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Internal review procedure

This content applies to England

Information on the procedure for internal review.

Make the request in writing

Although there is no requirement to do so, it is advisable to put a request for a review in writing so that there is a clear record of it.

Notification to applicant on receipt of request for review

When the authority (or authorities, if there is a local connection issue) receives the review request, it must notify the applicant:[1]

  • that s/he, or someone acting on her/his behalf, may make written representations to the authority in connection with the review and of any time limits that may apply (see below)
  • of the procedure to be followed in connection with the review, if it has not already done so.

It is sufficient to notify the applicant via her/his solicitors.[2]

The purpose of the notification letter from the local authority is to allow the applicant to state her/his grounds if s/he wishes, and to draw out any new information which the applicant may have.[3] The applicant does not have to provide grounds for challenging the authority's decision.

Who conducts the review?

The review may be carried out by the authority itself, or the authority may contract out its review function to someone acting as an agent on its behalf (in the latter case, the contract must not exceed ten years and must contain a condition that it can be revoked at any time).[4] The Court of Appeal has confirmed that it is lawful for a local authority to contract out homelessness reviews to an external person.[5] The terms of the contract should contain information about any conditions attached to carrying out review functions.

Where the review is to be carried out by an officer of the authority, s/he must be someone who was not involved in the original decision and who is senior to the officer(s) who made the original decision.[6] However, the maker of the original decision is not prevented from assisting the reviewer with routine matters in the conduct of the review.[7] The seniority provision does not apply if a committee of councillors had taken the original decision.

Sometimes there will be more than one review and it is not unlawful for a subsequent review to be carried out by the same officer who carried out the first review. In a case involving a second review of a suitability decision, it was held that the circumstances at the second review could not have been the same as for the original review, as something would have triggered the need for a second review. Therefore the officer was not reviewing his own earlier decision but was starting afresh.[8] It should be noted that a decision on whether to provide interim accommodation pending review can be made by the officer who made the original decision.[9]

The internal review procedure, when it is carried out by a local authority officer (as it normally is), does not breach article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ie right to a fair trial).[10]

Time limits to notify review decision

Unless a longer period of time has been agreed with the applicant, the authority (or authorities where the decision concerns a local connection referral) must notify its review decision within:[11]

  • three weeks from:
    • the date the request for a review was made where the review concerns a decision as to the steps a local authority will take to discharge the prevention or relief duty, or to end the relief duty, or to serve a notice of unreasonable and deliberate refusal to cooperate
    • the day the applicant makes representations in response to a 'minded to' letter (see below)
  • eight weeks from the date the request for a review was made, where the decision under review does not concern local connection or fall under the three-week duty rule above
  • ten weeks from the date the request for a review was made where there is a local connection issue, or twelve weeks where an arbitrator on local connection has been appointed. (An arbitrator must notify the notifying and notified authority within eleven weeks, or by no later than one week before the end of any longer period that has been agreed in order to allow the authority to comply with its deadline).

If there is no notification of a decision within the relevant deadline, the applicant should either:

  • agree in writing an extension of time with the authority. This will often be a good option provided that the client is accommodated pending review
  • appeal to the county court on a point of law [12] or apply for a judicial review). This will be necessary where the initial decision of the local authority was correct on the facts as known to it at the time, but where fresh material has been put to the authority, which it has not considered because it has failed to carry out the review.

Representations, delays and extensions

Putting together comprehensive representations can take time, especially if it is necessary to obtain the housing file and if expert evidence is needed. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary for the authority to make further inquiries with the applicant about the information s/he has provided. The Homelessness Code of Guidance suggests that authorities should be flexible about allowing further exchanges of information, having regard to the prescribed time limit, and may wish to approach the applicant to agree to an extension of the time limit.[13] An extension may also be necessary if there is to be an oral hearing (see below).

More specifically, the authority must notify the applicant that s/he must submit any written representations in connection with the review within two weeks of requesting the review where the review relates to:[14]

  • the reasonable steps in the personalised housing plan (during the prevention or relief duty),or
  • a notice bringing the prevention duty to an end.

Deficiency in original decision - 'minded to' notification

The regulations state that if, on reviewing its decision, the reviewer considers that there is a deficiency or irregularity in its original decision or the way in which it was made, but still wishes to make an adverse finding, s/he must notify the applicant that:[15]

  • s/he is minded to make an adverse decision and the reasons why, and
  • the applicant (or someone acting for her/him) is entitled to an oral hearing, or to present her/his case in writing, or both orally and in writing.

