Challenging a homeless application decision - Citizens Advice
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Challenging a homeless application decision

This advice applies to England

If you disagree with the council's decision about your homeless application you should challenge it by asking for a review.

You can ask for a review of most decisions, including if:

  • the council says they don't have to help you with housing - for example because you're not in priority need
  • if the council says they can't give you help to keep your home or find a new one
  • if you're not happy with your housing plan
  • the council says you don't have a local connection
  • you think the housing you're offered is unsuitable

You must normally ask for a review within 21 days of getting your decision. In some cases you might be able to apply later but this can be complex. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you've missed the deadline.

It's best to write to your local council asking them to review their decision. If you prefer, you can phone or go to the council to tell them you want a review.

You should also let the council know if your circumstances have changed as this could help your review. For example, if your health has got worse. Sometimes it can be better to make a new homeless application - this a complex area. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to check if it's best to make a new application.

The council might give you housing while they review their decision (this is called 'housing pending review'). You should ask for this when you request a review.

If you want to challenge a decision that can’t be reviewed

Some decisions can only be challenged by applying to court for a judicial review, for example if:

  • the council refuses to accept your homeless application
  • the council refuses to give you emergency housing - for example when you first apply for help or while you’re challenging your homeless decision
  • you think the emergency housing you’re offered is unsuitable
  • the council refuses to protect your property - for example if there isn’t room to take it with you when you’re offered housing
  • the council refuses to give you housing while you’re waiting for the outcome of your review
  • the council refuses to accept your late review request

Challenging a decision by judicial review is a complex legal process. It’s important to get advice from your nearest Citizens Advice before applying

Before you ask for a review

Make sure you check the criteria for getting homeless help.

Your decision letter should explain how the council has made its decision. Read your letter and make a note of anything you disagree with and anything you think the council has missed.

If you don’t understand the council’s decision or need help asking them for a review contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Asking for your review

It’s best to write to your local council asking them to review their decision. Keep a copy of your letter or email for evidence.

You can also phone or go to the council in person to tell them you want a review. It's worth doing this if you're close to the review deadline.

You’II need to say you want a review and explain why you think the council should change their decision. Make sure you say when you got your decision letter and which decision you want reviewing.

What you tell the council will depend on why you're asking for a review.

It’s best to have evidence to support your request for a review. For example, you could include a letter from your doctor explaining how you’re vulnerable.

You can send your evidence after asking for a review if necessary - make sure you agree with the council when it has to be sent by.

If you’re sending evidence, make sure you send copies and not original documents.

Get a proof of posting receipt when sending your review and evidence.

If the council says they don't have to help you keep your home or find a new one

The council doesn't always have to keep giving you housing help. They can stop if:

  • the time limit for helping you keep your home or find a new one has ended
  • you've refused suitable housing that was offered for 6 months
  • you left housing made available to help you keep your home or find a new home and it was your fault
  • you're no longer eligible for help - for example if your immigration status has changed
  • you have unreasonably refused to follow your housing plan

If you disagree with the council's decision to stop helping you, explain why you disagree and send evidence to support your case.

For example, if you feel the housing you're offered isn't suitable for your needs because you have health problems, send a letter from your doctor to support your case.

If you’re not happy with your housing plan

Before you ask for a review you should try to get your housing plan changed by speaking informally to the council.

If speaking to the council doesn’t work you should ask for a review.

Explain what you disagree with in your housing plan and what changes you want the council to make.

Send evidence to show why you can’t follow the plan, if possible. You must do this within 2 weeks of asking for your review if you can’t you might be able to agree with the council to get extra time.

For example, you might not be able to follow a requirement to widen your property search to include high rise flats because you have mobility problems. You could send evidence such as a letter from your doctor saying you’re unable to walk up stairs.

If the council says you’re not legally homeless

Before you ask for a review make sure you check if you're 'legally homeless'.

If you're legally homeless, explain why you are and include evidence. This could include:

  • evidence of why you had to leave your home, for example an eviction notice
  • a letter from your support worker or a police report if you had to leave because of domestic violence
  • a letter from family saying you can't continue to stay with them

If the council says you made yourself homeless

If the council decides you can’t be given housing because you made yourself homeless you’re considered to be ‘intentionally homeless’.

You’re intentionally homeless if you deliberately do or fail to do something which makes you homeless.

You can challenge the council’s decision if:

  • it wasn’t reasonable for you to stay in your home  - for example because of domestic abuse or if your home was overcrowded
  • you weren’t aware of relevant facts before leaving your home - for example, if you didn’t know you had the right to stay in your home

It can be complex to challenge a decision that you've made yourself intentionally homeless - contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help. An adviser can help you to put forward your case against the council’s decision. They might also be able to help you get evidence to explain why you had to leave your home.

