You're only entitled to 3 reasonable offers. If you're offered a property that you don't want you'll lose one of these offers unless you can show the Housing Executive or housing association that the offer wasn't reasonable. How you challenge the decision depends on whether you've passed the 4 homelessness tests or not.
A reasonable offer
The Housing Executive or housing association will decide if the accommodation is suitable. When making an offer the Housing Executive or housing association should consider the size, suitability and condition of the accommodation.
The property has to be big enough for your household. If you have kids who don't live with you all the time, you'll be offered a 2 bedroom property, even if you have more than one child. The Housing Executive uses the following measurements to work out how many people can use a bedroom:
- a room less than 3.7 square metres (40 square feet) is not suitable as a bedroom;
- a room between 3.7 and 6.5 square metres (40 and 69 square feet) is only suitable for a child under 7;
- a room between 6.5 and 9.3 square metres (70 and 99 square feet) is suitable for one person of any age, two people of the same sex under 18 or two children under 7;
- a room over 9.3 square metres (100 square feet) is suitable for one person of any age, two people living as a couple, two people of the same sex under 18 or two children under 7.
A bedroom must have suitable headroom and should contain a bed and appropriate furniture; the Housing Executive's guidance identifies this as a wardrobe and chest of drawers. If you are over 18 or you are a single parent you won't be expected to share a bedroom. If a property has 2 reception rooms, one of these rooms will be seen as a bedroom.
The property you're offered needs to be suitable for your needs. The accommodation should also be in a suitable location, and should usually be in one of your areas of choice. Don't forget that your original areas of choice are automatically widened after 6 months if you haven't received an offer. The property might be unsuitable if
- you have to take more than 2 buses to get to work or bring your children to school
- the property is too far away from essential support you get from friends, relatives or professionals.
The accommodation should be safe for you to occupy after the Housing Executive or housing association offer it. It should be in a reasonable state of repair. You should not be offered accommodation if:
- it is not structurally stable;
- it has damp (not temporary condensation);
- there is no lighting or heating;
- there is no running water;
- there is no sink with hot water in the kitchen;
- there is no bath, shower or toilet;
- the drains don't work properly.
What can you do if the offer wasn't reasonable?
You're allowed 3 reasonable offers of accommodation. If you've been offered a property that's not reasonable, because of it's size, suitability or condition, you should try to get this offer taken off your file so it won't count as one of the three you're entitled to. How you do this depends on whether or not you've passed the 4 homelessness tests.
Challenging the offer using the legal right to review
You can only challenge the offer using a legal right to review if you're on the waiting list after passing the 4 homelessness tests. The process for requesting a review using this legal right can be complicated. There are very strict time limits which apply. You'll normally need to request the review within 28 days of receving the offer. A housing adviser may be able to help you challenge the decision using the legal review process. Get in touch with Housing Rights who may be able to help.
Challenging an offer using the complaints process
If you haven't passed the 4 homelessness tests you won't have a legal right to request a review of the offer. However, you can use the formal complaints process to challenge the offer. You need to complain to whichever landlord made the offer. The offer will count as one of your 3 reasonable offers unless the complaint is successful and the offer is removed.
You don't need to do anything if you receive a multiple offer that you're not interested in. Multiple offers are made to several different applicants at once. They won't count as one of your 3 reasonable offers unless
- you want the property and
- you are higher on the waiting list for that property type than anyone else who has expressed interest in the property and
- the landlord makes a formal offer to you.