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Homelessness


There are a number of reasons why people become at risk of losing their home. The Housing Advice Team work to try and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Confidential appointments with a Housing Advisor are available either at the Sedgemoor District Council offices in Bridgwater House, at our Housing Advice surgery at Burnham-on-Sea, or we can visit you at your home.

We may be able to help you to:

  • remain in your home
  • delay the time when you have to leave
  • help you find alternative accommodation

For these reasons it is important that you contact us as soon as you become aware that you may be at risk of losing your home.  


What will happen?

Every customer who approaches Sedgemoor District Council and is threatened with homelessness will be able to discuss their housing situation with a Housing Assessment Officer at our Helpdesk. At the assessment, we will assess your housing need and will explain the help Sedgemoor District Council may be able to offer you. The interview will include an assessment of whether or not we have a duty to accommodate you according to homelessness law.

To ensure you are given the correct advice, it is important that you tell us all of the facts and if possible, bring with you any documents that might be of help. Examples would be any personal identity, tenancy agreement, rent book or mortgage statements, Notice to Quit, Court Summons or Possession Order, pregnancy certificate or medical report.

Sedgemoor District Council will make all necessary enquiries to decide what duty, if any, is owed to you. During this time, it is important that you let us know if there are any changes in your circumstances. Enquiries will normally be completed within 33 working days, unless there are exceptional circumstances and you will be notified of our decision in writing.

Are you eligible for assistance?

Not everyone who is homeless is eligible. For example, the Government makes certain people from abroad ineligible for housing assistance. You will not be eligible if you:

  • are a person from abroad who does not have recourse to public funds
  • are an asylum seeker who has been provided with accommodation elsewhere in the UK;or
  • are subject to immigration control unless you come under a class prescribed by regulations.

Your status will be tested if you make a homeless application and you will be advised whether the Council consider you are eligible or ineligible.

Are you homeless? 

Homelessness is a term which covers a range of situations. The Council may consider that you are homeless or threatened with homelessness if:

  • you have been staying somewhere but have no legal rights to stay there and are being told to leave;
  • you have a home but cannot gain entry to it;
  • you have somewhere to live but are likely to face violence or harassment if you return;
  • you have been asked to leave by your landlord, bank or building society; or
  • you have a mobile home, caravan or boat but do not have anywhere to put it.

The Council will make a decision as to whether you are homeless. People who are not statutory homeless will only be provided with homelessness advice. 

Are you in priority need?

The Council does not have to provide accommodation for all homeless people. We will provide temporary accommodation for homeless people who are considered to have a priority need. The law says that the following have a priority need if homeless and:

  • you have dependant children living with you (under 16 or up to 19 if in full time education);
  • you are an expectant mother;
  • you are aged 16 or 17;
  • you are a care leaver aged 18 to 20 and a former 'relevant child' under the Children Act 200;or
  • you are homeless as a result of an emergency such as fire or flood

You may also be in priority need if you are vulnerable:

  • due to old age, disability or mental illness;
  • having been looked after or fostered and is age 21 or over (other than 'relevant students')
  • having been a member of her majesty's armed forces;
  • having served a custodial sentence, been committed for contempt of court or similar offence, or been remanded in custody; or
  • having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person that are likely to be carried out.

What if I make myself homeless? 

If the Council decides that you are eligible, homeless and in priority need but have made yourself homeless intentionally, our duty to you will be severely limited. The Council would not be under a duty to provide you with permanent accommodation.

We could decide that you are intentionally homeless if:

  • you deliberately gave up accommodation you could have stayed in;
  • you deliberately did or failed to do something, which you knew would mean losing your accommodation;
  • you made arrangements to stay in accommodation on an insecure basis which gave you no legal rights with the intention of making a homelessness application; or
  • you failed to act on advice and assistance that you find alternative suitable accommodation.

If you are intentionally homeless you will be offered advice and may be offered temporary accommodation for a reasonable period (usually 28 days) to give you time to secure your own accommodation. You will be entitled to be given a reasonable preference on the Housing Register, unless your behaviour makes you ineligible.

Do I have a local connection?

In order for a homelessness application to be accepted by the Council, you would normally be required to have a local connection with this district.

A local connection is:

  • normal continuous residence in the area for 6 out of the last 12 months or 3 out of the last 5 years;
  • permanent employment in the district; or
  • close family living in the area for the last 5 years (mother, father, brother or sister).

Some forms of residence do not count as establishing a local connection, such as with the armed forces, prison, hospital or institution. If the Council decides that you are unintentionally homeless and in priority need but do not have a local connection with Sedgemoor, it is likely that you will be referred to a Council where you do have a local connection, where it is safe to do so. 

What happens if I am accepted as homeless?

The Council will notify you of our decision once all of the enquires are complete. We aim to complete these enquires and notify you of our decision in writing within 33 working days. If the Council accepts full housing duty to you, we will provide you with temporary accommodation. This may be in one of our hostels, bed and breakfast or a property leased from a private landlord. Your details will be updated on the Housing Register whilst you wait for permanent re-housing.

When considering you for re-housing we will take into account your individual circumstances, but any offer of permanent accommodation may not be in your preferred choice of areas. However, throughout this process, a Housing Advisor will discuss all available housing options with you. Due to the acute shortage of council housing, it is not possible to offer everyone council housing, but we may be able to assist you with Help moving into Private Rented Accommodation in an area of your own choice.

What help can I get if I am not accepted as homeless?

Housing Advice is available to anyone who needs it regardless of whether we have accepted a duty to you under homelessness law or not.

Right to request a review

Once we have made a decision on the homelessness application, we will write to you notifying you of that decision and how you can appeal. Homeless applicants have the right to ask the Council to review their decision. The request should be made in writing within 21 days of your notification. An officer who has not been involved with the original decision will conduct the review. If you are still not satisfied with the Council's decision, you can appeal to the County Court on a point of law. There are a number of agencies who can help you including Shelter or Citizens Advice.


Help for Women and Men Experiencing Domestic Violence

Somerset Domestic Abuse Service provides advice and assistance to women, men and their children who are experiencing domestic violence. They can be contacted on their help line 0800 69 49 999.

The National Women's Aid help line can also be accessed 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247  or visit their website: National Woman's Aid for further information on the services they offer.

Mankind Initiative is a charity that provides a help-line service for male victims of domestic violence or abuse. They can be contacted on 01823 334244 or visit their website: Mankind Initiative for further information on the services they offer.

If you are concerned about your safety you should dial 999 and speak to the police.


Homeless out of office hours

If you become homeless and are unable to contact us because our offices are closed, you can contact the Emergency Duty Team (EDT) on 0300 123 2327.


Useful contacts

Shelter

Free housing advice including help on related mortgage debt or welfare benefits issues. Visit the Shelter - Homelessness advice website.

National Debtline

For help on how to deal with debt problems, visit National Debt Line website.

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

For help on resolving any legal, money, or welfare benefit issues, or other problems. Find your nearest CAB at Citizens Advice Bureau or under 'C' in your local phone book, or see the Advice Guide  for further information.

Somerset Homeless Strategy 2013-16 [506.33KB]