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Split households

This content applies to England

A split household is one where a household cannot live together in the accommodation it has.

Definition

A person is regarded as being homeless, even though s/he may have a clear right of occupation, if the accommodation cannot also be occupied by any other person who:[1]

  • normally resides with her/him as a member of her/his family, or
  • might reasonably be expected to reside with her/him.

A distinction must be made between the two parts of the definition. The discretion to decide whether it is reasonable for someone to reside with the applicant only comes into play if that person does not normally reside with the applicant or is not residing with her/him as a member of the family.

Accommodation available for occupation is normally a single unit of accommodation, however it can be two separate units of accommodation (such as two adjoining flats or two separate rooms in a hostel, whether self-contained or not), if they are located to enable the family to live together in practical terms.[2]

People normally residing with the applicant as a member of the family

The Homelessness Code of Guidance interprets 'as a member of his family' as including those with close blood or marital relationships and cohabiting partners (including same-sex partners) so that if they are established members of the household accommodation must provide for them as well.[3]

The general approach should be that people who normally live with the homeless person, but who are unable to do so for no other reason than that there is no accommodation they can occupy together, should normally be included in the assessment and they should not be separated.[4] If someone normally resides with the applicant as a member of the family then it is not open to the local authority to say that it is not reasonable for them to live together.

When dealing with a family that has separated, the Code says that authorities will need to decide which members of the family normally reside, or might be expected to reside, with the applicant. The Code reminds authorities that residence orders may not always have been made and it may simply be a matter of agreement between the parents.[5]

For further information on split residence of children see the section on Priority need-households with dependent children.

People who might reasonably be expected to reside together

A problem arises where people do not satisfy the 'normal residence' criterion because they are either not members of the family but are living with the applicant (eg housekeepers, companions or foster children) or have never lived together. In this case, the authority must consider whether it would be reasonable to expect them to reside together.

In one case,[6] the court held that where a single man applied for accommodation for himself and a carer with whom he had lived for several years, the test was not whether the applicant was so disabled that he needed a live-in carer, but rather whether it would be reasonable for the friend to live with him.

A common situation is where a young couple who are expecting a child have always lived with their respective parents. The authority should address the issue of whether it is reasonable to expect them to live together, and whether they are therefore homeless because they do not have accommodation available to both of them together. There is case law to support the argument that they should be treated as a homeless household.[7] It would follow that if they each left their parents' homes then neither could be declared intentionally homeless, since they did not leave accommodation that was available to them as a household.

Persons subject to immigration control

Where the applicant is a person subject to immigration control who is eligible for housing assistance[8] any person who normally resides with her/him as a member of her/his family, or who might reasonably be expected to reside with her/him who is a person from abroad who is ineligible for assistance will be disregarded in determining whether the applicant is homeless.[9]

Persons not subject to immigration control/restricted cases

Prior to 2 March 2009, the above provision applied to all applicants with a household member who was a person from abroad who was ineligible for assistance. This provision was held to be incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[10] The legislation has been amended so that the provision no longer applies to applicants who are not subject to immigration control.

If the applicant is a British citizen, a Commonwealth citizen with a right of abode in the UK or an EU (or Swiss) national with a right to reside in the UK, then ineligible household members are taken into account in deciding whether the applicant is homeless.[11]

However, if that household member is a 'restricted person', there are specific rules regarding discharge of the homeless duty. See the page Ending main housing duty for further information on these 'restricted cases'.

A 'restricted person' is a person:[12]

  • who is not eligible for assistance under Part VII Housing Act 1996
  • who is subject to immigration control within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996
  • does not have leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom or whose leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom is subject to a condition to maintain and accommodate himself, and any dependants, without recourse to public funds.

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] s.176 Housing Act 1996.

[2] Sharif v Camden LBC [2013] UKSC 10.

[3] para 6.7 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] R v Newham LBC ex parte Khan and Hussain (2000) 33 HLR 269, QBD; R v Ealing LBC ex parte Surdonja (1998) The Times 28 October, QBD Legal Action December 1998; para 6.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] para 6.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[6] R v Hackney LBC ex parte Tonnicodi (1997) 30 HLR 916, QBD.

[7] R v Peterborough ex parte Carr (1990) 22 HLR 206 CA; Kensington and Chelsea RLBC and Westminster CC referee's determination 2/1/1989.

[8] reg 5 Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility)(England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1294.

[9] s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

[10] R v Westminster CC, ex p Morris; R v Lambeth LBC ex p Badu [2005] EWCA Civ 1184.

[11] s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

[12] s.184(7) Housing Act 1996.

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