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Prevention duty

This content applies to England

Where a local authority is satisfied that an applicant is threatened with homelessness and eligible, it must take reasonable steps to help the applicant secure that accommodation does not cease to be available for her/his occupation.

The information on this page only applies to homelessness applications made on or after 3 April 2018.

When the prevention duty applies

The prevention duty applies when a local authority is satisfied that an applicant is threatened with homelessness and eligible for assistance.[1] For more on how to tell when a local authority is 'satisfied' see assessment of need.

Where an applicant is likely to become homeless in the near future but does not fall under the statutory definition of 'threatened with homelessness', local authorities are encouraged to take a 'flexible approach' and begin to take reasonable steps to prevent homelessness rather than waiting until the applicant meets the legal definition.[2]

An applicant who is threatened with homelessness and eligible will be owed a prevention duty by the authority to which s/he applies: the authority cannot refer to another area at prevention stage.[3]

Overlap with other duties

Where a prevention duty is owed to an applicant, there will always be a duty to assess and produce a personalised housing plan (PHP), as these duties apply when an applicant is homeless or threatened with homelessness and eligible.[4] The assessment and PHP should inform all action taken under the prevention duty (see below).

An applicant who is 'threatened with homelessness' is not actually homeless, so there will be no overlap with duties which require the applicant to be statutorily homeless, such as:[5]

What the duty involves

The prevention duty requires an authority to 'take reasonable steps to help the applicant to secure that accommodation does not cease to be available'.[6]

'Helping to secure' does not mean that the authority has a duty to directly source and provide accommodation for the applicant. Instead, authorities should provide 'support and advice to applicants who are taking some responsibility for securing their own accommodation'.[7]

The Homelessness Code of Guidance suggests an authority first focuses on steps which may enable the applicant to stay in her/his current home. Where this is not possible, the focus should be on securing other accommodation so that the applicant can move 'in a planned way'.[8]

Note that as part of the PHP, the applicant could be required to take steps to find accommodation her/himself. These steps do not strictly form part of prevention activity, but the applicant may be deemed to have failed to cooperate if s/he does not comply, which could result in the prevention duty being ended.[9]

Link between steps and assessment of need

The steps to be taken will need to be informed by the assessment of need and are expected to be those set out in the Personalised Housing Plan.[10] See Personalised housing plans: steps local authorities can take for examples of the kind of steps that might be reasonable.

If the applicant disagrees with the steps that the local authority are to take, s/he can request a review of those steps.

Cooperation between authorities

Where an applicant applies as homeless in a different area to where s/he has been living, the authority to which s/he applies is encouraged to ask for assistance from the area in which the applicant is living. Local authorities are encouraged to establish protocols for collaboration where this is a common occurrence, and applicants may gain assistance from these.[11]

Communication between applicant and authority

The local authority should make arrangements for 'accessible and timely communication with applicants' to maximise effectiveness.[12] As an example, this might involve an applicant discussing the progress of negotiations with a landlord with the local authority.

The local authority should also provide for more formal reviews of the PHP and and as a result, the reasonable steps carried out under the prevention duty may change. See Devising personalised housing plans for more details.

Ending the prevention duty

The prevention duty can only be ended in certain specified circumstances. See Ending the prevention duty for more details. The Code suggests that even if prevention work has been successful a local authority may wish to continue working with relevant support services where the applicant has issues which may lead to the risk of further homelessness.[13]

The applicant can request a review of any decision to end the prevention duty.[14]

[1] s.195(1) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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

[3] There is no provision to do so in the legislation. See also para 12.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] s.189A(1) and s.189A(4) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[5] s.189B(1) Housing Act 1996 as insrted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; s.188(1) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.5(4)(a) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; s.211 Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.5(12) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[6] s.195(2) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[7] para 16.3 and 16.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[8] para 12.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] s.195(10) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[10] s.195(3) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and para 12.7 Homelessness Code of Guidance, Feb 2018.

[11] para 12.5 and para 12.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[12] para 12.7 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[13] para 12.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[14] s.202(1)(bc)(ii) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.9(2)(b) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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