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‘Material Change in Circumstances’? Repeat Applications for Homelessness Assistance

When making a homelessness application to the Local Authority (the Council) they are under a duty to accept your application and make proper enquires if there is a chance you may meet the criteria.

The case of R (on the application of Aweys & Others) v Birmingham City Council states that the threshold for who might have the criteria for homelessness assistance is very low. If the council believe there is a chance you meet the five criteria below, then they are under a duty to accept and application from you and make proper enquiries before returning a decision. The five criteria are:

  1. Are you eligible for homelessness assistance- do you meet the immigration and ‘habitual residence’ test?
  2. Are you Homeless or threatened with Homelessness? Remember; the legal definition of homelessness includes people who are temporarily being put up with friends or are ‘sofa surfing’.
  3. Do you have a ‘priority need’- a medical condition or vulnerability that means you are in need of special assistance? Are you pregnant or look after children?
  4. Have you made yourself ‘intentionally homeless’? Often the most challenged aspect of homelessness applications, the Council will determine whether you have done something intentionally to make you lose your home.
  5. Do you have a ‘local connection’? Do you have ties to the Council area where you are applying? Have you lived in the area for some time? Do you have family there? Do you work in the area?

If the council decide you do not meet the criteria above then you have the chance to ask them to review their decision. If they decide on review that you still do not meet the criteria, what do you do? Can you make another application and hope the Council will change their mind?

The Legislation surrounding homelessness application does not give a maximum number of times a single person can apply, neither does it set a minimum interval for when applications can be made.

However, in the recent case of R (on the application of Hoyte) v London Borough of Southwark the High Court ruled that Councils in the UK only need to accept a repeat application where there has been a ‘material change in circumstances’.

This means that if you attempt to make another homelessness application to the Council and your circumstances haven’t changed, then the Council is allowed to rely on their previous decision. It is the logic that having decided that you did not meet the criteria once, without a change in circumstances (or a change in the law), you will not meet the same criteria again.

So what is a ‘material change in circumstances’? We’ll take Mrs Hoyte from the case above as an example. Mrs Hoyte had made a homelessness application to the council and gave medical evidence to show she was at “quite a high” risk of suicide. The Council made the decision that Mrs Hoyte did not meet the criteria for being in ‘priority’ need; the third test above. Mrs Hoyte made a review of the decision but failed.

Later on, Mrs Hoyte went to her GP who produced another report stating that she was at higher risk of suicide than was thought previously. She made another application to the Council and gave this new medical evidence to show that she should now meet the criteria for ‘priority need’. The Council refused to accept her application as they stated they already knew about her suicidal tendencies and that this new application was essentially identical to the previous one they had turned down.

On appealing to the High Court, the court gave the decision that this change in her medical evidence was a ‘material change in circumstances’ and the Council had a duty to accept her new application.

Other material changes in circumstances could be:

  • You have become pregnant
  • You have been diagnosed with a new health condition
  • You have now been served with a warrant of eviction- where you hadn’t before
  • Your friends or family are no longer able to house you
  • You are now responsible for looking after children- where you weren’t before

Have the Council refused to take a homelessness application from you? Do you think that something’s different than before? Could you be entitled to make a repeat application?

Contact a member of our housing team who will be able to advise you and may be able to help you make a new application. Call one of our advisers on 02392 48 33 22 today

Posted on Wed, October 26 2016