Lambeth Council have been operating a scheme called Temp 2 Settled where families who approach the Council as homeless were offered a choice:
- Continue with the homeless application and stay in Band C of the waiting list with no chance of bidding successfully on social housing; or
- Stop the homeless application and take private accommodation. You will then be placed in Band B of the waiting list with an improved chance of bidding successfully on social housing.
However, in our client’s case she was not even allowed to take either of these two options. She had been living in a domestic violence refuge with her daughter and when the refuge wanted her to leave they referred her to the housing department of Lambeth Council. Although Lambeth Council knew our client was homeless (as she was in a domestic violence refuge) they did not open a homeless application or offer temporary accommodation. Instead they only offered our client private accommodation which she accepted. The Council said they had done this because it was the standard process when people were leaving refuges or other supported accommodation.
When our client later asked for the Band B priority which she was entitled to because she accepted private accommodation, Lambeth Council responded that she was not entitled because she had not made a homeless application and people moved from domestic violence refuges to private accommodation were generally not eligible. This meant our client had been left in overcrowded private housing for years without the increased priority which would assist her to move into permanent housing. The private landlord threatened to evict her on multiple occasions and did take court proceedings. She would not have been in this situation if she had been offered temporary accommodation when leaving the refuge.
We assisted our client to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who found the Council had failed by not opening a homeless application, failing to consider if our client was eligible to join the housing register, and not awarding her Band B when she accepted private accommodation. Our client is now being placed in Band B and her housing register account is being backdated to when she was referred to Lambeth by the refuge, over 3 years ago. The Council have also agreed to pay £1000 due to the distress caused to our client.
This is an example of how the Ombudsman can be a successful alternative to starting court proceedings where the issue regards the administration of the housing register and the acceptance of homeless applications.
If you or someone you know requires housing law assistance, please contact our specialist housing team.