For example, if you lost your home because you had rent arrears the council might say you made yourself homeless. If your home was unaffordable get evidence to show this. For example, you could ask for a financial statement from your local Citizens Advice, based on your circumstances at the time you got in arrears.

If the council says you’re not in priority need

Before you ask for a review check if you’re in priority need.

If you disagree with the council’s decision you can challenge it. For example, if the council says your health condition doesn’t place you in priority need for housing, you can challenge the decision.

Explain why you disagree with their decision and include evidence to support your case.

For example, ask your GP or support worker to write a letter which explains your health problems and why you’d be at risk of harm if you’re not given housing.

If the council says you don’t have a local connection

The council can't stop you making a homeless application just because you don't have a local connection. If they do contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

If the council gives you a written decision saying you don’t have a local connection, they must have also decided if you’re entitled to help with housing. If you’re entitled to housing the council might refer you to another council that you have a connection to. They can’t refer you if you're at risk of violence in that area.

If the council refers you to another area and you disagree with their decision, you should first ask them not to refer you by speaking to them. It's worth doing this because they don't have to refer you to another council. 

If speaking to the council doesn't help, you should ask for a review of their decision. To get them to change their decision you'II need to explain why you have a local connection. Give as much detail as possible.

Send evidence, if possible. This could include:

  • bills and tenancy agreements - to show how long you or close family members have been living in your area
  • a letter from your employer - to show you work in the area
  • a letter from your doctor - saying you need to live in the area to get specialist treatment
  • a letter from your child’s school confirming their attendance and impact of having to move schools

If you think the housing you’re offered isn’t suitable

If you think the emergency housing you’ve been offered is unsuitable you can challenge the council's decision by judicial review. This a complex area, contact your nearest Citizens Advice to get help to challenge the council's decision. 

If the temporary or longer-term housing you’re offered is unsuitable you can ask for a review. It’s usually best to accept the housing you’re offered and ask for a review at the same time. This is because there’s no guarantee you’II be offered anything better. You’II also have somewhere to stay while the council reviews its decision. Read more about checking if your housing is suitable.

Explain in your letter why you think the housing isn’t suitable. For example, tell the council if the housing isn’t close to your work or child’s school. You could send a letter from your employer confirming you work in the area. You could also send a letter from your child’s school confirming their attendance and impact of having to move schools.

If the council says it’s ending its duty to house you   

If you accept a suitable offer of housing  (including private rented housing) the council won’t need to help you further - this means their housing duty has ended.

If the council has agreed to give you longer-term housing they can also end their duty to house you if:

  • you refuse an offer of suitable housing - though first they have to tell you that you might not get further help if you refuse the offer and that you can ask for a review
  • you stop being eligible for help - for example, if your right to live in the UK changes
  • you become intentionally homeless from your housing - for example if you’re evicted because you have rent arrears
  • you’re not living in the property the council offered you

Explain why you disagree with the council’s decision and send evidence, if possible. For example, tell the council if the housing you’ve been offered isn’t suitable for your needs because you have health problems. You could send a letter from your doctor to support your case.

Before you get your review decision

After requesting a review the council might ask you to meet with a housing officer to give more information.  

You should go to the meeting - it’s your chance to make sure the council fully understands your situation and why you disagree with their decision.

It's worth taking another copy of your evidence with you - so you can refer back to it if you need to.

You can take someone with you - to take notes, or just for support.

You can also send further written information or evidence to the council after asking for a review. Contact  your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help putting together a further written case.

Getting your review decision

The council should write to you with their decision within 8 weeks. They should write within 3 weeks if you're challenging a decision about your housing plan.

If they miss the deadline you can appeal to the county court unless you agreed to let the council have more time.

You must appeal within 21 days of getting your decision.

If you disagree with the council's review decision you can also appeal to the county court . You must do this within 21 days of getting the decision.
Appealing can be complex. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help to appeal. An adviser can also tell you if you can get help with legal costs.

Complaining about the council

If you still aren't happy with the council's decision after challenging it, you can complain.
You can complain about the council if you think:

Check how to complain on your council's website - you'II usually need to make a written complaint.

Make sure your letter explains what the council did wrong and what you want them to do - include evidence to support your case.

If complaining to the council doesn’t help

Complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if the council doesn’t deal with your complaint. The ombudsman is independent and will examine the case from both sides to recommend a decision they think is fair.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help complaining.

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