What is homelessness?
A person is statutorily homeless if “they do not have accommodation that they have a legal right to occupy, which is accessible and physically available to them (and their household) and which it would be reasonable for them to continue to live in”. This means that there must be no alternative accommodation available to you anywhere in the world and not just within the Borough of Broxbourne.
What are the main causes of homelessness?
You do not have to be sleeping on the streets or without a roof over your head to be considered homeless. Most people who are homeless are not on the streets. There are many situations where the Council must accept you are homeless, and may have a legal duty to help you with housing.
• You are at risk of violence or abuse where you are living. This can be from a partner, ex-partner or family member, or someone in your area. The Council may ask you to provide details of the incidents. Evidence is helpful, but the Council will not turn you away if you have not reported it to the police
• You do not have a roof over your head i.e. you are street homeless
• You are at risk of losing your home
• You cannot afford to stay where you are
• Your accommodation is very temporary
• You are staying with friends or ‘sofa surfing’
• You have been locked out of your property or illegally evicted
• Your accommodation is in very poor condition
• You cannot live together with your partner or close family
• You have nowhere to put your houseboat or caravan.
If one or more of these apply, you may be eligible for help from the Council.
The Council is committed to helping you keep your home if at all possible or, if not, to advise and guide you through getting a new home.
Homeless or at risk of homelessness: how the Council can help
If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, please contact the Council as soon as possible. When you contact us we will need to ask you detailed questions to enable us to understand your circumstances and identify your needs. The information and evidence we require could include:
• Immigration status (to be eligible for assistance you must normally live in the UK long term and not be subjected to immigration control)
• Personal details, e.g. name, date of birth, National Insurance number (if known)
• Current address, if you have one
• Whether you have a partner or children
• Why you are homeless or threatened with homelessness
• Date you have to leave your current property
• Proof of your income, e.g. wage slips, or proof of your benefit entitlement
• Employment status
• Support you may need or are receiving, e.g. because you have ill health or a disability, or you are a care leaver.
We need to ask you these questions to help us properly assess your situation and provide you with the right help and advice.
The Council has a duty to:
• Provide advice services to a wider range of people with tailored advice for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups
• Prevent homelessness by helping households if they are threatened with homelessness in the next 56 days
• Relieve homelessness by helping all eligible households who are homeless to secure suitable accommodation
• Determine the outcome of a homelessness application (also known as a statutory decision).
At the interview
You may be invited to attend an interview with a Housing Needs Officer. You can bring a support worker or friend with you to the interview.
You will need to bring the right documents to your interview. The process will be quicker if you bring the following information with you:
• Your tenancy agreement (if you have one)
• Any notices or letters given to you from your landlord
• Contact details of the people you have been living with
• Proof of ID for yourself and all members of your household
• Passport, driver’s licence or birth certificate
• Proof of your household’s income i.e. wage slips or proof of your benefit entitlement
• Medical information (if relevant) from the medical professional treating you, i.e. your GP.
If you cannot get all these documents before you come in, it might take us longer to provide you with full advice.
Personalised Housing Plan
In most cases during the interview the Council is required to write a Personalised Housing Plan (PHP) with each customer. This is an agreed plan between the Council and the customer which sets out the steps both parties will be required to complete to try to resolve the housing problem.
If you fail to complete the actions on the agreed plan, it could mean the Council will have a significantly reduced responsibility to assist you with your housing.
Depending on each individual circumstance actions may include:
• Speaking with your landlord and arranging a payment plan to clear arrears
• Attending family mediation with your parent if they are asking you to leave home
• Looking for employment
• Engaging with appropriate support services
• Looking for alternative accommodation i.e. private rented accommodation
• Placing bids on properties available through HomeOption, the Council’s Choice Based Lettings scheme.
Assessment for a final homelessness duty
If the Council is unable to successfully prevent or relieve your homelessness, the Council will carry out a homelessness assessment under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. This will usually be done during an interview with a Housing Needs Officer. To be eligible for assistance at this point you must meet the following criteria:
1. You must have a priority need, e.g. you have dependent children who normally reside with you, you have a physical or mental health disability, or you are more vulnerable for another reason such as fleeing domestic violence
2. You must not have made yourself homeless on purpose
If the Council says it can help you…
If the Council accepts that it owes you a homeless duty, you may have to stay in temporary accommodation until somewhere more long term or settled can be offered. Temporary accommodation is often outside of the Borough of Broxbourne.
Long-term or settled accommodation is most likely to be a private rented property which may also be outside of the Broxbourne area. This is due to the lack of available and affordable properties within the Borough.
If the Council says it cannot help you…
You can challenge the Council’s decision. This is called reviewing the decision.
You should seek independent advice if this is the case, i.e. from the local Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter or a solicitor.
Other support if you are not eligible
If you are not eligible for housing from the Council, you may still be able to access:
• Help from social services when homeless; if you have children or additional needs you may be able to get support from Children’s or Adult Social Services.
• Short-term emergency housing
• Support in finding private rented accommodation
You can get further advice from:
Homelessness Reduction Act
The legislation around homelessness changed with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA 2017) on 3 April 2018. It has been introduced to ensure local authorities (LAs) intervene at earlier stages to try to prevent homelessness and assist those already experiencing homelessness.
Further information on the Homelessness Reduction Act can be found here
The Council has produced a Homelessness Strategy which identifies a number of key action themes aimed to address the need for more accommodation and support for homeless households, and also to address some of the underlying issues which might also impact on this.
Contacting the Housing Needs section
Please visit the Housing Needs page to find out how to contact Housing Needs for housing advice or help if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness.