Homelessness Reduction Act to come into play from April 2018.
Local Councils across the country are preparing for April 2018 when the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will come into force. This act was dubbed as a shake-up of the existing law in relation to homelessness applications in England and certainly goes some way to making important changes.
Anyone who has been through the process of applying for homelessness assistance to a Council will be aware of the procedure as it stands. The most frustrating part of the whole process, many will agree, is that the Council will make you wait until the last minute before they agree to do anything.
Some will notify the Council of their predicament when they are issues with a Notice Seeking Possession (eg Section 21) only to find that the Council don’t spring into action until the bailiffs are at the door some months later. This tactic is, we have no doubt, employed in the hope that homeless applicants will be forced out of fear to make their own arrangements rather than relying on the help they were always entitled to.
The Homelessness Reduction Act goes some way to relieving these issued through the following changes:
- There will be a new duty on the Council to fully assess someone’s needs at the point they first approach the Council. Can something be done to keep them in their property? Is the applicant vulnerable? What sort of properties might be suitable?
- The new ‘homelessness relief’ duty is introduced. The Council will have a duty to relieve a person’s risk of homelessness by making referrals to social housing providers; helping with deposits and guarantors; assessing any community care issues and taking other steps to help people find accommodation. This relief is available to everyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days- whether they are intentionally homeless, in priority need or not
- The Council must take action (by prevention and/or relief) as soon as someone is served with a valid Section 21 notice. By starting to provide help at the very start of the two month notice period, the Council are given the best chance to avoid homelessness.
All these measures perhaps will go some way to alleviating the housing crisis in the UK and improving the process for those finding themselves without accommodation.