Total: £0.00

picture of telephone  click icon for access to housing law in practice reference manual for membersMailing ListTwitterFacebook  YouTube

When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

ADVISER: Reinstating homeless points for deferred applicant

Our adviser Amy was able to help a client who was homeless and using his Personal Independence Payment to pay for an emergency stay in a bed & breakfast, as he was not entitled to help with housing from the Housing Executive.  

The Housing Executive’s duty to Amy's client ended when he refused a final offer of accommodation. Rule 56 of the current housing allocations scheme provides that a person is entitled to 3 reasonable offers of accommodation.  Where a homeless person refuses 3 reasonable offers, the Housing Executive’s duty to provide them with accommodation, and any associated duty to continue providing temporary accommodation ends.  A person will also be deferred from receiving further offers for a period of 12 months, although there is an exception where there is a change in circumstances leading to a further bout of homelessness.  

Amy’s approach was to examine the offers previously made to her client, to see if these were in fact reasonable, or if there was an opportunity to have one of these declared unreasonable, thereby reinstating the client’s points and the Housing Executive’s responsibility to provide him with temporary housing while he waited for an offer of a permanent home. 

What is a reasonable offer of accommodation?

Rule 57 of the selection scheme sets out what considerations a housing officer should make when deciding if an offer of accommodation is reasonable, and states:

In considering whether a particular offer is reasonable, the Designated Officer must consider the reasonable needs of the Applicant, including the Applicant’s household, having particular regard to the following factors:

  1. Size of Accommodation The dwelling must be of a suitable size for the Applicant’s household. The minimum size of accommodation normally deemed as reasonable for the household is outlined in Schedule 3.
  2. Suitability of Location The offer of accommodation shall as far as possible be in an area corresponding with the Applicant’s choice. The location shall take into consideration the place of work, schools and essential support requirements of the Applicant, or a member of his / her household.
  3. Suitability of Features The dwelling must be reasonably suitable having regard to the particular needs of the Applicant or a member of the Applicant’s household.
  4. Condition of Accommodation The dwelling must not be statutorily unfit and it must be in reasonable condition of repair and safe for occupation at the commencement of tenancy.

Was the offer of accommodation in a suitable location?

Although the most recent offer of accommodation was within the client's listed area of choice, the particular property was in an area where he perceived that he would be at risk.

The Housing Executive requested information to confirm that the client would be endangered by moving to the area, but the agency with whom the client was working was slow to provide this as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Amy was able to liaise with this agency to ensure that copies of the necessary information were provided urgently to relevant staff in NIHE.  At the same time, she spoke with the Housing Executive’s COVID-19 team to explain her client’s circumstances and to request that temporary accommodation be provided under emergency COVID-19 arrangements, even though there was no legal duty to accommodate the client.  

Securing temporary accommodation for client, where no legal duty to accommodate exists

If a person refuses three reasonable offers of accommodation, their application will be deferred and they will not be entitled to receive further offers for a period of 12 months from the date of the final refusal. A person will also lose points that had been awarded in recognition of insecurity of tenure. This includes "full duty applicant" points, "other homeless points" and interim accommodation points. This deferral can only be lifted before the 12-month expiry if a housing officer accepts that one of the original offers was unreasonable or if the applicant has a change of circumstances that lead to a new finding that s/he is legally homeless. 

In Amy's client's case, this deferall also meant that he no longer had a legal right to temporary accommodation. Until he lost his full duty applicant points, the Housing Executive had been under a legal obligation to provide him with accommodation, as set out by Article 8 of The Housing Order (NI) 1988. On being asked to leave his temporary accommodation, the client felt he had no option other than to use his Personal Independence Payment to pay for bed & breakfast accommodation. 

Housing Rights adviser successfully advocates for client to secure temporary accommodation and offer of a permanent home

After discussing the client's situation with Amy, NIHE agreed to provide the client with temporary accommodation, saving him from a night sleeping rough when he could no longer afford to pay £60 a night for a B&B.

Amy’s intervention and liaison with the other agency also led to NIHE accepting that the third and final offer of accommodation made to the client was unreasonable, as he would likely be at significant risk of harm in the area, even though it was within an area the client had asked to be rehoused in. His points, and his legal right to temporary accommodation, were reinstated.

Within a few weeks of contacting Housing Rights, the client received an offer of accommodation and has recently moved into a 2-bedroom flat. Amy helped the client to apply to support funds to get money for some basic essentials for his new home.  This was a great outcome for a person who, just weeks before, was facing the prospect of sleeping rough during a global pandemic.  

Tagged In

Homelessness, Adviser

This article was written on 13 October 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.