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Ending relief duty

This content applies to England

In most cases a local authority will have to serve notice in order to end the relief duty. 

The relief duty:

  • can only be ended in specific circumstances allowed in the legislation
  • only applies to homelessness applications made on or after 3 April 2018.

56 days have elapsed

The authority can end the relief duty as long as they have complied with that duty (to take reasonable steps to help to secure that accommodation is available) and 56 days have passed since the duty was accepted:

Where applicant is in priority need and not intentionally homeless

The relief duty will end automatically 56 days after the local authority accepted the duty (unless it has been ended already).[1] No notice is required to end the duty in this case, so relief work for such an applicant will last for a maximum of 56 days. Where the authority has decided that main housing duty is owed during relief work, the Homelessness Code of Guidance advises the authority not to inform the applicant until the 56 days has passed for fear that notification might 'detract from activities to relieve their homelessness'.[2]

Where applicant is not in priority need or is intentionally homeless

Where an applicant is not in priority need, or is intentionally homeless, the authority must serve notice to end the relief duty. This applies even if 56 days have passed since it accepted the duty.[3] The authority could however extend the duty for longer.[4] If the applicant is not in priority need, no further duties will follow after the end of relief. See duties to intentionally homeless people in cases where s/he is intentionally homeless.

Where no decision has been made on priority need or intentional homelessness

Where 56 days have passed since the local authority accepted relief duty and it is yet to decide on whether the applicant is in priority need and intentionally homeless, it can end the relief duty by serving notice in the same way as above.[5] If there is reason to believe that the applicant is in priority need, then there will be an interim accommodation duty which will last until a decision is made on main housing duty.[6]

In considering whether to extend the relief duty beyond 56 days, an authority is advised not to have a blanket policy.[7] It should consider whether there is a risk of rough sleeping, the prospects of securing accommodation within a reasonable period, the resources they have available and the wider implications of ending the duty (for example, an intentionally homeless applicant with children may be owed duties by children's services).[8]

Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate

The relief duty can be ended if the applicant has 'deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate' with a step in the personalised housing plan.[9] Considerations involved in this, and the special notice procedure, are described in Deliberate and unreasonable refusals to cooperate.

Applicant has suitable accommodation for at least six months

The relief duty can be ended because the applicant has suitable accommodation available for at least six months.[10] In deciding whether the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of having suitable accommodation for at least six months, considerations are similar to those made when ending the prevention duty for this reason. The same paragraphs of the Code of Guidance apply.

Refusal of suitable final accommodation or final part 6 offer

Final accommodation offers and final part 6 offers are defined in offers of accommodation. If an applicant rejects one of these offers, the relief duty will end automatically: there is no need for a further notice in this case.[11] However, this will occur only if the applicant is informed of:[12]

  • the consequences of rejection
  • her/his right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation.

If the relief duty ends on this basis, an authority will not owe a main housing duty even if the applicant is in priority need and unintentionally homeless.[13] This is a rare case where a person in priority need is at an advantage by being intentionally homeless, as limited accommodation and other duties may still apply: see duties to intentionally homeless people.[14]

Note that relief duty can also be ended if an applicant accepts a 'final accommodation offer' or 'final part 6 offer'. This is likely to be on the basis that the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of suitable accommodation being available for six months. In this case, notification will be required.

Applicant refuses a suitable offer of accommodation

Where an applicant has been made an offer of accommodation and at the time of the offer had a reasonable prospect of having accommodation for at least six months, an authority can end relief duty by serving notice.[15] In looking at 'reasonable prospect', similar considerations will apply as above. It is likely that for the authority to end the duty in this way, it would have had to have made the offer itself. The accommodation offered must be suitable. For guidance on how a local authority should approach making an offer, see offers of accommodation.

The local authority has discretion over whether to end the relief duty for this reason. In using their discretion, the Code recommends that the authority look at the applicant's circumstances, including the reason for their refusal and the reasonable steps they are taking to secure accommodation of their preference.[16]

Applicant becomes homeless intentionally

Where a local authority has helped an applicant to find suitable accommodation and there is a reasonable prospect of the applicant having accommodation for six months, it will usually end relief duty (see above).[17] If, however, it has not already done so, the authority can end the relief duty if the applicant becomes intentionally homeless from the accommodation it assisted in finding.[18]

Applicant no longer eligible for assistance

In order to owe the relief duty, the authority must have been satisfied that the applicant was homeless and eligible.[19] If there has been a change to the applicant's immigration status, s/he may have become ineligible, in which case duty can be ended.[20] If interim accommodation duty has been accepted during relief stage, this can also be ended - see ending interim duty for more details.

Applicant withdraws homelessness application

The considerations which are relevant in this case are similar to those when ending the prevention duty because of a withdrawal of a homelessness application and the same paragraphs of the Code of Guidance are relevant. See ending prevention duty for more information.

Notification requirements for ending duty

In all cases above where notice is required,[21] the notification must:[22]

  • be in writing
  • include a right to request a review within 21 days
  • state why the duty was ended.

Where no notice is required because 56 days have elapsed and the applicant is in priority need, the authority must notify the applicant of its decision as to the main housing duty.[23] In most cases, this should be possible on the 57th day.[24]

Challenge

An applicant can request a review of the decision to end relief duty within 21 days of being notified.[25] The nature of the challenge will depend on the facts of the case. For example:

  • where the local authority ends the duty on the basis that the applicant now has accommodation or has refused an offer of any type, this could be on the basis that the accommodation was not suitable
  • a challenge could also relate to the facts of the case. It might be argued, say, that the applicant did not, as the authority allege, refuse to cooperate or that contrary to the authority's arguments, s/he is still eligible for assistance
  • where the duty is ended because of the passage of 56 days since acceptance, it may be that the duty was not complied with (perhaps the steps taken were not appropriate or obviously reasonable steps were missed) during this time.

See internal reviews for more information.

[1] s.189B(4) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] para 13.10 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] s.189B(5) and s.189B(7)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[4] See also para 14.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] s.189B(7)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[6] s.188(1ZA) and s.188(1ZB) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.5(4)(a) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[7] para 14.17 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[8] para 14.19 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] s.189B(9)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[10] s.189B(7)(a) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[11] s.189B(9)(a) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193A(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[12] s.193A(1)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[13] s.193A(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[14] There is no equivalent of s.193A(2) Housing Act to prevent duties under s.190 arising for people who are in priority need and intentionally homeless and refuse a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer.

[15] s.189B(7)(c) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[16] para 14.27 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[17] para 14.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[18] s.189B(7)(d) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[19] s.189B(1) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[20] s.189B(7)(e) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[21] s.189B(5) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017..

[22] s.189B(6) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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

[24] para 14.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[25] s.202(1)(ba)(ii) and s.202(3) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.9(2)(b) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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