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Priority need if homeless due to domestic abuse

This content applies to England

Domestic abuse, or other threat of violence, that causes someone to leave their home may mean they are vulnerable and have a priority need.

Priority need

A local authority must consider whether an applicant is vulnerable as a result of having had to leave their accommodation because of violence from another person, or threats of violence which are likely to be carried out.[1] If so, they will be in priority need. The applicant has to have actually left the accommodation to come under this category.

The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that the initial assessment will normally make clear whether violence or the threat of violence is the cause of the applicant leaving. [2]

Violence

To come within the priority need category of vulnerable as a result of ceasing to occupy accommodation by reason of violence, etc, the violence does not have to have been be domestic violence; all forms of violence motivated by different factors must be considered.

Both domestic and 'other' violence includes physical violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour and any other form of abuse which, directly or indirectly, may give rise to the risk of physical or psychological harm.[3] See the Violence from any person page for more about the definition of violence.

The Code of Guidance repeats case law in saying that when assessing whether threats of violence are likely to be carried out, authorities must only take into account the probability of violence, and not actions that the applicant could take such as injunctions.[4]

The Code states that the safety of the applicant and confidentiality must be of paramount concern and that inquiries should not be made of the perpetrators of violence.[5]

Whether the applicant is vulnerable

The Code of Guidance lists the following factors that authorities may wish to consider when deciding whether the applicant is vulnerable, although of course additional factors may be relevant:[6]

  • the nature of the violence or threats. The Code suggests that authorities should be aware that there may have been a single significant incident or a cumulative series of incidents over an extended period of time
  • the impact and likely effect of the violence or threats on the applicant's current and future well-being
  • whether the applicant has any existing support networks, such as family or friends
  • if there is a continuing threat from the perpetrator

The Code also states that the housing authority should determine whether, if homeless, the applicant would be significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless’.[7] Therefore, advisers may wish to consider:

  • whether the violence, or fear of it, has so disturbed the person that they need additional support in finding accommodation
  • whether they may be pursued by the violent person, so that they are unable to stay with friends or relatives as another homeless person might
  • whether they may find it difficult to obtain accommodation with adequate security in the private sector
  • if they have moved to another district, whether they may also be 'significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless’, due to the lack of a support network in that new district.
  • if they have had to give up a job to move, whether they may be financially disadvantaged

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references here are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051.

[2] para 8.36 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] Yemshaw v Hounslow LBC [2011] UKSC 3; Hussain v Waltham Forest LBC [2015] EWCA Civ 14.

[4] para 21.33 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; Bond v Leicester CC [2001] EWCA Civ 1544.

[5] paras 21.13, 21.21 to 21.23 and 21.30 to 21.31 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[6] para 21.34 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[7] para 8.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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