance with the Law. The reasons for this are many, one of them is that it messes up their nice statistics such as these taken from here.

Now preventing homelessness can be a good thing (and House does, in certain circumstances, see the value in Rent Deposit schemes) but as the CLG don’t enquire too much as to how LA’s reduce homelessness LA’s will often refuse to assist you in accordance with the Law. For example if you are homeless and give the LA reason to believe you are homeless then if you are told to go away and you do you won’t be recorded as a homeless statistic because the LA won’t have taken a ‘homeless approach from you’. Great for the stats, bad for you.   

This is not to say the LA won’t help anyone, that’s because it would look rather too suspicious and the CLG don’t really won’t everyone to know they are quite aware that LA’s aren’t helping people as they should.

Further to this, House has reason to believe that some organisations that you might seek advice from in order to challenge the LA won’t help you to the best of their ability because they receive funding from the LA and this might be withdrawn if they complain to the LA too much.

This is why House likes to show tricks commonly used to get people to go away. You can see some tricks HERE. Other tricks will be  published by House in due course.

Sadly it would appear that homeless people aren’t valued much by society so this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

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‘You would expect Local Authority professionals to tell you the truth’ says a Youth Support worker endeavouring to help homeless 16 year old.

‘Well yes, you would in theory’ House replies with a sinking heart as House prepares to enlighten said innocent worker to the joys of Local Authority bad practice (or misfeasance perhaps in some cases?) .

So what common rubbish do Local Authorities spout with depressing repetition? Well the list is rather long and will be visited in posts to come but these are some common ones.

1, ‘You can’t make a Homeless Approach here as you don’t live here’ – This has a boll**ks rating of 10/10 and is probably the most popular weapon in a Local Authority’s Gatekeeping arsenal with thousands and thousands of homeless persons shot with it each year.

Section 183 of the Housing Act 1996 shows that a person might apply to any Local Authority for assistance. If the Local Authority tell you this just bare in mind they don’t actually want to help you however if you persist and include words like ‘complaint’ and ‘advice from Housing Law professional’ you may find the Local Authority relents. If you don’t have a local connection with the area the LA can try and refer you to a Local Authority you do have a connection with if they would otherwise owe you a full ongoing duty to provide you with accommodation but for this they must do enquiries which is why a Local Authority will try and fob you off before helping you

2. ‘Because you lost your home as a result of rent arrears we don’t have to help you’ – Bollo**ks rating 4/5 on this one. Again a popular weapon for inflicting injury on homeless applicants nationwide.

 If the Local Authority has a reason to believe you may be homeless they should take a homeless application from you and begin to perform enquiries as laid out in section 184.

One of these enquiries is whether the applicant became homeless intentionally. Whilst they perform these enquiries if they have reason to believe you might have a priority need for accommodation they should secure that suitable accommodation is available for you (sec 188)

 The Local Authority must then notify you in writing as to what decision they have come from as result of their enquiries as per section 184 (this is why such notification is commonly known as a section 184 letter)

A section 184 letter is something many Local Authority’s don’t want to give you. This is because it takes work and you have the right to review their decision (and these decisions are usually ineptly and unfairly come to).  If the Local Authority say you not entitled to a 184 decision letter ask them to say why this is so in writing so you can take it to your local CAB / Law Centre (if there are any left). You may find help is slightly more forthcoming.

3. To a 16 / 17 year old

‘Social Services have to provide you with accommodation we can’t help you at all’ – A Bollo**ks rating of 3/5 After R v London Borough of Southwark [2009] UKHL 26 this is rather common. In fact if the Social Services department hasn’t confirmed that said child is indeed a child in need or that they will be placing while an assessment is carried out then the Local Authority has a reason to believe that said 16/17 year old may have a priority need for accommodation and as such should secure suitable accommodation is available for the 16/17 year old. Hopefully then some sort of joint assessment should be carried out.

There are also occasions when the 16/17 year old may not want the assistance of Social Services and should therefore be placed by the Local Authority.

 House cannot guarentee the quality of the above advice and if you are unsure about how you have been dealt with suggests you seek some proper advice, if you can find it and are eligible for it.

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No ongoing duty for YOU!

House is coming across a rather disturbing practice that appears to be on the rise amongst Local Authorities. House shall call this practice ‘The Disappearing Duty’ or TDD for short.

House now works in a fairly rural area. Local Authorities are now trying to state that because they have no ‘accommodation of their own’ that they will only be able to accommodate persons who have made a ‘homeless application’ under 188 before assisting them with finding privately rented accommodation.

Upon finding such accommodation House is finding that their ‘homeless application’ is mysteriously ddisappearing. If they haven’t done a sec 184 letter then they seem to be treating the privately rented accommodation as accommodation that the client has secured, rather than sec 188 acc, so treat the applicant as being not homeless and in most cases House has seen not even write a 184 letter to this effect.

