Housing options for victims of domestic violence
If you decide to leave home or your abuser makes you leave, there are several housing options available to you. See the section on money for information on Housing Benefit to help pay for your housing costs.
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 for many women this is only a short-term solution.
If you do decide on this option and you live in social housing you must inform your local ward housing team or your housing association that you are unable to stay in your home as soon as possible.
Going to a women’s refuge
Refuges are safe houses for women and children who are escaping domestic violence. 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 (although some do not take boys over 12 - the Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 will be able to tell you which ones do) who have experienced or have been threatened with domestic abuse.
Conditions in refuges vary according to availability of resources and you will almost certainly have to share communal facilities, such as the bathroom and kitchen. However, the workers will try to make you welcome and comfortable.
Many women find that sharing is a small price to pay compared with the immense support available from living with other women who have had similar experiences to them.
Some Women’s Aid organisations also have their own second stage temporary accommodation, offering more independent living, which it may be possible to move on to from a refuge whilst you are awaiting more permanent housing.
In London, women are normally referred to a refuge away from their immediate area as a safety precaution.
Refuges accept all women affected by domestic violence but there are also some refuges specifically for Asian women, African women, African-Caribbean women, Latin American women, Irish women, women with learning difficulties and women with mental health issues. There are some refuge spaces in London that are suitable for women with disabilities, although there is no specific refuge.
You can refer yourself to a refuge by calling the Domestic Violence Helpline on (0808 2000 247) or by contacting the police. You can also ask your ward housing team or other agencies to refer you.
Camden Council Housing department
If you are homeless
All councils have a legal duty to give advice and help to homeless people. If you are too frightened to stay in Camden you can apply to any other local authority. As you have left your home due to violence, you will not be considered intentionally homeless.
You will probably have to spend time in bed and breakfast accommodation or a hostel before you are rehoused permanently.
If you are a council tenant:
Our housing department has a harassment policy that is used for dealing with domestic violence. The housing officers have been trained to respond sympathetically and give advice on your options.
Your housing officer will explain the support they can offer, e.g. alarms, neighbour support network, prioritisation with mobile patrol, injunctions. If you would still be in danger you can apply for a transfer, within Camden or to another borough.
Under our harassment policy your request will be given a high priority. This can happen either whilst you are in temporary accommodation (including a refuge), staying with friends or staying in your home as long as you are a council tenant.
If you leave your home due to domestic violence, we would like to remove your abuser from the property. To do this they will need your agreement as you will be required to attend court to give evidence of the violence you have suffered.
Privately renting or buying accommodation
If you decide to rent privately, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit. Housing Aid Centres can give you advice on tenancy agreements and information about places to try.
You may be in a position to consider buying somewhere to live but this will inevitably take time so not many women use this as an emergency option.
Gaining control of your present home
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.
If you wish to remain in your home but are fearful because of security and safety issues, you can apply to the Safehome Project. Safehome is not limited to Council or Housing Association tenants and includes any person living in Camden who is threatened with homelessness due to domestic violence.
This scheme provides additional security measures and support to victims of domestic violence thus allowing victims to stay in their homes should they want to. The scheme is voluntary and participants can decide whether they can remain safe in their homes once security adaptations have been made following discussion of all their options.