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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

The importance of a good homelessness review

The importance of carrying out a good homelessness review on behalf of clients cannot be stressed enough. A successful review can be of tremendous importance for the future housing status of clients, often resulting in an allocation of social housing.

Since the introduction of a system for reviews and appeals of negative homelessness decisions under the Housing (Amendment) (NI) Act 2010, Housing Rights Service advisers have carried out many successful reviews on behalf of clients and have lodged a significant number of county court appeals.

Housing Rights Service has a wealth of experience in this area and has identified a number of key issues which are crucial when determining whether a homelessness decision can be challenged under the review process:

Of primary importance is the decision letter. Legislation states that an applicant is entitled to a written decision. Case law and practice is continually developing to clarify what should be contained in an adequate decision letter. Failure to identify an inadequate decision letter can result in a missed opportunity to challenge a decision.

  • Each of the four homelessness “hurdles” carries potential scope for a review. If the wrong test has been applied or, for example, the Housing Executive has failed to make proper enquires the adviser needs to be able to recognise these omissions.
  • In some circumstances the applicant may be entitled to temporary accommodation pending a final homelessness decision. The adviser needs to know when this applies and to ensure a request for temporary accommodation is made and how to challenge a refusal of temporary accommodation.
  • Time limits apply to both reviews and appeals. Advisers need to know these time limits and under which circumstances they may be extended.
  • It is crucial to raise any important facts and information at the review stage. If this isn’t done, then it may not be possible to raise it in a county court appeal.
  • Finally, an appeal to the county court can be made only on a “point of law”.Sometimes a point of law is not immediately obvious but with the necessary training these can be identified.
  • If you advise clients on homelessness then knowing how to challenge a homelessness decision is an integral part of this advice-giving.

Housing Rights Service is holding training on how to carry out a homelessness review on 17th and 19th June for which we are now taking bookings. You can also read our ADVISER piece where our adviser describes how they dealt with a recent homeless review case

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This article was written on 30 May 2014. 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.