In the context of recent media reports discussing statistics on refusals of offers of social housing, we outline the legal framework that applies to offers of social housing and provide important context to some common grounds of refusal.
On 12 June 2023 the Sunday Independent published an article titled ‘Too small, no garden, ‘unsuitable’ location, bad internet: Why one in five on waiting list rejected social home’, which examined the number of social housing support applicants who refused social housing offers in 2021 and 2022 and the common reasons why they did so based on data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2014.
There can be many reasons an offer of social housing is refused. Notably, these figures didn’t distinguish between ‘deemed reasonable’ refusals and other refusals, or between ‘first’ and ‘second’ refusals.
Under the law, when a person reaches the top of the social housing waiting list in their specific area they will be made an offer of social housing. Under Regulation 12(2) of the Social Housing Allocation Regulations 2011 (the 2011 Regulations) , if a person refuses two ‘reasonable’ offers, they will not be considered for a further allocation for one year. The current framework aims to strike a balance between recognising that there may be valid reasons for a person to refuse a particular offer and the high demand for, and low supply of, social housing.
Not every offer of social housing will be ‘reasonable’. Regulation 12(3) of the 2011 Regulations provides that an offer ‘shall be deemed to be reasonable where the allocation of that dwelling would, in the opinion of the authority, meet the accommodation needs and requirements of the qualified household concerned and dwelling is situated in an area of choice specified by the household’.
Generally, an offer which is not suitable to the needs of the applicant, or which is outside one of the areas specified in their housing application, will not be considered ‘reasonable’. Where a household refuses such an offer, this is not ‘counted’ as a refusal by the relevant local authority.
‘Unreasonable’ offers might be houses which are not sufficiently adapted to a disability need of the applicant; not in an area of choice listed on their housing application; or which do not have sufficient bedrooms for the family composition.
The Sunday Independent article also mentions applicants refusing dwellings located near their ex-partner’s home. Important context is that such refusals can often arise in the context of domestic violence, where it would be unsafe for the applicant to live near their former abuser.
Another reason quoted in the article is that some applicants declined properties because they were provided by Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) rather than the local council. It should be noted that while AHB tenancies can be an excellent option, they differ in material ways from local authority tenancies. For example, an AHB tenant has little security of tenure in the first 6 months of their tenancy due to the application of Part IV of the Residential Tenancies Acts 2004-2022, which does not apply to local authority tenancies. There can also be differences in rent calculation and other tenancy related matters.
If you want further information about social housing offers or refusals, contact Mercy Law at 01 453 7459 or email email@example.com.