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Leaving the home

This content applies to England & Wales

Options for victims of domestic violence who wish to leave the home.

In some situations, the person suffering from domestic violence or threats of violence may wish to leave the home, even if s/he has a legal or home right to stay there. Leaving the home may be a short-term, medium-term or long-term remedy, but initially it can provide someone with a breathing space in which to make longer-term decisions or take particular action.

Refuges

Women's Aid refuges provide temporary accommodation for women who have to leave home because of domestic violence. While living in the refuge, women can get support and advice on welfare benefits, housing and legal remedies. This can provide an important breathing space for women who may not have decided what permanent course of action they wish to follow.

Children

Refuges accept women with and without children and there are some specialist refuges which cater specifically for the needs of certain groups, for example Jewish or Asian women. Information about refuges and help on finding a space is available from Women's Aid.

Refuges for men

There are currently very few refuges for men who need to leave home because of domestic violence. Information about refuges for men can be obtained from the Men's Advice Line.

Dogs and pets

The Dogs Trust's Freedom Project gives details of organisations that provide temporary foster care for dogs and pets whose owners are unable to look after them because fleeing domestic violence.

Homelessness application

This course of action is available to men and women, including those living together in a gay or lesbian relationship, who are unable to remain in their accommodation because of fear of violence or actual violence. Depending on the exact situation, it could be a short-term solution or it may result in the applicant being permanently housed elsewhere.

A local authority has a duty to accommodate a person if they meet certain basic requirements. These include requirements that they are eligible for assistance, homeless, in priority need, and not intentionally homeless. In the short term, a person fleeing violence may apply to be housed by the local authority on an emergency basis on the grounds that it is not reasonable to continue to occupy the accommodation. This would be the case if it is probable that her/his continued occupation of her/his last accommodation would lead to actual domestic violence against her/him, or to a threat of domestic violence that is likely to be carried out. This is supposed to be a pure question of fact and is not one involving value judgements about what that person should have done or not done.[1]

The person will be in priority need, for example, if s/he has children, is pregnant or is vulnerable due to illness or disability, or a variety of other factors. A person applying to the local authority as a homeless person will also be in priority need if s/he is vulnerable as a result of ceasing to occupy accommodation because of violence or threats of violence that are likely to be carried out.[2] This position is different to that in Wales, where a person fleeing domestic violence will automatically be considered to be in priority need and does not have to establish that they are also vulnerable. Some people who have restrictions on their immigration status may not be eligible to make a homeless application.

For detailed information about the homelessness legislation and making an application to a local authority as a homeless person, see the Homelessness section.

Local authority and PRPSH tenants

Where there is domestic violence and the people concerned are local authority or private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH) tenants, if one partner leaves the home, this may enable the landlord to take possession of the property.[3] Three conditions must be fulfilled for this to take place:

  • the property has been occupied by a married couple, civil partners or a couple living together as if they were husband and wife or civil partners, one or both of whom is the tenant
  • one partner has left because of violence or threats of violence by the other partner towards her/him or a member of the family living with her/him, and
  • the partner who has left is unlikely to return.

This is, therefore, a long-term option that provides local authorities and PRPSHs with a remedy that may help them to avoid the situation where a perpetrator of domestic violence is left under-occupying a large property, for example, where the partner and children have left the home. For the landlord to satisfy the court that possession should be granted, it is necessary to show that violence was the real immediate cause of the person leaving, and not just one of a number of contributory factors that led to an eventual relationship breakdown.[4] For more information about other long-term action concerning property, see the rest of the pages in the Relationship breakdown section.

[1] Bond v Leicester City Council (2002) HLR 6, CA.

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

[3] Ground 2A, Sch.2 Housing Act 1985; Ground 14A, Sch.2 Housing Act 1988.

[4] Camden LBC v Mallett [2000] LTL 17/3/2000 Extempore CA, unreported elsewhere.

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