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Repeat applications

This content applies to England & Wales

When an applicant can make a repeat application.

The threshold for a repeat application

The law does not limit the number of applications that a homeless person can make to a local authority. In fact, where the authority has accepted the main housing duty towards an applicant and that subsequently ends, the legislation states that the same applicant may make a fresh application to that authority.[1]

The local authority can only refuse to accept a repeat application and rely upon its previous decision where the application is made on 'exactly the same facts as the previous application'.[2] Special rules apply to a reapplication when a new situation of homelessness arises following acceptance of a final 'private rented sector (PRS) offer' (see below).

Once the application is accepted, the local authority must carry out inquiries into whether any duty is owed to the applicant. For further information see the page on Duty to carry out inquiries. The fact that fresh inquiries will be carried out does not mean that the local authority will make a decision in the applicant's favour.

A local authority cannot rely on a discharge of duty by another authority. It can consider what the first authority discovered in its investigations but it must make its own inquiries and reach its own decision.[3]

Factors to consider

The Court of Appeal set out how a local authority should decide whether it has to accept a repeat application, the criteria being:[4]

  • the onus to identify the facts that differentiate the fresh application from the earlier application is on the applicant. The authority should reject the application if the facts brought to its attention are fanciful, trivial or not new
  • the local authority should compare the applicant’s factual circumstances at the date of the fresh application with those at the date of the local authority’s decision in respect of the earlier application
  • when the repeat application reveals new facts, which are neither trivial nor fanciful then the authority must treat the application as valid.

The Court cautioned applicants against inventing new facts to justify a second application and pointed out the criminal sanctions in section 214 of the Housing Act 1996.

Instances of repeat applications

The issue will often arise, but is not restricted to, where the applicant was previously found to be intentionally homeless, or when the local authority had discharged its duty, for example when an applicant had been found not vulnerable and so not in priority need, or had refused an offer of suitable accommodation.

The courts found that the factual circumstances of the applicant had changed and the local authority had to accept a repeat application in the following cases:

  • the applicant had been provided with interim accommodation in a guest house. At the time, the local authority decided she was intentionally homeless. The applicant remained in the guest house and successfully applied for housing benefit. A year later she was evicted from the guest house. The court decided the application was not on exactly the same facts[5]
  • the local authority discharged its duty after the applicant refused an offer of suitable accommodation. She and her child returned to her parent’s home from where she had made her application. Subsequently two of her brother’s moved into the parental home, one of whom was a heroin addict. Two years after her initial application she again applied as homeless. The local authority’s refusal to accept her repeat application was quashed[6]
  • the local authority found an applicant affected by mental health issues and depression as not vulnerable and in priority need. After two unsuccessful applications, the applicant's solicitor re-applied to the local authority adducing new medical evidence as to the applicant's increase risk of suicide, which the authority failed to investigate on the basis that the new evidence did not disclosed any new fact. The authority refusal to accept the new application and carry out proper inquires lead to the quashing of the authority's refusal[7]
  • the applicant and her husband had made a joint homelessness application for them and their nine children, but were found to be intentionally homeless. After two years, her husband left and her three eldest children ceased to be dependent on her. She then made a new homelessness application for herself and six of her children, but the local authority decided that it was based exactly on the same facts as her earlier application and refused to accept it. The court held that the authority's decision was irrational and that the fact that the new application was a single one rather than a joint one, and that the number of people seeking assistance had changed, both constituted a relevant change of circumstances.[8]

Reapplication after PRS offer

If an applicant who, having accepted a 'private rented sector (PRS) offer' in full and final discharge of the main housing duty (ie under section 193(7AA) of the Housing Act 1996 - for further information about a final PRS offer see the page on Cessation of duty), makes a further homelessness application to a local authority, within two years of the date of her/his acceptance of the original PRS offer (ie not the date when the tenancy commenced or the applicant moved in), and the local authority has reason to believe that the applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homeless, it must provide interim suitable accommodation while it carries out inquiries regardless of whether the applicant still has a priority need.[9]

If the applicant is threatened with homelessness the authority must take reasonable steps to ensure that the applicant does not lose her/his accommodation. If the local authority is satisfied that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homeless the full housing duty is owed (see the page Main housing duty).

For the purpose of a reapplication following a PRS offer, an applicant who has been given a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is to be treated as being homeless from the date on which the notice expires, or threatened with homelessness from the date the notice is issued.[10]

The reapplication must be made by the original applicant and not another member of her/his household. The main duty will also revive if an applicant secures her/his own accommodation at the expiry of the term of the original PRS offer (usually 12 months) and then becomes homeless again within two years of her/his acceptance of the original PRS offer.[11]

The applicant can apply to any local authority, but where the PRS offer was out of borough, the local authority will, after completing its inquiries, be able to refer the applicant back to the original authority provided that neither the applicant nor any person reasonable expected to reside with her/him will run the risk of domestic violence.[12] See the page on PRS offers and referral for more on this.

The main duty can be revived by reapplication only once. If an applicant loses her/his PRS accommodation for a second time after the main duty has been revived in the above way, her/his current priority need status will be relevant and considered by the local authority. Equally, the normal rules on referral to another local authority will apply.

The reapplication provisions do not apply to restricted cases (see the ‘Restricted cases’ heading on the page Cessation of duty).

Supplementary statutory guidance has been issued to explain the changes to homelessness legislation introduced by the Localism Act 2011 and by the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012.

Wales

The information on this page reflects the homelessness provisions under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. These apply to all homelessness applications made to local authoirities in England and to applications made in Wales before 27 April 2015 (with some possible variations contained in Welsh regulations and code of guidance).

For the rules under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 applicable in Wales from 27 April 2015 see Homelessness in Wales or visit Shelter Cymru.

[1] s.193(9) Housing Act 1996.

[2] R v Harrow LBC ex p Fahia [1998] 1 WLR 1396, HL; Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum [2005] EWCA Civ 340; R (on the application of Griffin) v Southwark LBC [2004] EWHC 2463 (Admin); Gardiner v Haringey LBC [2009] EWHC 2699 (Admin); R (on the application of Hoyte) v Southwark LBC [2016] EWHC 1665 (Admin); R (on the application of Kensington & Chelsea RLBC v Ealing LBC [2017] WEHC 24 (Admin); para 6.27 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, July 2006.

[3] Eren v Haringey LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 409.

[4] Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum [2005] ECWA Civ 340.

[5] R v Harrow LBC ex parte Fahia (1998) 30 HLR 1124, HL.

[6] Rikha Begum v Tower Hamlets LBC [2005] ECWA Civ 340.

[7] R (on the application of Hoyte) [2016] EWHC 1665 (Admin).

[8] R (on the application of Abdulrahman) v Hillingdon LBC [2016] EWHC 2647 (Admin).

[9] s.195A Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s. 149(4) Localism Act 2011.

[10] s.195A(2) and (4) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s. 149(4) Localism Act 2011.

[11] para 32, Supplementary Guidance on the homelessness changes in the Localism Act 2011 and on the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012, DCLG, November 2012.

[12] s.198(2Z) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s. 149(6) Localism Act 2011.

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