When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Challenging a negative decision on homelessness or suitability of accommodation

Some of the decisions made by the Housing Executive can be challenged using your legal right to request a review.  It’s best to get advice from a housing adviser, like those at Housing Rights, if you’re planning on doing this.  The law allows you 28 days to ask for a review from the day you are notified of the decision.

Decisions that can be reviewed

There are 3 types of decisions that can be reviewed.  You can request a review if the Housing Executive has

  • decided that you are not eligible for assistance as a homeless person
  • decided that you failed the homelessness, priority need or intentionality tests
  • decided that you have passed all 4 homelessness tests and has offered you temporary or permanent accommodation that isn’t suitable.

Other types of decisions can be challenged using the Housing Executive’s complaints procedure or by judicial review.

Your decision letter

Before you can ask for a review you need to know why the Housing Executive has made the decision.  The Housing Executive’s letter has to give you adequate reasons that explain why it came to this decision. If your letter doesn’t explain why the decision is negative, write to the Housing Executive and ask for a proper decision letter.  Ask that this letter sets out

  • what information the Housing Executive took into account when making its decision
  • what, if any, investigations the Housing Executive made when looking into the issue and
  • what, if any, information the Housing Executive disregarded when making its decision.

Ask the Housing Executive to confirm that your time limit for asking for a review won’t start until you get a proper decision letter.  If you’re currently living in temporary housing provided by the Housing Executive get them to confirm in writing that you can continue to live there until the review has concluded.

Requesting your review

The law allows you 28 days from when you are told about the decision to request the review.  The Housing Executive may extend this to 40 days.  Check your letter to find out when the deadline is for making your request. Make sure you request the review before this deadline is up.  You don’t need to make a request in writing, you can do it over the phone.

If you’re going to submit more evidence or a written argument to the Housing Executive let them know that you will be doing this and ask for a deadline for sending this in.  The Housing Executive has 8 weeks from when you request the review to make a final decision on your case.

When you ask for the review you can also ask for a copy of your file.  This will help you to understand how the Housing Executive came to its decision.  Under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 the Housing Executive must provide you with a copy of your file within 40 days of your request.  The Housing Executive can charge you a fee of £10 for providing this information.

Once you’ve requested your review you’ll have a chance to make your case in writing to the Housing Executive.  A more senior officer to the one who made the original decision will review your file, including any new information you’ve sent in.  

Paying for the review

You don’t have to pay for the review.  Advice organisations like Housing Rights won’t charge for their services, but you may have to pay the Housing Executive a fee of £10 before you can get a copy of your file.   If you’re on a low income Housing Rights or a solicitor may be able to apply for Legal Aid to cover this charge.

Information to include in the review

You don’t need to have a reason to request a review, but it’s a good idea to point out anything that was wrong or missed out in the original assessment.  You can submit new evidence as part of your review.  You’ll need to submit everything within 8 weeks of requesting the review.

Try to structure your argument properly and keep copies of any letters that you send in as part of your review.  Doing a review by yourself is difficult so see if someone at Housing Rights can help you.

Who does the review?

Your review will always be done by someone who is in a more senior position than the person who made the original decision.  This person can’t have been involved in the original decision making process. Decisions about homelessness, priority need and intentionality are usually made by a Senior Housing Officer or an Assistant District Manager.  A District Manager will usually review any decisions on eligibility.

The outcome of a review

The Housing Executive should make its decision on the review within 8 weeks.  There are 3 possible outcomes

  • the original decision is reversed
  • the reviewing officer might decide that there were no problems or irregularities with the original assessment and agree with the original decision or
  • the reviewing officer might feel that, although there were some issues with the original assessment, the decision is still likely to be negative.  If this happens you’ll be notified in writing and given a final chance to submit more evidence to support your case.

If the decision isn’t overturned in the review you may be able to appeal this decision at the County Court.

Appealing to County Court

The County Court will only hear a case on a point of law.  This means that there has to have been some sort of procedural error in how the Housing Executive carried out your assessment and review.  You can’t appeal to the County Court just because you think the decision is wrong.  There has to be a problem with how the Housing Executive followed the law on homelessness.   You will need a solicitor to help you with an appeal.