Domestic Abuse & Housing Law
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 came into force in April 2021 and has perhaps provided additional protection to those who are a victim of domestic abuse, especially regarding housing.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is a single incident or a pattern of conduct, whereby one person’s conduct/behaviour is abusive towards a person that they are ‘personally connected’ to. This abuse can include but is not limited to:-
- controlling or coercive behaviour,
- physical or sexual abuse,
- violent or threatening behaviour, and
- economical, psychological, emotional, or other abuse.
Individuals are ‘personally connected’ if they are:
- due to be, have been or are married or in a civil partnership,
- are or have been in an intimate relationship, and
- are, or have been parents to the same child.
Victims of domestic abuse and their housing rights
It is important to note that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has had an important ramification to housing providers and this has helped ensure victims of domestic abuse are best protected.
Individuals who are sadly made homeless because of domestic abuse are protected by Section 78 Housing Act 1996, as they will now be made a priority by their local authority for assistance. All local authorities have a duty to accommodate individual victims of domestic abuse and their children, as well as those who are at a ‘probable risk’ of domestic abuse, if they are made homeless by no fault of their own.
When finding an individual new housing, the local authority is bound to assess that individual’s needs, to ensure that the house is suitable. This duty extends to the local authority to provide temporary accommodation to victims of domestic abuse in the interim, and this accommodation must be in a location and place where they are safe.
In addition to the above, it is reassuring to note that if you are rehoused by the local authority, your private data is never to be revealed, and this even extends to a former next of kin.
The Housing Act 1985, already made provisions for those who had left the property due to violence or threats of violence and where the landlord is satisfied that the person who had left, is likely to never return. Although the 2021 Act does not make any direct amendments to this provision, it is likely that the court shall begin to look at the definition of domestic abuse as defined within the 2021 Act.
Therefore, social housing landlords should feel confident in bringing possession claims against those who have, in fact, been convicted of domestic abuse under the 2021 Act. However, it must be noted that the 1985 Housing Act will only apply where the abuse was carried out by a spouse of a cohabiting partner and does not extend to those who are ‘personally connected’. Landlords may therefore wish to incorporate a clause within their tenancy agreement to ensure that they are able to take possession if domestic abuse occurs within their property.
However, where landlords are unable to take possession due to the victim and perpetrator not being ‘personally connected’, landlords may be advised to consider whether any of the absolute or discretionary anti-social behaviour grounds of possession may apply.
Non-molestation order and occupational orders
In addition to the above, it is important to note that victims of domestic abuse are entitled to apply to the court for a non-molestation order or an occupational order.
A non-molestation order is a type of injunction which aims to protect you or any relevant child from violence or harassment. These orders protect you by prohibiting someone from contacting you, attending your property or from coming within a certain radius of your property. Please note that you are still able to apply for these orders if you and the other party still reside together.
An occupational order is a type of injunction which deals with who can reside within the family home. This order can:
- Remove an abuser from the property;
- Order your abuser to continue paying the mortgage, bills, council tax etc;
- Order an abuser to remain a certain distance from the property; and
- Order your abuser to allow you access to your property.
It is apparent that the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act has helped ensure that those who are made homeless due to domestic abuse are best protected by offering suitable housing, which fits their individual needs. Despite this development within the law, it must be noted that the 2021 Act did not extend to best protect landlords within possession proceedings, therefore, it is advisable that landlords obtain further advice before the commencement of a tenancy to help best protect themselves and individuals. However, it is never too late for a landlord to obtain advice regarding their and their tenant’s rights.
Tackling issues relating to domestic abuse
Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Family Law department should you require further assistance regarding any of the above-mentioned issues.
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