Domestic Violence and Housing
What is Domestic Violence?
Although domestic violence is often associated with physical violence, the term is used to describe different types of abusive behaviour. It is considered ‘domestic’ because the perpetrator is associated with the victim.
The current cross-Government definition of domestic violence is:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
This definition includes forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so called ‘honour’ based violence. ‘Domestic violence and abuse can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender identity or reassignment, race, religion, class, sexual orientation and marital status.”
Domestic violence includes threats of violence or violence which is likely to be carried out. Therefore, the violence doesn’t have to have happened to constitute domestic violence.
How is housing affected by Domestic Violence?
Prevention and relief duties
If you are experiencing domestic violence you may be living with the perpetrator of abuse, or living somewhere which is unsafe because the place is known to the perpetrator. In these instances, you may be wondering how to access housing where you will not be at risk.
The government recognises you as homeless if: you are experiencing domestic violence and you are living with the perpetrator or the perpetrator is in the community and presents a risk to you at home. This is because it is not considered reasonable for you to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic violence.
If the perpetrator is soon to be released from prison, you will be considered at risk of domestic violence and therefore may be considered threatened with homelessness.
If the local authority considers you threatened with homelessness and eligible for assistance they owe you the prevention duty. This means that they should take reasonable steps to help you ‘secure that accommodation does not cease to be available.’
If the local authority is satisfied that you are homeless and eligible, they owe you the relief duty. This means it must take reasonable steps to help you secure accommodation for at least six months.
Assessing priority need
If you are assessed as priority need this means you are eligible for housing assistance by the local authority.
You will be considered priority need if:
- You are vulnerable as a result of fleeing accommodation due to violence or threats of violence form another person.
- When assessing whether you are vulnerable the housing authority may consider:
- The nature of the violence
- The impact and possible effects of the violence or threats of violence on your wellbeing. They may take into account your support networks and the continued threat from the perpetrator.
In reality, the threshold for being considered priority need is relatively high.
If you are considered priority need due to domestic abuse experiences, there are a variety of accommodation options your local council can offer you. They will need to consider which option is most appropriate for you taking into account your individual circumstances. This can include secure temporary accommodation (for example, a refuge) or a managed transfer to another property, normally on a like for like basis.
Local authorities must take into account the suitability of the accommodation they offer you. This includes: the risk of violence or racial harassment and the security of the property.
The Local authority may try and refer you to another borough in which you have a local connection. They cannot do this if there is a risk you will be at risk in the other district.
You are already accommodated?
You may currently be accommodated in social housing. It is possible to obtain a ‘management transfer’ if you have been subject to a management transfer. However, this usually requires legal help and assistance because local authorities seem extremely unwilling to engage in this.
We are currently working with Solace Women’s Aid to bring a number of cases by way of legal challenge to ensure that management transfers happen and that local councils properly engage in them.
If you are faced with the need to move from your council or housing association property, and you do not want to lose your tenancy status then you should contact us.
Destitute Domestic Violence Concession
If you have entered the UK or stayed in the UK as a spouse, unmarried partner, same-sex or civil partner of a British or settled citizen and the reason the relationship broke down was due to domestic violence you may be eligible for the DDV concession. You can apply to the Home Office for limited leave to remain and then be able to access public funds and advice (like homelessness services) whilst they prepare your limited leave to remain application.
What the Council are NOT allowed to do when you make a homelessness application:
- Ask for a police report
- Ask you to go home to get documents – the recovery of documents should not put the applicant at risk
- Require any abuse to have happened (there just needs to be a likely threat of it happening)
- Domestic abuse happens inside or outside the home, so the Council cannot require DV to have happened at home.
- Approach the alleged perpetrator