It is not an easy task to keep up with the ever-changing rules (around eviction procedures, eligibility criteria, vulnerability, and so many other circumstances) housing officers must consider when making a homeless decision. Since we started Housing Reviews 20 years ago, we have helped local authorities to investigate homeless applications, providing advice on how to interpret the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) law and write legally sound (and fair) decisions.
Assessing homeless cases is extensive and labour-intense work. A good understanding of the legislation is not only needed - it is essential. I watch closely the Court of Appeal decisions on cases where housing applicants challenged decisions made by local authorities. In some cases, the outcomes from the appeals open precedents.
Let's look at the R(Mitchell) v. Islington LBC  EWHC case as an example. It has been thought that issuing a not-in-priority-need decision (S184) was sufficient for a local authority to terminate an interim accommodation duty (S188(1)), provided to the applicant pending the outcome of their homeless application. The High Court, however, held that this was not sufficient. A local authority also must notify the applicant that it has decided that when its duty under S189B(2) comes to an end, it will not owe the applicant a duty under section 190 or section 193 of the 1996 Act.
On the day-to-day decisions work, local authorities review hundreds of cases. And that's where common mistakes or misinterpretations of the law might lead to challenges, appeals and review requests. Your homelessness system should, however, relieve some of the burdens.
Software to improve homelessness case management
Housing Reviews has a long-standing partnership with Home Connections. We co-designed hope, Home Connections' fully configurable HRA software, and provided over 100 up-to-date letter templates, built into the system. The system is intelligent enough to suggest the best letter for the decision you make at the assessment stage. They are your safeguard and protection, as it explains in detail your decision and its basis.
Since the implementation of the HRA, hope came a long way, with new features, but still very focused on guiding you through all the aspects of the legislation. The system checks if you are HRA/H-CLIC compliant and help you to notify applicants of your homeless decisions through the fully integrated letters suite.
I am keen to discuss the new improvements to hope, alongside Dave Anteh, Home Connections Senior Project Manager, at our talk “hope 2.0” at the Brighter Future Conference. Join us as we share how this new hope will support you to assess your homeless cases more efficiently while staying legally compliant.
Director of Housing Reviews Ltd