Homelessness: Are you intentionally homeless?

For a council to decide if it has to provide you with longer-term accommodation, one of the questions it considers is whether or not you are intentionally homeless.

What 'intentionally homeless' means

Being intentionally homeless means that you are homeless because you left accommodation that you could have stayed in.

If your last home was temporary or short-term, the council looks into the reasons you left your last 'settled home'.

Deciding if you are intentionally homeless is the fourth question the council considers to decide if you're entitled to help with housing.

The other steps are:

  1. are you legally considered to be homeless?
  2. do you have a right to live in the UK and are you eligible for assistance?
  3. can you be classified as being in priority need of help?
  4. do you have a local connection with the council's area?

When deciding if you are or aren't intentionally homeless, the council must consider the reasons you became homeless.

It's up to the council to prove that you became homeless intentionally and that:

  • you did, or failed to do, something that caused you to leave your home
  • the act, or failure to act, was deliberate or you were aware of what was going on
  • it was reasonable for you to continue living in your accommodation

You have the right to explain your actions to the council in relation to your housing situation.

Reasons you could be intentionally homeless

The council may consider that you're homeless because of something you deliberately did or didn't do. Here are some of the more common situations.

You didn't pay the rent when you could have

Losing your home is considered a deliberate act if you:

  • knowingly and continually failed to pay your rent or mortgage, even though you could afford to
  • knew you couldn't afford the rent payments when you moved into your home

However, losing your home because of mortgage or rent arrears won't be considered intentional if:

  • you got into mortgage arrears or rent arrears because of significant financial difficulties that were out of your control, for example illness or redundancy. This is especially true if you can show you did everything possible to try to save your home
  • you got into rent arrears because of delays in your housing benefit or universal credit payments
  • your home became unaffordable because your circumstances changed, for example you lost your job
  • you couldn't manage your money because of mental illness
  • you thought your partner was paying the rent but they weren't

If your partner did something that caused you to be evicted, they may be intentionally homeless. You could be found to be intentionally homeless too if you knew what your partner was doing or joined in or if you failed to take action that could easily have solved the problem.

You can make a homelessness application in your name even if the council decides your partner is intentionally homeless. Your partner can be included in the application. 

You neglected your personal finances or ignored professional advice

You could be considered to be intentionally homeless if you were given advice, for example by a housing options officer, and you ignored this advice.

You or your family were evicted for antisocial behaviour

You may be found to be intentionally homeless if you've been  evicted for  antisocial behaviour. This can be for your behaviour or the behaviour of your children or visitors. Parents are usually held responsible for their children's actions, especially young children.

What you did to try to stop the antisocial behaviour could affect the council's decision.

You could have stayed in your accommodation 

You are intentionally homeless if the accommodation you left was available and reasonable for you to live in (along with anyone who normally lives with you). This applies to accommodation in the UK and abroad.

But it would be considered unreasonable for you to stay in your accommodation if:

  • you or someone you live with was experiencing violence or threats of violence
  • the accommodation was very poor compared with other local housing
  • you couldn't afford the rent or mortgage payments unless you went without essentials such as food and heating
  • the accommodation was causing damage to your health

You might think it's unreasonable for you to stay in your accommodation for other reasons, such as overcrowding.

Get advice if you think you have strong, valid reasons for leaving but the council doesn't agree.

Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser in your local area.

You left a job that provided you with accommodation

Housing that comes with a job is known as tied accommodation. This type of accommodation is particularly common in farming. If you leave a job that came with housing and, as a result, end up with nowhere to live, you're considered to be intentionally homeless.

You turned down a final offer of suitable accommodation from the council

It is very clear when the council is making you a final offer of accommodation. Do not turn this down without getting advice. The council won't go through the homeless application process with you again if you reject accommodation.

When you are not intentionally homeless

If you acted in good faith or weren't aware of something that caused you to become homeless, the council should accept that it's not intentional. For example if:

  • you left your accommodation because you didn't know you had a right to stay, for example you left your home because your landlord gave you notice even though you could have stayed until a possession order was issued
  • you left your home because of misleading advice
  • someone you live with did or didn't do something, for example a family member you live with didn't pay the rent but they told you they had

The council decides you're not intentionally homeless

If the council decides that you are not intentionally homeless, it probably has a duty to provide you with long-term accommodation.

However, it needs to check if you have a local connection to the area where you applied or if you should be housed elsewhere.

The council decides you are intentionally homeless

If the council decides that you intentionally caused your homelessness, it only has a duty to provide you with short-term accommodation, usually for 28 days.

Ask for a review if you don't agree with the decision. You may be able to challenge it.

If the council decides you are intentionally homeless and you have dependent children, you will probably be referred to social services to see if they can help.

Use Shelter's directory to find a face-to-face adviser in your local area.

Video: Intentional homelessness

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