This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Investigations into eligibility

This content applies to England

How a local authority should investigate an applicant's eligibility for homelessness assistance.

For information about the interim duty to accommodate an applicant pending investigations see the page Interim duty to accommodate.

Duty to make inquiries

When a local authority has reason to believe that an applicant is or may be homeless, it must make inquiries in order to be satisfied whether that applicant is eligible for assistance.[1] In order to establish the eligibility of a homeless applicant, the local authority may contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which should, on request, provide the authority with the information necessary for it to make its decision.[2]

Statutory guidance

A local authority must be 'satisfied' that a person is eligible before any accommodation duty is owed. The Homelessness Code of Guidance reminds authorities that the provisions on eligibility are complex, and that they should have in place procedures to carry out appropriate checks, with staff appropriately trained in the homelessness as well as equality law. Staff should deal sensitively with applicants.[3] If there is any uncertainty about the applicant's status, the authority may contact the Home Office, and in some circumstances the authority has a duty to do this.[4] As a matter of good practice, an applicant should be invited to contact her/his immigration adviser for advice before giving consent for the local authority to contact UKVI. Such contact may have an adverse impact on her/his UKVI application, in that it may cause delay.

Equality law

Procedures for assessing eligibility for assistance under the homelessness legislation should reflect the public sector equality duty on all local authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate any form of unlawful discrimination; advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not; foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not. In addition, as a provider of services, a housing authority must not discriminate unlawfully. See Equality law for further information.

Mechanisms for screening applicants for eligibility should be built into the standard questions asked to any applicant who approaches the authority for housing assistance.The Code of Guidance states that housing authorities need to ensure that staff are appropriately trained in their duties and responsibilities under the Equality legislation.[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. 

Wales

The legislative references and the footnotes on this page reflect the law in England. In Wales, very similar rules made under Welsh legislation apply, but the references may be different. Contact Shelter Cymru for more information about the law in Wales.

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

[2] s.187 Housing Act 1996.

[3] para 7.3 and 7.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] paras 7.11 and 7.23 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] para 9.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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