The Housing Executive must check whether you are homeless or likely to be homeless before they decide on the type of help to give you. The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give housing advice on homelessness and its prevention to anyone in Northern Ireland who asks for it.
The Housing Executive must look at your personal circumstances. It is possible to be homeless even if you have somewhere to stay. Get advice if you think that you are homeless but don't fit into one of the categories below.
I can't stay in my accommodation with all my family
The Housing Executive should consider you homeless if you can't live in your accommodation with your family. This also includes anyone who might normally be expected to live with you but who is not able to now. For example, this could be because the accommodation is too small or is in poor condition.
I'm living in temporary accommodation
The Housing Executive should consider you homeless if:
- you are staying in temporary accommodation such as a hostel or a bed and breakfast,
- you are staying in a women's refuge,
- you are staying temporarily with friends and family.
I am at risk of violence if I stay in my home
The Housing Executive will consider you homeless if you have suffered, or are at risk of:
- domestic violence or abuse,
- terrorist attack,
- sectarian attack,
- racist attack.
You should also be considered homeless if you have been a victim of sectarian or racial threats or intimidation.
I have no legal right to stay in my home
If you have no legal right to stay in the accommodation the Housing Executive should consider you homeless. You have no legal right to stay in your home if:
- you are squatting,
- a court has ordered you to leave your accommodation,
- you are living in the accommodation after the legal tenant has died, or moved away.
You should not leave your home just because your landlord has told you to. Most tenants are entitled to 28 days' notice before they must leave their accommodation.
I can't get back into my accommodation
The Housing Executive should consider you homeless if you are unable to get into your accommodation because:
- the landlord has changed the locks and is refusing to let you back in,
- someone you live with has changed the locks and is refusing to let you back in.
My house is tied to my job
The Housing Executive may consider you as homeless if your employer provides accommodation as part of your job and you have lost, or are about to lose your job. The Housing Executive will normally require written confirmation of this from your employer.
I am leaving an institution
The Housing Executive may consider you homeless if you are about to leave hospital or prison in the next 28 days. The Housing Executive will usually need confirmation from the institution about your circumstances.
My marriage / relationship has broken down
The Housing Executive may consider you homeless if your marriage or relationship has broken down and you can no longer live with your partner. It may be helpful if you can provide information about the relationship breakdown from an agency such as Women's Aid, the Men's Advisory Project, Nexus or the police. The Housing Executive may ask for a copy of a court order (if you have one).
My accommodation is in very poor condition
If your home is of a very poor standard compared to other housing in Northern Ireland the Housing Executive may consider you homeless. Your property must be in an extremely bad state. For example, it must be a threat to your health.
I can't afford my accommodation
The Housing Executive should consider you homeless if you are having serious financial problems and you can only continue to pay for your accommodation by depriving yourself of essentials such as food or heating.
I have to leave my home because it is unsuitable
The Housing Executive may accept you as homeless if it is satisfied that you had to leave your home because of exceptional circumstances. For example, a disabled person selling their home because they require ground floor accommodation and their current accommodation can't be adequately adapted.
My home is overcrowded
If your home is very overcrowded the Housing Executive may decide you are homeless. The decision will depend on your personal circumstances.
I have nowhere to put my caravan or houseboat
The Housing Executive will consider you homeless if you live in a caravan, houseboat or mobile home and there is no place where you can legally keep it or live in it.
When will the Housing Executive think I'm likely to become homeless?
The Housing Executive will consider you likely to become homeless if you are likely to lose your accommodation within the next 28 days. The Housing Executive should not wait until you are actually homeless before helping you.
Will the Housing Executive help if I've left my accommodation?
You may find it more difficult to get help from the Housing Executive if you leave your accommodation. You should only leave your accommodation if you are at risk of violence or your accommodation is damaging your health. If the Housing Executive believes that you have left your accommodation without good reason it may find you intentionally homeless. It is always best to get advice before you leave your accommodation.
What will the Housing Executive do if they decide I'm homeless?
The Housing Executive must send you a decision letter on your homeless application within 30 days. If the Housing Executive decides you are homeless it has to provide you with temporary accommodation if it believes you may be:
While you are in temporary accommodation the Housing Executive will continue to investigate your application before deciding if you are entitled to longer term accommodation. The temporary accommodation should be suitable for you and anyone who normally lives with you, and is likely to be a hostel.
If you are placed in temporary accommodation while the Housing Executive completes their investigation you may also get other help to store your belongings and furniture.
What happens if the Housing Executive decides I'm not homeless?
The Housing Executive must send you a decision letter on your homeless application within 30 days. The letter must include reasons why the Housing Executive has decided you are not homeless or threatened with homelessness.
The Housing Executive has a legal duty to give advice on homelessness and its prevention to anyone in Northern Ireland who asks for it.
If you are already living in temporary accommodation provided by the Housing Executive you will probably be asked to leave.
Can I challenge the Housing Executive's decision?
If the Housing Executive decides that you are not homeless on or after 1 December 2010 you have a statutory right to have this decision reviewed. If the review is unsuccesful you may also be able to have your case heard on appeal by a County Court.
The new system for challenging homelessness decisions is quite complex. It is important that you seek advice from a specialist agency, such as Housing Rights Service, before proceeding with this option. There are strict legal time limits in place so, if you want to challenge the decision, you should get advice immediately.