The reviewing officer does not have the discretion to decide whether or not a 'minded to' letter is necessary or of material benefit to the applicant.[16] Where an applicant elects for an oral hearing, s/he has the right to require that the local authority holds a face-to-face hearing (as opposed to a telephone conference).[17] However, as long as the 'minded to' notification refers to the right to make oral representations, there is no need for it to offer specifically to the possibility of a face to face meeting.[18]

What may constitute a deficiency

The Code of Guidance suggests that any of the following might constitute a deficiency or irregularity:[19]

  • failure to take into account relevant considerations and to ignore irrelevant ones
  • failure to base the decision on the facts
  • bad faith or dishonesty
  • mistakes in law
  • decisions that run contrary to the policy of the legislation
  • irrationality or unreasonableness
  • procedural unfairness, eg where the applicant has not been given the opportunity to comment on matters relevant to the decision.

The Court of Appeal held that a deficiency or irregularity may arise not only when the reviewing officer has found some significant legal or procedural error in the decision, but whenever s/he considered that an important aspect of the case was either not addressed or not adequately addressed.[20]

Examples of when minded-to process is triggered

The minded-to process will be triggered where, for example, the basis for finding that the Council did not owe the applicant a duty to accommodate was different between the original decision (eg not homeless) and the review decision (eg homeless but not in priority need), and where events that only occurred after the original decision, such as domestic violence in the area where the applicant would otherwise have a local connection, would have affected that decision.[21]

In one case, it was held that a homeless applicant was entitled to the benefit of the 'minded to' process where she may have misunderstood that refusing an offer of permanent accommodation - made under the council's one-offer policy - meant that the authority would discharge its duty to her. The 'minded to' process offers a procedural safeguard; the possibility that the applicant had been genuinely confused, to the extent that her refusal of the offer was not an informed decision and thus rendering the original decision deficient, was sufficient to engage the process, even though it only came to light after the original decision had been made.[22]

Where the minded-to process is not triggered

Not all differences between the original and review decisions will indicate an irregularity or deficiency, for example where the original decision referred to an applicant being an unlawful sub-tenant and the review decision referred to her being a bare licensee, as in the circumstances the accommodation did not constitute settled accommodation.[23]

In addition, where a deficiency does not affect the applicant adversely the obligation to send a minded-to letter is not triggered.[24]

Putting matters to the applicant

In the course of the review, material may come to light that is adverse to the applicant. Normally, that information should be put to the applicant so that s/he can comment on it.[25] However, in one case, where there was a dispute over priority need and a local authority merely referred the material on which the applicant relied to its independent medical adviser for his comments, the final report of the medical officer did not need to be put to the applicant.[26]

Furthermore, where a matter has already been discussed with, or put to, an applicant and s/he has not sought to challenge it, there will be no need for a minded-to letter and an oral hearing.[27]

Scope of review decision

The reviewer must consider any representations made in connection with the review request.

Relevant date

The question of whether the facts to be taken into account are those at the time of the original decision or as they stand at the time of the review will depend on what decision is being reviewed and the requirements of fairness.[28]

In relation to local connection, reviews must consider the facts of the case as they stand at the date of the review as time spent in temporary accommodation, including any period of residence after the original decision, is not to be disregarded when considering local connection.[29]

The Court of Appeal has held in certain cases that it would not be right for the authority to look only at the facts as at the date of the review decision but should be looking at the lawfulness of its original decision. In Robinson the Council had delayed taking its original decision on whether the applicant was in priority need until after her 18th birthday. In Omar the applicant's premature baby had required a check up at a local hospital at the time of the original decision and it was in the light of this fact that a review of the suitability of accommodation offered should have been conducted.[30]

In contrast in Saharsid the Court held that where the applicant's child turned five (a critical age for determining the size of property to be offered until the authority's allocation scheme), three days after the original decision, it was the facts at the time of the review that were to be taken into account in determining suitability of accommodation.[31] Note that a local authority can consider matters that were not originally part of the decision.[32]

Outcome of the review decision

The review can either confirm the original decision or make a different decision. If different, the review can make an adverse decision on different grounds to that of the original decision. The review decision can also be less favourable to the applicant than the original decision.[33]

Public sector equality duty

The public sector equality duty applies to the homelessness review process. Where a person's disability could be relevant, a local authority carrying out a review shall have 'due regard' to the need to take steps to take account of disabled persons' disabilities. An intentionally homeless decision, that was upheld on review, was quashed on appeal because the reviewing officer did not make adequate inquiries as to the nature of the applicant's disabilities.[34] The public sector equality duty will only apply where the authority has reason to believe such inquiries are relevant.

More information

See the page When can an appeal be used? for more information about how the courts are likely to interpret review decisions.

Notification of the review decision

The notification requirements of a review decision depend on whether the decision was adverse to the applicant or was a positive one.