Even if a full 193 duty has been accepted then this privately rented accommodation appears to coincide with the applicant mysteriously ‘withdrawing’ their homeless application thus meaning the LA don’t bother thinking they have any ongoing duty to said person.

Has anyone else spotted this?

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House has noticed a rather worrying growth RSL and Local Authority Neighbourhood Housing Officers doubling as Gatekeeper’s to the promised land of the ‘homeless application’ especially where rent arrears are involved.

House recently saw a letter from a Neighbourhood Housing Officer of a rather large Housing Association  that stated ‘as a result of the proceedings you will be found Intentionally Homeless and the Local Authority will only have a duty to house you for a maximum of 28 days’.

What annoys House about this is not only the use of the word WILL and not for instance MAY, but also that frequently the advice is rather misleading to say the least as for instance in the case of the client that received the letter House has quoted. House’s client had rent arrears yes, but actually their tenancy had been terminated (before they came to see House) by a joint tenant who had moved out years previously. Therefore the cause of homelessness may well have had nothing to do with the arrears.

House has heard of a number of cases where clients, who may have some rent arrears, issued with a section 21 for a reason that is not related to rent arrears have been told by a Local Authority Housing Officer that they are intentionally homeless so the Local Authority doesn’t have to help them. This is of course done without any sort of investigation or decision letter or even taking a ‘homeless application’.

So for anyone reading this who may not know, if you have been told that you are intentionally homeless by a Local Authority or Housing Association Housing Officer this does not prevent you from making a ‘homeless application’ and receiving a proper decision letter as per section 184 of the Housing Act 1996.

Has anyone else had experience of this?

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Sunday rant.

House was wondering whether there are any areas of Law other than Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 that are so deliberately disregarded and abused by a Local Authority. 

The Local Authority that House deals with is slightly different from House’s old LA. House’s new LA is ‘slightly’ better at taking Homeless applications but then just writes the most mind bendingly odd decision letters that have nothing to do with the relevant legislation that House has ever seen. 

These aren’t reasoned decisions where the LA has found someone IH or not to be have a priority need for accommodation. These are are decision letters where no thought has been given to the relevant legislation. IH decisions are made without any thought or mention of whether the act / omission was performed in good faith whilst being unaware of any relevant fact. If the applicant is found IH then the LA’s template 184 decision states the LA have NO duty to the applicant at all.

House has seen a number of decisions lately which have been made after 9 odd months. Complicated decisions? Nope. The LA had only interviewed the applicants once and made no further enquiries just for some reason it had taken 9 months to made the decisions.

House doubts the LA even looks at the relevant legislation or Code of Guidance. So what if awful decisions are made, decisions that obviously never accept a full 193, maybe only 5 pct of applicants will go seek advice and assistance in regards to a 202 review. Why bother making enquiries when the applicant or housing professional involved in the review will do it for you!

One of the LA staff who deals with Housing Register applications stated they have a blanket policy of banning anyone with any form of arrears including mortgage arrears from the Register. They stated that the applicant always has a right to review and it’s then that they will consider the application properly.

Still House has only been dealing with this LA for a while and is happy to hear that they are already beginning to moan amongst themselves about the increase in challenges and the fact that House and his team aren’t being rolled over anymore. House is happy with this but his boss isn’t as being rolled over is apparently the same as collaborative working.

Nothing new in this little rant. But it still makes House’s blood boil, if it didn’t House should find a new job.

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‘Their father is a self employed driver so the two children can spend the night in the car.’

Hurrah for social services.

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It may well be to do with ‘el credit cruncho’ but House is seeing a lot of folks who can’t afford their mortgage. In some of these cases the client will not have the costs of the mortgage met by the DWP and without any real prospect of getting into a position whereby they can once again afford to pay the mortgage the client is a bit stuffed. 

Now when these people come to see House House will often think that it probably isn’t really reasonable for them to continue to occupy accommodation where they can’t afford their mortgage at the time, where even with help from the DWP they won’t be able to meet the mortgage repayments, where they aren’t eligible for the Mortgage rescue scheme and where they are unlikely to get a job that pays enough for them to pay their installments. Not only this but the longer they remain at the property the more equity they might lose if they don’t sell it or indeed the amount of negative equity grows.

Is House wrong in his thinking that in such cases (and House realises that cases are not rarely the same) that the client should be able to make a homeless application so as to ascertain whether it is reasonable for the client to continue to occupy their accommodation? Whilst they might choose to remain ‘homeless at home’ at least the client knows that if they sell the property they won’t be found intentionally homeless if a section 193 duty is accepted.

Local Authorities that House has come across seem to be wanting client’s to remain at the property until they get into arrears and the mortgage company starts proceedings (at obvious extra cost to the client). They have also been advising clients that they will be intentionally homeless should they sell their property which seems rather harsh when they haven’t considered whether or not it is reasonable for them to continue to occupy it.

 House would appreciate the views of other jolly excellent people in respect to what they do with such clients.

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