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No accommodation in UK or abroad

This content applies to England

The definition of having no accommodation in the UK or abroad.


A person is homeless if s/he has no accommodation in the United Kingdom or abroad.[1]

The courts have held that having no accommodation covers people living in emergency temporary accommodation such as night shelters[2] and women's refuges,[3] as well as people who are sleeping on the streets.

Accommodation abroad

In order to find that a person is not homeless because s/he has accommodation abroad, the local authority must establish:

  • on what terms the accommodation was occupied, ie whether the applicant has a right to occupy within the meaning of the Act, and
  • whether or not it was reasonable to continue to occupy it.

If it is held to have been reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy accommodation abroad, s/he may be found intentionally homeless for leaving it if it is no longer available. Case law on intentional homelessness should be referred to in such instances.

Whether accommodation is 'available'

A local authority is entitled to find that a person is not homeless if s/he has accommodation anywhere in the world that is available for her/his occupation. The definition of 'availability' has been the subject of case law.[4] A person who can afford to return to accommodation that is legally and practically accessible in another country may be found not to be homeless. 'Availability' includes accessibility. If an applicant does not have sufficient money to return, s/he should raise the issue of inability to pay with the local authority.

The accommodation must be available to the applicant together with any other person with whom the applicant either resides or might reasonably be expected to reside. See Split households for details.

[1] s.175(1) Housing Act 1996.

[2] R v Waveney DC ex parte Bowers (1982) 4 HLR 118, CA.

[3] Moran v Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36.

[4] Begum (Nipa) v Tower Hamlets LBC (1999) 32 HLR 445, CA.

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