Make contact with us early
If you are homeless or worried you may lose your home, the earlier you tell us the better chance we have of being able to help you. You can do this by completing our online referral form.
How we can help
We offer advice and information on your situation so that we can help you to avoid homelessness. This could include the following topics:
- asked to leave by family or friends
- break up of a relationship
- domestic abuse
- leaving hospital with nowhere to go
- leaving prison with nowhere to go
- mortgage arrears and repossession
- notice to quit or notice seeking possession received from landlord
- unable to afford your home
- rent arrears
- rough sleeping
- housing options for people leaving care
Where you are eligible and homeless or at risk of homelessness within 56 days, we will offer to take a homelessness application from you.
If you are eligible, we will make an assessment of your circumstances if you are homeless or threatened with homelessness within 56 days. This will help identify what has caused your current situation, how you became homeless or why you are likely to lose your home.
We will assess your housing needs and any support needs you may have in order to retain or find suitable accommodation. This can be a face-to-face interview with a housing officer. Sometimes assessments are completed over the phone. You may be asked to provide certain documents, such as wage slips, proof of benefits, bank statements or evidence of medical needs. If you have documents relating to your homelessness (for example, a letter of notice, court documents or letter from the people that are accommodating you), you will be asked to provide these too.
The housing officer will discuss your options, focusing on practical and legal advice to help you stay where you are or help you to find alternative accommodation. You will be asked for information which will help us to determine how we can help you to stay where you are.
For example, we can help you:
- negotiate with your landlord to enable you to remain at your tenancy
- look for opportunities to maximize your income (for example, debt advice, benefit advice, benefits, budgeting etc.) so that you can afford to remain in your home
- identify extra security measures that could be put in place so that you feel safe in your home
- negotiate with friends or relatives, enabling you to remain with them for a longer period of time
Based on the information you provide, we will be able to advise you on your immediate options, focusing on practical and legal advice to help you stay where you are or help you to find alternative accommodation. If we cannot prevent your homelessness, we will help you look for somewhere else to live.
The prevention duty
If you are eligible (that is, you meet immigration conditions) and are threatened with homelessness within 56 days, you will be owed the prevention duty. During the prevention duty the council must take reasonable steps to prevent you from becoming homeless. This can involve assisting you to stay in your current accommodation or helping you to find a new place to live.
We will always aim to prevent you from becoming homeless and will provide you with comprehensive information and advice to enable you to solve your own housing situation. Some of the prevention options which we may explore with you might include:
- advice and assistance to remain in your current home
- advice and assistance to secure private rented accommodation
- referrals to partner agencies for debt advice
- if you cannot stay in your current home, exploring all available options for you
- a reconnection to another local authority area if you have no connection to Somerset
The relief duty
If we have not been able to prevent you from becoming homeless under the prevention duty or you are already homeless, you will be owed the relief duty. Under the relief duty we must take reasonable steps to help you to secure suitable accommodation. The relief duty lasts for up to 56 days and is available to all households who are homeless and eligible, regardless of whether they have a priority need. If you are a priority need household, for example you have dependent children, you will be provided with interim (emergency) accommodation whilst we take reasonable steps to help you secure alternative accommodation.
This help could include advice and assistance to find privately rented accommodation. If you do not have a local connection to Somerset and you are owed the relief duty, your application may be referred to the local authority where you do have a local connection, if it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Personal housing plan
Your personalised housing plan will set out the reasonable and practical steps that you and we will take to prevent or relieve your homelessness. Your plan will contain actions which you must take, and may also contain recommended steps which could relate to your wider circumstances. If you are working with other agencies, we can involve them with your plan and share it with them, with your consent. Your personal housing plan will be reviewed on a regular basis with your case officer.
If you deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate with the required steps identified within your personal housing plan, then you could be issued with a warning letter advising you of the actions that you need to take. If you continue to deliberately and unreasonably refuse to co-operate you could then be issued with a notice which will bring the prevention duty or relief duty to an end.
During the homelessness application process, we will make enquiries into why you lost your last settled home. We will decide that you are intentionally homeless if we consider that you deliberately did or didn’t do something that caused you to lose your home. For example, if you:
- caused antisocial behaviour
- did not pay your rent when you could afford to
This will affect your right to proceed to the main housing duty when the relief duty ends and you are still homeless. If the council are providing you with interim accommodation, you will be asked to leave.
The main housing duty
Where the council has been unable to prevent or relieve homelessness and is satisfied that you are eligible for assistance, in priority need, unintentionally homeless and have a local connection to Somerset, then you will be owed the main housing duty.
But we do not owe you the main housing duty where you have:
- turned down a suitable final accommodation or final Part 6 offer made by the authority in under the relief duty, or
- been served a notice of deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate with a step in the personalised housing plan.
The council can end the main housing duty in a number of ways including with a suitable offer of accommodation in the private rented sector.