Housing advice - Domestic violence and abuse
Examples of domestic violence can be:
- threatening behaviour
- psychological abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- financial abuse
- emotional abuse
Domestic violence and abuse can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender identity or reassignment, race, religion, class, sexual orientation or marital status.
If you are in immediate danger call 999 and ask for the police
Stay with family or friends
This may be a safe option for you and give you some support. However, it is possible that your abuser will guess where you are, which may cause problems and may only be a short-term solution. If you do decide on this option and you live in social housing you must inform your landlord that you are unable to stay in your home as soon as possible.
Going to a refuge
Women's Refuges are safe houses for women and children who are escaping domestic abuse. Help will be available on matters such as welfare rights, legal issues and accommodation options.
Refuge addresses are confidential to ensure the safety of those who live there. Refuges accept all women, with or without children who have experienced or have been threatened with domestic abuse.
There is a considerable shortage of emergency refuge/safe house provision for male victims of domestic abuse including those with children. In these circumstances, it is likely that male victims may have to move a considerable distance to access a refuge or may not be able to access a place at all.
For more information, please see the following Refuge Services page on the Reducing the Risk of Domestic Violence website
Gaining control of your present home
There are a number of legal remedies that victims of domestic abuse can pursue, some of which are listed below.
Shelter Legal have published a list of all the court orders available in England for a person experiencing domestic abuse to remove the perpetrator from their home and prevent abuse. It includes information about the process for applying for Family Law Act 1996 and Protection from Harassment Act 1997 orders, the difficulties with each, and how they are enforced. Read more on the shelter website.
Under the Family Law Act 1996 you can apply to the courts to have your abuser removed from your present home (this is called an Occupation Order). Whether or not you decide to take this option will depend on how safe you feel you may be in your home.
If you are getting divorced, jointly-owned property will be sorted out as part of the divorce settlement. However, this may take a long time and you may wish to make alternative arrangements in the meantime.
You may be able to get an injunction to stop your partner or ex-partner from entering your home. You can:
- Apply for an injunction through the National Centre for Domestic Violence website
- Find out more about injunctions on GOV.UK
The Council or the police could help to make your home safer through extra security measures such as changing the locks and installing an alarm.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO)
Domestic Violence Protection Orders enable the Police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.
With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.
Sanctuary schemes offer victims of domestic violence the option to remain safely and securely in their homes, through the installation of free, tailored home security. Every Sanctuary is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the individual and property involved. Police Crime Prevention Officers visit the home and will recommend appropriate security measures, which is then completed by a private contractor. If your landlord is a housing association they may have their own sanctuary scheme.
If you are a tenant you will need your landlord's permission before any safety measures are installed in your home.
There is also a countywide Hertfordshire Home Security Service. This allows access to basic home security checks/work (i.e. advice and fitting of additional locks on doors, windows, gates and garages), fire safety checks/advice (including installation of smoke alarms) and falls prevention advice to those classed as vulnerable. The service is free.
Homeless or threatened with homelessness
The Housing Act 1996 says that it is not reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic abuse or other violence against them or a member of their household. If it is not reasonable for you to continue to occupy your accommodation you meet the definition of homeless and are entitled to homelessness advice and assistance from the council.
If you are at risk of domestic violence or abuse from say, a person who is due to be released from prison, you are threatened with homelessness as it may not be reasonable for you to continue to occupy your home once the perpetrator is released.
All councils have a legal duty to give advice and help to homeless people. If you are at risk of further violence or abuse if you stay in East Herts you can apply to any other local authority in England. For further information on homelessness and the work the Council will do, please see our Homeless or Threatened with Homelessness page
What the Council will do
We will try to help you stay in your home. If this is not possible or you are already homeless, we will work with you to find a suitable home.
You will be invited to an appointment with a housing options officer who will assess your housing and support needs and agree a personal housing plan with you. This is a plan of the steps you will be expected to take to remain in your current home if you have one or find somewhere to live. It will also set out how the council will support you and what other agencies you should engage with to help you find and sustain a home.
There are a number of ways that we may help, such as referring you to refuge or hostel accommodation or lending you the deposit for a home in the private rented sector. You will be advised on making an application to the Housing Register via the HomeOptions website, if you have not already done so.
We will also assess whether you have a priority need under the terms of the Housing Act 1996. Some households such as those that include dependent children or a pregnant woman will automatically be in priority need. If this is not the case we will look at whether you are in priority need due to being vulnerable.
In doing so, we will take account of all relevant factors that might contribute to you being significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if made homeless. We will take into consideration:
- the impact that domestic violence or abuse has had on you;
- any mental or physical health problems;
- drug and/or alcohol issues;
- the impact of any time you have spent in care or the armed forces;
- other factors that might limit your ability to find and sustain accommodation;
- any support you are getting from either formal or informal sources.
Additionally, we may investigate whether you have a local connection. To have a connection to East Herts you must:
- have lived in the district for six out of the last 12 months or three out of the last five years, by choice; or
- work in the district; or
- have a close adult family member that lives in the district and has done do for at least five years; or
- have another special reason for needing to live in East Herts
If you become homeless
If an applicant does not have a local connection, the council will usually refer them to a local authority to which they do have a connection. However, you will not be referred to a local authority in which you or a member of your household would be at risk of violence or abuse.
If you are not in priority need, the council will not have a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation. In these circumstances, we will continue to work with you for up to 56 days to help you to find somewhere to live.
If we decide that you are in priority need and have a local connection or that you do not need a local connection because you would be at risk of violence or abuse in another local authority area, you will be provided with temporary accommodation for up to 56 days. During this time we will continue to work with you to find a more permanent home. We will also look at the circumstances that caused you to become homeless and make a decision on whether you are intentionally homeless. You will not be intentionally homeless if you had to leave your home due to domestic violence or abuse.
If you are in priority need and not intentionally homeless, the council will continue to provide you with temporary accommodation until we are able to offer you more permanent accommodation either in the private rented sector or in social housing.
Support, information and advice services
National Domestic Violence Helpline - Tel: 0808 2000 247
The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.
The Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline is a confidential, free, support and signposting service for anyone affected by domestic abuse. Tel: 08 088 088 088 between 9am-9pm Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm weekends
Tel: 03301 025811 (24 hour service)
Herts Sunflower is a service supporting people who have been abused or people who know someone who has been abused.
Tel: 03000115555 (option 3). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beacon Hertfordshire provides support for victims of crime, tailored to individual needs. You do not have to report the crime to the Police to access the service.
Tel: 03301 025811 (24 hr emergency line). Email: email@example.com
Safer Places is an independent charity which provides a comprehensive range of services to men, women and children affected by all forms Domestic Abuse who live in Mid, West, South and North Essex, East Hertfordshire and Southend.
Tel: 0808 801 0327 freephone (Monday to Friday 10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Men's Advice Line provides a range of services aimed at men experiencing domestic abuse from their partner.
Email: email@example.com - Tel: 020 7251 6577 (Legal advice line), 020 7490 2562 (Legal advice line - textphone) , 020 7251 8887 (Sexual violence & Asylum & Immigration legal advice line)
Rights of Women offer free confidential legal advice to women by their telephone helplines.
For further information and help, please see our independent organisations page
Tel: 01992 537344 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Future Living provides support and counselling to men, women, children and young people who are victims of domestic abuse from their centre in Hertford.