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Homelessness

This content applies to England

Homelessness legislation and homelessness applications, specifically in relation to LGBT people.

A homeless LGBT person may wish to make an application as homeless to a local authority. Advisers should be aware that some LGBT people may face difficulties in being open about their sexuality and/or gender when dealing with the local authority, because they fear discrimination from officials (see Equality law for more information about protection from unlawful discrimination).

Family breakdown

Homelessness due to family breakdown can be particularly pertinent for young LGBT people, who may find they are forced to leave home after coming out to their family. This could be because their parents have forced them to leave, or because the young person experiences intolerable homophobia or transphobia within the home. The Homelessness Code of Guidance recommends that local authorities take particular care in assessing whether claims of family breakdown are genuine.[2] This guidance is problematic for young LGBT people who may find it difficult to be open with officials in the local authority about their sexuality or gender.

The Code of Guidance also recommends that housing authorities are aware that it may not be safe for applicants to return to a family home where there is a risk of violence or abuse.[3]

Domestic abuse and other violence

It is not reasonable for an applicant to continue to occupy accommodation where it is probable that this will lead to domestic abuse or other violence or threats of violence that are likely to be carried out.[4] Such applicants are statutorily homeless.[5] Domestic violence is violence perpetrated by an associated person.[6]

The definition of 'associated person' includes people who:[7]

  • are civil partners
  • have agreed to become civil partners (whether or not that agreement has been terminated)
  • live together as if they are civil partners.

Other violence can include homophobic or transphobic violence, whether perpetrated by an associated person or not.

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 extends the civil remedies available in cases of domestic violence, to also include same-sex domestic violence. The Act makes a change to the definition of a cohabiting couple in the Family Law Act 1996, to include same-sex cohabiting couples.[8] The remedies available in the Family Law Act 1996 are now available to registered civil partners, on the same basis as married couples,[9] and cohabiting same-sex couples on the same basis as cohabiting different-sex couples.[10] These remedies include occupation orders and non-molestation orders.

With effect from 31 March 2013, there is a new cross-government definition of 'domestic violence and abuse', which applies regardless of gender or sexuality. See the Definition of domestic violence page in the section on Domestic violence.

Priority need

Many LGBT people suffer harassment, violence or eviction as a result of discrimination based on their sexuality. The Code of Guidance does not specifically mention violence against LGBT people, however those who are vulnerable as a result of violence have a priority need for accommodation, and the definition includes all types of violence.[11] Priority is not automatically conferred on an applicant who flees violence; s/he needs to demonstrate that s/he is vulnerable as a result of the violence (see the Priority need section for more information). The Code of Guidance states that homelessness caused by harassment should be considered as an 'other special reason' that could lead to vulnerability.[12] This definition of harassment should be interpreted as including homophobic or transphobic harassment.

In establishing vulnerability, advisers should argue that LGBT people who are open about their sexuality, or transgender people who are open about the fact that they are transgender, have difficulties in finding and maintaining suitable accommodation because of homophobia and transphobia from landlords and neighbours.

Emergency and temporary accommodation

Emergency and temporary accommodation provided by local authorities for homeless LGBT people is often inappropriate. They may be isolated and suffer abuse and violence from other residents.[14] The Code of Guidance specifies that in their discharge of duties, local authorities must ensure that accommodation is suitable for applicants. Risk of violence or racial harassment should be taken into account, as well as any social considerations.[15] Advisers should argue that the spirit of this section can include homophobic harassment.

[2] para 6.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] para 6.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] s.177(1) Housing Act 1996.

[5] s.175(3) Housing Act 1996.

[6] s.177(1A) Housing Act 1996.

[7] s.178 Housing Act 1996, as amended by para 61, Sch.8 Civil Partnership Act 2004.

[8] s.3 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

[9] s.30 Family Law Act 1996.

[10] s.36 Family Law Act 1996.

[11] para 21.33 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[12] para 8.41 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[14] Hidden in Plain Sight: Homelessness Amongst Lesbian and Gay Youth, William O'Connor and Donna Molloy, Stonewall Housing, 2001.

[15] para 17.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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