It is never too early to think about your future, and a big part of that is where you are going to call home.
Your entitlement to service accommodation ends on your last day of service, which is sometimes well planned for, and other times can happen earlier than expected.
Either way, you can access the Joint Service Housing Advice Office for more information on civilian housing for you and your family at any time during your career, or resettlement. This way you can make an informed decision about your transition from service accommodation to civilian housing, potentially well in advance of your last day of service. Accessing this service will allow you to explore the options available to you, including purchasing your own home, help to buy schemes and private and social renting.
Last Days of Service
If your last day of service is less than 6 months away and you should be issued with a Certificate of Cessation, which indicates the date on which entitlement to occupy service accommodation ends. If you are in a position where you have not yet considered your housing options, or you know you will be at risk of homelessness on discharge, then it is important to ask the council for help with housing on receipt of this certificate.
At Risk of Homelessness
The Homelessness Reduction Act came into force in April 2018, which doubled the period you can be at risk of homelessness from 4 weeks to 8 weeks, giving the Local Authority much longer to work with you to prevent you becoming homeless. If you are required to leave service accommodation in less that eight weeks and you haven’t secured accommodation it is likely that The Secretary of State will have completed a Duty to Refer and informed the Local Authority that you will be homeless in less that 56 days. This should be done with your consent and will enable to Local Authority to contact you, if you have not already made that step yourself.
At this point the Local Authority must offer you an assessment of your housing needs, considering affordability and any additional needs you have, and then provide you with a personal housing plan. This will set out steps that you and the council must both do to try and find you accommodation. This can include looking at private rented properties, referrals to suitable accommodation and bidding for social housing. The aim is to prevent you from experiencing homelessness by helping you to access long term accommodation during this period.
If you have not secured alternative accommodation by your last day of service, you can stay in forces accommodation if you have nowhere else to go. The MOD will have to issue a 93-day Notice to Vacate. It is very important that you discuss the impact of leaving your accommodation with the Housing Options Team you are working with before doing so.
There is a possibility that you may qualify for emergency housing if you class as priority. To be in priority need for housing you:
- Are pregnant or a partner you live with is pregnant.
- Have dependent children who live with you.
- Are under 21 and spent time in care when you were 16 or 17.
- Are considered vulnerable
To be considered vulnerable means you would find it harder to cope with being homeless than other people in the same situation. It is important at this point to tell the council anything that could make it harder for you, such as a medical condition or mental illness. Let them know who you are and what you have done – front-line role, disabled or seriously injured, released on medical grounds and have you Medical History Release Form ready if you have one.
If you are deemed a priority and are offer emergency accommodation the council will continue to support you until long term accommodation is sourced, which can be any of the options outlined above.
- Let them know who you are, being ex-service personnel can increase the support available to you and your family. Up to 5 years after leaving the armed forces you can apply to go on the housing register with any local authority, and even get extra priority.
- There are lots of charities that specialise in supporting ex-service personnel, make the most of their knowledge and support.
- Remember that some rules still apply, for example if you are discharged on disciplinary grounds or leave your forces accommodation before you have to, you can be deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ and you won’t be eligible for long-term housing.
- Plan ahead! Even if you are not thinking about leaving yet, the time will come. Prepare for the next part of your life.
- Each local authority has their own policies, which can vary, but you can refer to ‘Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities’ for how the Homelessness Reduction Act should be applied.