A number of specialist legal practitioners and housing charities have revealed that many seeking housing when fleeing domestic abuse are being left with no choice but to live in poor quality accommodation.
Many victims are leaving their homes with young children, having to live in dirty and unsanitary accommodation – with some evidence of mould, infestations and a lack of utilities. This raises a number of difficulties, not least the fact that they are more likely to feel forced to return to their homes where their attackers may reside in favour of more sanitary living conditions.
Professionals acting on behalf of domestic abuse victims have seen this problem arise more and more in recent years, since the number of social housing options have decreased and alternative affordable housing is even more few and far between. With benefits capped and allowances that local housing authorities offer frozen, the only landlords willing to let properties for a reduced rate are arguably offering something of lower quality. If the state of the property is so poor, this can have a direct impact on the tenant’s health.
One such case in which a mother fled abuse to be placed in a house by Homes for Haringey, the property had no electricity and an abandoned vehicle was left outside the front of the building. The mother argues that an infestation of mice was a contributory factor to her daughter’s ear infection.
When this first property proved unsuitable for the mother, the local council did respond by placing her in temporary accommodation, however this poses problems of its own. A family forced to leave their home, to then be passed on from place to place, only increases the strain and distress imposed by the situation.
Charities and legal professionals insist that more needs to be done to ensure victims are given appropriate accommodation as soon as possible, especially when proceedings are ongoing in relation to any abuse claims.
As a rule, those who have suffered domestic abuse that seek housing should be placed at the top of the priority list, and the accommodation selected should be suitable. If a victim finds that this is not the case when they are placed in a property, it is important that they understand that they can challenge the placement. Many fear that if they do not take the first accommodation they are offered they will end up homeless.
With this in mind, the results of the Women’s Aid Nowhere to Turn 2018 report revealed that 12% of women seeking emergency accommodation were left without refuge.
It is these extreme cases which demonstrate the extent of the problem with accessing housing today. Anyone who is looking for housing and is struggling to get a placement from their local authority, or anyone who has been given subpar accommodation, should speak to a housing solicitor who will be able to advise on the best course of action.
As a Director of Housing based in our Cardiff office, Heather Iqbal Rayner is experienced in homelessness matters, as well as acting for vulnerable tenants in disrepair claims, and section 204 appeals on the issue of unsuitable temporary accommodation.
Heather’s experience and dedication has seen her awarded ‘Leading Lawyer’ in the 2017 Legal 500 edition, with the Law Society Excellence Awards (LSEA) and the LawWorks Pro Bono Awards recognising her for her individual contribution as the LSEA Woman Lawyer of 2017.
Contact Heather on 020 7275 2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org for help with any housing, landlord or tenant, issue.
Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors – Domestic Abuse
If you, as a victim of domestic abuse, believe the council has not met the minimum requirements of standards when providing you with accommodation then you should get in touch with one of our housing solicitors.
We can offer expert legal advice on all housing matters including emergency accommodation and action to take if you are dissatisfied with the service your council has provided you.
Do not hesitate to call us in confidence on 0333 772 0409.
Speak to someone urgently via our dedicated and confidential domestic abuse helpline on 0800 689 3275.