Storage of belongings when homeless

Recently, without speculating too much, we have had an increase in families with  large amount of goods with them which they cannot store with friends or family and due to financial constraints or affordability cannot put them in rented storage.

Local Authorities, under s211 of the Housing Act (below) have a duty to act if:

  • the goods are at risk of damage or loss
  • no suitable provisions have been made
  • the authority has accepted a duty towards the household

The Authority is allowed to charge for storage etc. and we have seen expenses added to rent accounts to be repaid at a later date. However costs can be waived if the household has low income. The Authority is able to:

  • enter the property to recover goods;
  • arrange for a removal service;
  • arrange for storage facilities (own or third party);

However the duty end if:

 

  • the Authority considers there is no longer a danger of damage or loss to the goods;
  • It has fulfilled duty for the household or the household does not fall into criteria for a duty;

The Authority has to inform the household in writing if it ends its duty, (though it can continue to protect your goods after discharge of duty), if it loses touch with the Household or goods are not recovered after the duty ends the Authority can dispose of the goods as long as it follows the correct procedure.

Pre-action

If the Authority is stating they cannot help, or will not help. Below is relevant Legislation and Ombudsman cases in regards to protection of goods. Which when sent in the correct format (as per the protocol) has resulted in the Authority taking action to protect goods in a nice and speedy fashion.

Legislation 

s211 Housing Act 1996

211 Protection of property of homeless persons and persons threatened with homelessness.

(1)This section applies where a local housing authority have reason to believe that—

(a)there is danger of loss of, or damage to, any personal property of an applicant by reason of his inability to protect it or deal with it, and

(b)no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made.

(2)If the authority have become subject to a duty towards the applicant under—

  • section 188 (interim duty to accommodate),

  • section 190, 193 or 195 (duties to persons found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness), or

  • section 200 (duties to applicant whose case is considered for referral or referred),

then, whether or not they are still subject to such a duty, they shall take reasonable steps to prevent the loss of the property or prevent or mitigate damage to it.

(3)If they have not become subject to such a duty, they may take any steps they consider reasonable for that purpose.

(4)The authority may decline to take action under this section except upon such conditions as they consider appropriate in the particular case, which may include conditions as to—

(a)the making and recovery by the authority of reasonable charges for the action taken, or

(b)the disposal by the authority, in such circumstances as may be specified, of property in relation to which they have taken action.

(5)References in this section to personal property of the applicant include personal property of any person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him.

(6)Section 212 contains provisions supplementing this section.

Ombudsman Findings

London Borough of Southwark (13 000 054 )

£500 for the failure to properly manage the removal of his goods (including the £250 already awarded);

Birmingham City Council (13 013 917 )

Summary: There was fault in how the Council re-calculated removal and storage charges in line with the Ombudsman’s recommendations following an earlier report. The Council agrees to make a further adjustment to the charges made to the complainant. It will refund £250 to be offset against other debt owed by the complainant.

London Borough of Newham (13 020 442 )

Summary: there was fault in the way the Council decided to end its duty to store Miss X’s belongings when she was homeless and living in temporary accommodation. This caused Miss X injustice because some belongings were not returned and others were returned in a damaged condition. The Council has agreed to provide a suitable remedy which includes financial redress for Miss X and a review of its procedures.

199/80 Strathclyde Regional Council; 200/80 City of Glasgow DC.

Compensation was awarded where the authority failed to fulfil its duty to protect moveable property

99/B/4902 Guildford BC, Housing Aid Update October 2001.

£750 was awarded where property was damaged when stored by the local authority in a garage that was flooded. However, the authority was held not to be at fault for damage caused to property because of condensation in the temporary accommodation provided for the applicant

99/A/4394 Sutton LBC.

£600 was awarded where the local authority made no arrangements for the storage of belongings of an applicant who went into hospital from bed and breakfast provided as Part 7 accommodation. The belongings were cleared from the hotel room after the applicant died, and his wife found many items to be missing.

If you have any queries or further points to add please do let us know below.

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About Arfan Bhatti

Arfan Bhatti is a Qualified Solicitor practicing Property and Public Law department dealing with all property related work and Judicial Review cases against public bodies.Read more about Arfan or give him a call.

3 thoughts on “Storage of belongings when homeless

  1. I am a single parent. We had a Local Authority place us into temp accom which was an out of borough 3 bed maisonette, they classes as a Bed & Breakfast and quite suitable for My two daughters (Aged 5 & 6) and I and all of our possessions from our former home, a three bed, privately Rented house.

    On Tuesday, (Yesterday), we received a call from the LA Housing dept stating that they have a “ROOM” in a hostel, with shared facilities,15 miles away. I was told that I had no options but to accept. Which I did and completed the relevant paperwork. I asked about our property, furniture and other belongings specifically when we should remove them to storage. I was told that there is no provisions for storage and that we had to vacate the “B&B” that night and move into the “ROOM” after having received 6 hours notice.

    Seriously, Had I been given 5 day notice, A resonable time period, I would have all the finances, transport and manpower to expedite my move and find suitable storage. “BUT NO” They say, I have to fund my own removal, My own storage, and anything else needed. They offered NO help whatsoever and even suggested I apply toa crisis loan from the DWP. Crisis loans are no longer available for over two years now.
    Pass the buck and waste more of my very limited income that I use to care, feed and clothe my two children as well has taking them to school, with myself making four half hour trips there and back. LA want me to spend “My” Money and not it’s money. Frustrating…

    • Sorry to hear about the situation Michael. I would look into making a complaint about their refusal to assist, however this is the norm for local Authorities and with cuts to the Local Authority discretionary funds getting cut, it would not be easy to get assistance.

  2. Hello, I don’t know if anyone can help us with this…My father moved from one home to another with in the croydon borough and now deceased. He was in the second home for a very short time. I have been told from the first home that the council came to collect all his belongings to put in storage..no one seems to know which storage company, I have no idea if the council have their own storage units, if they regularly use a certain company or even if they still have his things..but does anyone know what the council use or where ? Thank you

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