Adverse decision

If the review decision is an adverse one, the authority must inform the applicant of:

  • its reasons for that decision[35]
  • her/his right to appeal to the county court on a point of law[36]
  • the time limits for making an appeal.[37]

If any of the above points are not met, the proper notification following the review is deemed not to have been given, and the time limit for appealing will not begin to run until proper notification has been given.[38]

There may be borderline cases in which some reasons are given but they seem inadequate. In one case, where a reviewing officer upholding an 'intentionally homeless' decision failed to explain why she agreed with the original decision or why the applicant's justification for her behaviour was rejected, the decision was quashed.[39]

In borderline cases, if the review decision letter is so deficient that the appeal process could not be conducted fairly, a letter should be sent seeking further or better reasons. If a satisfactory response is not given then judicial review may be appropriate.[40] Specialist advice should be sought, and it may be sensible to lodge an appeal request to protect the client's position pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings.

Where a review has been carried out jointly by two authorities following a local connection referral, either authority may notify the applicant of the decision.[41]

Positive decision

If the applicant's review is successful, the applicant must be notified but there is no obligation on the authority to give the reasons for its decision.[42] An applicant may be advised to ask the authority for its reasons, for example where s/he requested a review of the suitability of a property on more than one ground, it may help her/him to know the reasons why the review succeeded, especially if they are considering requesting a review of a subsequent offer.

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references on this page are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] reg 5(3) Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223; LGSCO investigation into Kettering BC ref 16 012 028.

[2] Maswaku v Westminster CC [2012] EWCA Civ 669; El Goure v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC [2012] EWCA Civ 670.

[3] para 19.3 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Allocation of Housing and Homelessness Functions Order 1996) SI 1996/3205; part 2 Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994; para 19.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] De-Winter Heald (1) Al-Jarah (2) Ahmad (3) and Kidane (4) v Brent LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 930; see also Servis v Newham LBC [2018] EWHC 1547 (QB).

[6] reg 8 Homelessness (Review Procedure etc) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223; R (on the application of Abdi) v Lambeth LBC [2007] EWHC 1565.

[7] Butler v Fareham BC [2000] Legal Action May 2001, CA.

[8] Feld v Barnet LBC (2005) HLR 9; [2005] ACD 49.

[9] R (on the application of Abdi) v Lambeth LBC [2007] EWHC 1565.

[10] Begum v Tower Hamlets LBC [2003] UKHL 5; see also Tomlinson v Birmingham CC [2010] UKSC 8.

[11] reg 9 Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223.

[12] R (on the application of Aguiar) v Newham LBC [2002] EWHC 1325 (Admin).

[13] para 19.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[14] reg 5 Homelessness (Review Procedure etc) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223; paras 19.20 to 19.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[15] reg 7(2) Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223; paras 19.20 to 19.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[16] Lambeth LBC v Johnston [2008] EWCA Civ 690.

[17] reg 9(1)(a) Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223; Bury MBC v Gibbons [2010] EWCA Civ 327; Makisi v Birmingham CC: Yosief v Birmingham CC: Nagi v Birmingham CC [2011] EWCA Civ 355.

[18] Kamara v Southwark LBC : Leech v St Albans City and District Council : Piper v South Bucks DC [2018] EWCA Civ 1616.

[19] para 19.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[20] Hall v Wandsworth LBC: Carter v Wandsworth LBC [2004] EWCA 1740; Windsor and Maidenhead RBC v Hemans [2011] EWCA Civ 374; see also para 19.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[21] Banks v Kingston-upon-Thames RLBC [2008] EWCA 1443; NJ v Wandsworth LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1373; see also Mitu v Camden LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 1249.

[22] Mohamoud v Birmingham City Council [2014] EWCA Civ 227.

[23] Gilby v Westminster CC [2007] EWCA Civ 604.

[24] Ibrahim v Wandsworth LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 20.

[25] R v Shrewsbury and Atcham BC, ex parte Griffiths (1993) 25 HLR 613, QBD.

[26] Bellouti v Wandsworth LBC [2005] EWCA Civ 602.

[27] Lomotey v Enfield LBC [2004] EWCA Civ 627; Rowley v Rugby BC [2007] EWCA Civ 483.

[28] Omar v City of Westminster [2008] EWCA Civ 421.

[29] Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC (2002) HLR 7, HL.

[30] Omar v City of Westminster [2008] EWCA Civ 421; Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC (2002) HLR 7, HL

[31] Robinson v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2006] EWCA Civ 1122; Omar v City of Westminster [2008] EWCA Civ 421; Sahardid v Camden LBC [2004] EWCA Civ 1485.

[32] Windsor and Maidenhead RBC v Hemans [2011] EWCA Civ 374.

[33] Temur v Hackney LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 877.

[34] Pieretti v Enfield LBC [2010] EWCA Civ 1104.

[35] s.203(3)-(4) Housing Act 1996.

[36] s.203(5) Housing Act 1996.

[37] s.204(2) Housing Act 1996.

[38] s.203(6) Housing Act 1996.

[39] Farah v  Hillingdon LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 359.

[40] R v Camden LBC, ex parte Mohammed (1998) 30 HLR 315.

[41] para 19.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[42] Akhtar v Birmingham CC [2011] EWCA Civ 383.

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