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Interim duty to accommodate

This content applies to England

When local authorities have a duty to provide homeless applicants with interim accommodation pending their inquiries .

The duty to provide accommodation

A local authority must provide interim accommodation while it makes inquiries if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be:[1]

  • homeless
  • eligible for assistance, and
  • in priority need.

The duty to provide interim accommodation can arise at any point after the applicant has applied as homeless, including while the authority is subject to the relief duty.

Where the applicant is reapplying as homeless within two years of the applicant having accepted a final 'private rented sector (PRS) offer', the applicant is not required to still have a priority need for the interim duty to be triggered.[2] See also Multiple, repeat and withdrawn applications.

The Homelessness Code of Guidance stresses that the threshold for providing interim accommodation is low.[3]

Where an authority is taking steps to prevent homelessness, it should take the opportunity to plan for interim accommodation in advance where possible, so as to allow the household time to plan such things as how children will get to school in the event that the household becomes homeless.[4]

This interim duty arises before the local authority makes its full inquiries and, therefore, takes no account of the local connection provisions.[5]

The rejection of interim accommodation by an applicant does not end any other duties that the authority may owe under homelessness law.[6]

Suitability of interim accommodation

Accommodation provided must be suitable.[7]

The Code of Guidance states that while bed and breakfast may need to be used in an emergency, authorities should avoid the use of bed and breakfast wherever possible.[8] Bed and breakfast is not suitable for applicants with family commitments (including pregnant women), except for up to six weeks when there is no alternative accommodation available.[9]

The courts have held that:

  • lack of available accommodation does not relieve the authority of its duty to provide suitable accommodation[10]
  • suitability means consideration of the individual applicant's needs[11]
  • location is a relevant consideration in the suitability of interim accommodation[12]
  • the amount of time that the accommodation will be made available for is a relevant consideration, so accommodation may be suitable if it is to be occupied only for a very short period of time, but unsuitable for a longer period.[13]

Duty to protect property

Where a local authority has a duty to provide accommodation, it is also subject to a concurrent duty to protect the applicant's property.

Security of tenure in interim accommodation

As a general rule, applicants accommodated under the interim duty are not considered to be occupying premises as a 'dwelling' and are therefore excluded from the protection of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The accommodation can be ended as laid out in ending interim duty.

However, once the local authority has accepted that it owes the main housing duty to an applicant following completion of its inquiries, the question of whether the accommodation occupied by the applicant pending discharge of the main housing duty is occupied as a 'dwelling' becomes a question of fact dependent on how transient such occupation is and, therefore, the requirements under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 may apply (see Who has basic protection? for more information about the requirements). In a case where after having provided an applicant with interim accommodation the authority accepted that it owed her the main housing duty but told her that she could continue to occupy the interim accommodation for an indefinite period of time pending identification of suitable long-term accommodation, such requirements applied.[14]

Exceptions

Where the accommodation is secured under an arrangement with a private landlord, and the tenant has been notified that the tenancy is to be regarded as an assured or assured shorthold tenancy, or the accommodation is allowed to continue for more than 12 months after the authority has made its decision on the application (or review, as the case may be) it will be an assured or assured shorthold tenancy.[15]

The situation is unclear where the authority has made an agreement with the applicant that the accommodation is provided under a tenancy,[16] or where the accommodation is allowed to continue on a more than transient basis; in these cases, the applicant may have protection from eviction under the 1977 Act.

Ending the interim accommodation duty

See Ending the interim duty for details of how the local authority can end the duty.

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.188(1) Housing Act 1996;  R (on the application of (1) Kelly (2) Mehari (3) JI ) v Birmingham CC [2009] EWHC 3240 (Admin).

[2] s.188(1A) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.149(2) Localism Act 2011.

[3] para 15.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] para 14.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[5] s.188(2) Housing Act 1996.

[6] para 15.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[7] ss.206 and 210 Housing Act 1996.

[8] paras 2.51 and 16.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] para 16.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003 SI 2003/3326.

[10] Ealing LBC v Surdonja and another (2000) 32 HLR 481, CA.

[11] R v Newham LBC ex parte Ojuri [No 3] (1999) 31 HLR 631, QBD.

[12] R v Newham LBC ex parte Sacupima and Others (2000) 33 HLR 18, CA.

[13] Codona v Mid-Bedfordshire DC [2005] HLR 1.

[14] Dacorum Borough Council v Bucknall [2017] EWHC 2094 (QB).

[15] s.209 Housing Act 1996; paras 16.23 and 16.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[16] Desnousse v (1) Newham LBC (2) Paddington Churches HA (3) Veni Properties Ltd [2006] EWCA Civ 547.

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