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Councils tell homeless to take private rental homes, or nothing

New rules have come into operation, allowing local councils to discharge their duties to homeless people by offering them homes in the private rental sector, housing minister Mark Prisk has announced.

Previously, homeless households could turn down a private rental home and hold out for a council house instead, forcing councils to continue to house them in expensive, and supposedly short-term, accommodation during what could be a very long wait.

If the offer of a private rental home is now rejected, the council now need do no more to help the homeless applicant.

Prisk said that the changes would make waiting lists fairer and help councils fulfil their legal duty to homelessness people, without the extra expense of long-term temporary accommodation.��But he said the new protections would also ensure that every rented home offered by councils would be good-quality, suitable accommodation.

The safeguards include a valid EPC and current gas safety certificate, together with an acceptable tenancy agreement. The council must also satisfy itself that the landlord is a fit and proper person.

Prisk said: “For too long, councils have been restricted in the way they provided homeless assistance when good quality rented accommodation was available right on their doorstep. Today’s changes will lead to a fairer system.

“The safeguards we’ve put in place will give vulnerable families the reassurance they need whether they’re housed in the private or social rented sector, and with new freedoms and flexibilities, councils can now fulfil their duty and provide a safe and secure roof for the people who need it most.”

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