Domestic Abuse

Bristol abuse victim forced to relocate after perpetrator’s relative moved into same street

Posted by
James Harbottle
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Bristol abuse victim forced to relocate Bristol abuse victim forced to relocate after perpetrator’s relative moved into same street

It is sadly not unusual for a victim of domestic abuse to be forced to leave their home, to protect themselves from further abuse.

Sometimes, however, they have nowhere else to live, in which case they may request the local authority to rehouse them.

But a Bristol woman, known only as ‘Miss B’, was forced to move again, after the local authority failed to prevent a relative of the person who abused them from moving into the same street.

Before we look at what happened to the woman, it may be useful to look at the duty of local authorities to rehouse victims of domestic abuse.

Local authority duty to rehome abuse victims

The local authority may have a duty to rehouse an abuse victim, if the victim meets certain criteria, including:

  • That the victim is unintentionally homeless. A person will be considered unintentionally homeless if it is unreasonable for them to continue to occupy accommodation because it is probable that this will lead to domestic abuse or other violence directed against them or someone who lives with them, for example a child.
  • That the victim has a priority need, for example because they are pregnant, or have dependent children living with them.

Note that for victims of abuse it is not necessary to have a local connection to the area of the local authority to which they apply for rehousing. Often, victims of abuse will move to another council area to escape their perpetrator. If they do, the local authority in the area to which they moved will not be allowed to refer them back to their ‘home’ council if there is a risk of violence to them if they return.

Unfortunate coincidence

Sad man holding head

So what happened to Miss B?

In 2016 she and her children joined the Bristol City Council housing register because of domestic abuse. She gave the Council the name and address of her perpetrator.

In February 2021 she was accepted for a housing association property, and she moved into the property with her children in April 2021.

In July 2021, the housing association allocated a relative of Miss B’s perpetrator, Ms D, a property in the same street as Miss B. Ms D has a different surname to Miss B’s perpetrator.

When Miss B became aware Ms D was living on the same road as her, she contacted the housing association, telling them that she was at risk from the perpetrator and his family. She asked the housing association to move Ms D to a different property, but the housing association told her it could not force Ms D to move. Miss B did not return to her property.

The housing association contacted the Council, explaining the situation, and asking it to provide Miss B with emergency accommodation until it found a suitable alternative, which the Council did.

The housing association offered Miss B a new property, which she accepted and moved into in September 2021.

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Miss B’s mother made a complaint against the Council, asking how it was possible that Ms D was housed on the same road as her.

Miss B’s mother was unhappy with the Council’s response, and took the complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

After investigating the complaint the Ombudsman found that there was no information on Miss B or Ms D’s housing applications to indicate they knew each other, or that Ms D knew Miss B’s perpetrator. The fact that Miss B and Ms D were housed on the same road was an unfortunate coincidence, and not something that either the Council or the housing association could have foreseen.

When the Council became aware that Miss B was concerned about her and her children’s safety because Ms D had moved into the same road, it accepted her homelessness application and offered emergency accommodation. The housing association offered her an urgent management transfer, and she was rehoused within six weeks.

However, the Ombudsman also found that there had been problems with the Council’s handling of the complaint made against them, for which the Council apologised.