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Threatened homelessness

This content applies to England

An explanation of the legal definition of threatened homelessness.

Definition of threatened with homelessness

Where an applicant makes a homelessness application on or after 3 April 2018, s/he is threatened with homelessness for the purposes of the Act if it is likely that s/he will become homeless within 56 days.[1]

A person is also threatened with homelessness if:[2]

  • s/he has been given a valid section 21 notice in respect of her/his only accommodation, and
  • the notice is due to expire within 56 days.

See Overview of legal definition for when someone is considered to be homeless.

Definition before 3 April 2018

An applicant who applied before 3 April 2018 would only have been threatened with homelessness if s/he was likely to become homeless within 28 days. The legal definition made no specific provision for an applicant who had received valid section 21 notice. If an applicant has presented with a valid section 21 notice previously and the authority have refused to take an application, s/he is advised to reapply on/after 3 April.

Local authority's duties

If a local authority has reason to believe that an applicant may be threatened with homelessness, it must make inquiries to confirm this.[3] When the authority is satisfied that the applicant is threatened with homelessness, it must take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness. This duty applies regardless of any 'fault' on the applicant's part that may have led to the threat of homelessness.

Note that the authority may take a 'flexible approach' to taking action to prevent homelessness where the threatened homelessness is more than 56 days from the date the applicant approaches the authority.[4]

Lender notification of repossession proceedings

Under rule 55.10 of the Civil Procedure Rules, mortgage lenders must notify local authority housing departments that repossession proceedings on a property in its area have begun. For details, See the Possession case. Non-statutory guidance states that the notification from the lender 'can provide a useful trigger for the engagement of a wide range of local and national services designed to prevent homelessness'.[5]

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.175(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.1(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] s.175(5) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.1(3) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[3] s.184(1) Housing Act 1996.

[4] para 11.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] para 8 Lender notification of repossession proceedings to local authorities: Non-statutory guidance for local housing authorities, MHCLG, September 2009.

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