How one Haringey council officer could prevent a family being evicted

Today we have been give the runaround by Haringey Council. All we wanted was for a housing benefit officer to speak to a homelessness officer.


One of our members had been evicted from a privately rented property.  She applied as homeless to the council, but the council eventually denied that they had a duty to house her, stating that she had made herself “intentionally homeless”.  One of the key reasons why they had come to this decision was, they said, due to rent arrears as a result of rent she had withheld from the landlady.

She had made it clear to the council’s homelessness team that her rent was being paid by housing benefit, and was being paid directly to the landlady.  If this was the case, how then could this have led to a “deliberate act or omission” on her part? A simple phone call from the homelessness team to the housing benefit office could have confirmed this.

On receiving the negative decision, she went to Haringey Council’s Customer Service Centre at Apex House, and requested that the Housing Benefit office provide her with written confirmation that housing benefit was paid directly to the landlady.  This was on 16 February 2015.  She told them that this request was in relation to an eviction from her emergency accommodation.  They refused to give this to her on that date, and told her to wait for a written response.

So she waited.  In the meantime, she contacted a solicitor to carry out a review of the negative homelessness decision, and also to request housing pending the outcome of that review.  The council refused this request.

How to prevent an eviction

And so she finds herself two days from her eviction date at the council’s Customer Service Centre again.  With support from other members, she again requested confirmation of her housing benefit having been paid directly to her landlady.  She was told that the housing benefit team does not have to respond for another week – i.e. after the eviction is due to take place.

If the eviction goes ahead, it will cause more distress for the family.  They will have to approach Haringey Council’s Social Services for support. Parents in similar situations to hers have been refused housing by social services, and have been threatened with having their children taken into care.

Under Section 188(3) of the Housing Act, local authorities have the power to secure that accommodation is available for applicants who are reviewing a negative homeless decision and who are homeless, eligible and in priority need, even if they are found to be intentionally homeless. They have to consider the merits of the case, and whether any new material, information or argument has been put to them which could alter the original decision.

So the question is this: will someone from the housing benefit office respond before next week and provide the information requested and help prevent a family from being evicted? 

UPDATE: So as a result of this article and a tweet, we were contacted by a housing benefit officer for Haringey Council who was very helpful and produced a housing benefit statement for our member to pick up. It confirmed that housing benefit was paid directly to the landlady.  Therefore, the assertion in the homelessness decision letter that our member was withholding rent, cannot be true. Unfortunately, because today is the day of her eviction, she hasn’t been able to leave the house.  But we also found out, in the process, that this information was always available to the homelessness team.

Quite why the customer service staff weren’t prepared to escalate the request for a housing benefit statement of account, bearing in mind it pertained to the imminent eviction of a family, we still don’t know.


March 9, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: HHAG ACTIONS