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Help for tenants made homeless by riots and civil disorder

croydon riotsI had a request recently to take a look at the rights of tenants made homeless by the recent riots.

An interesting subject and topical as many families, at least 100 it is estimated, will have lost their homes in the riots last week.

So if you have been made homeless as a result of civil disorder, what should you do?

1. See what government help is available

If you have lost your home during a high profile riots it is likely that there will be government support and help available. The best place to find out about this is probably via your Local Authority homelessness department.

Accordingly to a very helpful article in the Guardian, government has pledged support in addition to support already available to Local Authorities via a scheme called The Bellwin Scheme.

The Bellwin scheme is described as follows:

A Bellwin scheme may be activated in any case where an emergency or disaster involving destruction of or danger to life or property occurs and, as a result, one or more local authorities incur expenditure on, or in connection with, the taking of immediate action to safeguard life or property, or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience, in their area or among its inhabitants.

There is no automatic entitlement to financial assistance: Ministers are empowered by Section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to decide whether or not to activate a scheme after considering the circumstances of each individual case.

Government disaster support schemes should always be your first port of call, as they will be specifically set up for your situation and hopefully help will be made available promptly.  As government will want to be seen to be doing something.

2. Request help from your Local Authority homlessness department

As well as the emergency specific schemes discussed above, Local authorities also have a statutory duty to rehouse tenants made homeless who are considered to be in ‘priority need’. There are several types of ‘priority need’ specified and rehousing is most commonly requested where the tenant has a young family or is pregnant, or is vulnerable through old age or disability.

However, there is also an ’emergency’ category. This refers specifically to fire and flood and ‘other disaster’, and it seems that this other disaster must be some form of physical damage or threat of damage.

However if your home has been burned out as a result of looters setting it on fire, no doubt this would qualify. So you should be entitled to emergency re-housing.

Statutory guidance is available to Local Authorities in the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities where you will find the various rules set out.

People are also considered to be in priority need if they have been made homeless due to violence, or threats of violence which are likely to be carried out. This is less likley to apply to the problems we have had over the past week however and are aimed more at violent partners and long term threats carried out over a period of time.

3. Take a look at your tenancy agreement

Assuming it is not burnt of course! Often though, tenancy agreements will provide for the tenancy to end if the property is destroyed. There is also a rule in the law of contract which provides for contracts to be ‘discharged by frustration‘. For example if it impossible to continue with the contract as the subject matter has been destroyed.

However if the property is not completely destroyed but is just badly damaged, you may find that the situation is covered by your landlord’s insurance and that the insurers will be able to cover the cost of re-housing while repair work is being done.

Those are three sources of help that I have found. Are there any I have missed?

Croydon riots picture by Peter G Trimming

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2 Responses to Help for tenants made homeless by riots and civil disorder

  1. It is great to see some help and advice for all those who have been seriously effected by the riots last week. It really was tragic, especially for those who were not even taking part in the violence. You have posted some very simple but extreamly helpful advice for those who are renting their property and are at a loss with what to do. I have to agree taking a look at your tennacny agreement is always the best place to start as they usually cover this kind of disaster.

    I hope that those affected by the riots do find the help and advice they are looking for in order to return to normality.

    Sophie Hobson, Deputy Editor of LondonLovesBusiness

  2. It seems it’s particularly bad news for regulated or assured [non-shorthold] tenants, who otherwise enjoyed a high degree of security of tenure, (as well as a low rent), if their contract is frustrated due to destruction by fire of the rental property. But thanks for clarifying the position, as I didn’t know this before.

    Thanks also for the very helpful links regarding the local authority’s obligations.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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