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Time limits for internal reviews

This content applies to England

Information on the time limits for requesting an internal review and options for when the time limit has been missed .

Time limits

A request for an internal review must be made:[1]

  • within 21 days of being notified of the authority's decision, or
  • within such longer period as the authority allows.

Notification means the date of receipt of the decision. A decision can be deemed to have been notified if it is not received by the applicant (or her/his address is not known) but is left for collection in the authority's office.[2]

The specific wording of section 202 about the 21-day time limit for requesting a review is 'before the end of the period of 21 days'. This has been interpreted to mean that the first day of the period is included in the calculation of the time limit. This is in contrast to the wording of section 204 (regarding the time limits for an appeal to the county court) of 'within 21 days of' the notification of the decision, which under a general rule of common law,[3] means that the first day of the period is excluded (see County court appeal time limits for more information).

Out of time requests

The 21-day time limit can be extended at the local authority's discretion.[4] If the deadline for requesting a review has been missed, a review should be requested as soon as possible along with a request to extend time with details of reasons for the delay. It is for the authority alone to decide what weight it will attach to the reasons for the delay, as well as the strength of the review request.

If a local authority refuses to extend the time limit, that decision is, in principle, challengeable by judicial review. In practice, unless the local authority's decision is unreasonable, irrational or perverse, it may be difficult to challenge.

Reviews of suitability

Where a local authority remains subject to a continuing duty to provide accommodation, the accommodation will have to be suitable for all this time. Therefore, it had previously been thought that an applicant had a statutory right to request a review at any time during occupation. However, a subsequent legal challenge led to a different development in case law: where a local authority refused to accept an out of time request for a suitability review, it was held that while the authority was subject to a continuing duty to ensure suitability of the accommodation provided, there was no statutory obligation to accept an out of time review request. It was held that in this case the authority’s decision to refuse to carry out a review was rational and the applicant’s subsequent application for permission to appeal was refused.[5]

A statutory right will exist until 21 days from the date that the authority decided the accommodation was suitable. This may have been indicated in the original offer letter. If the accommodation is found not to be suitable after this date, the applicant will have to either ask for a fresh decision on its suitability or ask for an extra non-statutory review. If a decision is made on either of these bases, it will be reviewable. If the authority refuses to make a fresh decision or carry out a non-statutory review, this may be challengeable by judicial review.

[1] s.202(3) Housing Act 1996.

[2] ss.184(6), s.189A(12), s.189B(8), s.193B(8) and s.195(9) Housing Act 1996 as amended by Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[3] Lester v Garland (1808) 15 Ves Jun 248; Goldsmiths Co v West Metropolitan Railway Co [1904] 1 KB 1, CA; Dodds v Walker [1981] 1 WLR 1027, HL.

[4] s.202(3) Housing Act 1996.

[5] R (on the application of B) v Redbridge LBC [2019] EWHC 250 (Admin), permission to appeal refused in B v Redbridge [2019] EWCA Civ 1592.

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