Vulnerable families who are unable to afford spiralling rent costs are being classified as “intentionally homeless”, a TLE investigation has revealed.
With a shortage of affordable housing capitulating the cost of living to unaffordable levels, many people on low incomes have been turning to local authorities for help when they are told to vacate their property.
But many who have approached their council have been told to remain in their property until they face legal action; for if they leave, they will be classified as ‘intentionally homeless’.
Each year it is believed around 20,000 households are found homeless but not considered in ‘priority need’, while 9 per cent of cases, or 10,000 households are homeless and in need but considered to be intentionally so.
According to a 2011 study on hidden homelessness in England 45 per cent of people surveyed satisfied the priority need criteria when they made a homeless application.
However, 46 per cent of these were found to be intentionally homeless and so not entitled to accommodation, which indicates that intentionality decisions simply perpetuate homelessness rather than solve it.
Under the Housing Act 1996, “A person becomes homeless intentionally if he deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which he ceases to occupy accommodation which is available for his occupation and which it would have been reasonable for him to continue to occupy.”
In a number of cases, the scope of the definition has been stretched by councils across England to include tenants who have not explicitly made themselves homeless.
In one case, the High Court ruled that a local authority had acted unlawfully when it denied assistance to a homeless single mother under its deposit provision scheme on the basis that she was intentionally homeless.
According to the recently published Homelessness Code of Guidance a local authority is not permitted to take into account conditions peculiar to itself, such as its resources and other demands upon it, when making its decision.
It comes amidst a rapid growth of the private rented sector that increasingly favours the landlord over the tenant.
Read the report in full here.