What evidence you will need to get the right decision will depend on what decision is being made or what decision you want to fight. Below are some of the different situations you might find yourself in and the types of evidence you will need.
Help with housing
If the council tells you that you are not eligible for help with housing, take a look at the section called 'The Eligibility assessment' in A survival guide to what to do if you are threatened with homelessness for more help.
The Relief duty
The council can decide you can’t get help to end your homelessness because the housing officer doesn’t think you are homeless according to the law. You will need to get evidence together to show that you are. This might mean asking the housing officer to speak to the family member who has made you leave.
If you can’t go back to your home because of domestic abuse it will help your case if you can tell someone independent (not just a friend or family member) about what has happened. This person might be a domestic abuse support worker, a health visitor, the police or a solicitor who does family law. The person you tell can then give the council a record of what you have said to them. The council can’t say you have to have evidence of the abuse other than your word but it will help your case if you do.
If you are still in your home but it is in too poor a state of repair or has been badly damaged take photos to show the housing officer or ask the housing officer to visit. It might also help to report the disrepair to the council’s Environmental Health department, or ask the housing officer how to do this – they may inspect and if they do they will write to you. The letter will be useful evidence for your case.
What counts as domestic abuse
Domestic abuse in relationships is very common. Behaviour is abusive if it includes any of the following -
- physical or sexual abuse,
- violent or threatening behaviour,
- controlling or coercive behaviour,
- economic abuse,
- psychological or emotional abuse.
The abusive person must be (or have been) in an intimate personal relationship with you or be a relative. Abuse directed towards your child or someone else you care about also counts as abuse towards you.
If you can prove to the council that you are in priority need then the council will have a duty to actually house you. So, it is very important to get any evidence you can to try and convince the housing officer that you are in priority need.
If you are one of the people on the list who is automatically in priority need this is not so tricky. See Stage 1 in A survival guide to what to do if you are homeless for a list. For example if you are pregnant you just need a letter from your midwife or GP. If you have young children you just need their birth certificates and a child benefit entitlement letter.
If you don’t fall into any of the categories listed in Stage 1 in A survival guide to what to do if you are homeless but you are vulnerable for other reasons you will need to get good evidence to help you convince the housing officer you are in priority need. If you have a support worker or a social worker they may be able to help you with this.
If you are vulnerable, for example, because you have physical or mental health problems or disabilities your GP may be able to help. Or, if you can find a solicitor who does housing law or housing adviser they may be able to help you get legal aid to get medical evidence. See the section called More help and advice for how to find a solicitor or housing adviser.
If you are reading this guide because you are helping someone else with their housing problem, we have another guide to help you. You can find helpful information on vulnerability letters by going to Law for Life teaching resources. Then scroll down to the section called How to support homeless people and those threatened with homelessness.
There is nowhere in the law where it actually says that these situations mean you have made yourself intentionally homeless. So you can fight them. For example, if you cannot afford your rent due to genuine financial difficulties the council cannot say that you have made yourself homeless intentionally. You will need evidence of your income and outgoings to show that you couldn’t afford it.
To fight the council on the decision you are intentionally homeless you need to:
- Ask the housing officer to write down their decision in a decision letter.
- Ask the council to review.
See the section called ‘How to avoid being classed as intentionally homeless’ in A survival guide to what to do if you are homeless for more help on this.
The council might say you are not entitled to any help if you are not from the local area because you can’t show you have a 'local connection'. For details on what this is and how it affects you, see the section called ‘Local connection’ in A survival guide to what to do if you are homeless.
If you are threatened with homelessness it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a local connection so don’t let them turn you away. You are still entitled to help for 56 days (8 weeks) to avoid becoming homeless.
If you are homeless and you are also possibly in priority need, any council you go to has to help by giving you emergency or temporary accommodation. At this point the council can also refer you to another council if it thinks you don’t have a local connection to where you are. The council will probably try to turn you away if you don’t have a local connection even though it shouldn’t. It makes sense to apply to an area where you have a local connection, unless you have a very good reason for not wanting to.
To show you have a local connection you need evidence. Some examples are:
- To show how long you have lived or slept rough somewhere - a tenancy agreement, a letter saying how long you have been at your GP or Dentist, or proof that your children have been attending school in the area.
- To show you work in the area - your employment contract or a letter from your employer stating where you work and how long you have worked there.
Suitability of accommodation
Be aware that the council can end its duties to you if you turn down accommodation. This means that if you turn down housing, the council will not help you again or offer you somewhere else. So, usually it is sensible to accept any housing that the council offers you and then try challenge how suitable it is later. You should try and find a legal aid solicitor that does housing law or a housing adviser to get help. Make sure you don’t just refuse accommodation without some legal advice first.
If you don’t want to live in the accommodation offered to you by the council you need to explain that it doesn’t meet your needs. This means that you need evidence to back up what you do need.
Examples of evidence about what you need could come from different places. For example:
- Health problems or disabilities - ask your GP or other health professional working with you or your children for a letter saying what you need in terms of accommodation.
- If you can’t afford the rent - get bank statements to show how low your income is or information from a debt adviser to show you can’t manage it.
- If it is to do with the situation or state of the accommodation, take photos to show the council what the problem is.