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Investigations into eligibility

This content applies to England & Wales

A look at 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.

Find details of local authorities on

Duty to make enquiries

When a local authority has reason to believe that an applicant is or may be homeless, it must make enquiries 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. 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.[3]

If the authority intends to approach UKVI to resolve any uncertainty as to an applicant's immigration status, the applicant should be told that an enquiry will be made and if s/he then prefers to withdraw her/his application, no further action is required (although a local authority could still contact UKVI).[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.

Information from UK Visas and Immigration

The Code of Guidance gives details of the procedure for local authorities to contact the Home Office to establish the immigration status of applicants from abroad. The Code has not been updated since the names of the relevant government departments have changed.

Currently authorities should contact UKVI.[5]

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 the Equality law section for further information about the provisions of the Equality Act 2010).

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.[6]


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. See Homelessness in Wales or visit 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 9.1 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[4] para 5, Annex 9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[5] para 1, Annex 8 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[6] para 9.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

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