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Inquiring into intentionality

This content applies to England & Wales

How a local authority should conduct inquiries to establish if an applicant is intentionally homeless .

Burden of proof

When processing a homelessness application, the burden is on the local authority to satisfy itself that the applicant is intentionally homeless. It is not up to the applicant to prove that s/he is not intentionally homeless.[1]

If there is any uncertainty about the matter, for example where the applicant became homeless some years previously and the facts are therefore unclear, and the authority is unable to satisfy itself that the applicant became homeless intentionally, then the applicant is entitled to the benefit of the doubt and to be considered unintentionally homeless.[2]

A local authority is entitled to rely on a court's decision to grant a possession order without having to carry out inquiries designed to question whether the court's judgement was correct.[3]

A local authority must resolve whether events such as threats and intimidation, which caused an applicant to leave her/his home, have occurred as alleged. It must not put the burden of proving whether events occurred on the applicant.[4]

The local authority should disclose to the applicant any information given by a third party.[5]

Find details of local authorities on Gov.uk.

Public sector equality duty

The public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (formerly section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) to take account of a person's protected characteristics (ie age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation) applies to the homelessness decision making process. For example, failure to make adequate enquiries into an applicant's disability and to consider the relevance of that disability as to whether or not the applicant was 'intentionally homeless' was a breach of the above duty and the decision was quashed.[6] The duty will only apply where the authority has reason to believe such enquiries are relevant, so advisers should make the local authority aware of all the applicant's circumstances.

For more information about the new 'public sector equality duty' that from 6 April 2011 replaces the 1995 Act duty, see the Equality law section.

Code of Guidance

The Code of Guidance makes it clear that decisions on intentional homelessness must arise from the investigations carried out in each individual case. General policies, which seek to predefine what is and what is not intentional homelessness, for example an assumption that the applicant is intentionally homeless in cases where application is made following a period in custody, cannot be applied.[7]

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. See Homelessness in Wales or visit Shelter Cymru for more information about the law in Wales.

[1] Hawa Abdullah Ali v Newham LBC [2000] Bow County Court, Legal Action November 2000; R v Camden LBC ex parte Cosmo (1997) 30 HLR 817, QBD; R v Westminster CC ex parte Rahman [1983], QBD; para 11.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[2] R v West Dorset DC ex parte Phillips (1984) 17 HLR 336, QBD; R v Thurrock BC ex parte Williams (1981) 1 HLR 128, QBD; para 11.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[3] Green and Coyne v Croydon LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 1367.

[4] R v Barnet LBC ex parte Babalola (1996) 28 HLR 196, QBD; R v Wandsworth LBC ex parte Dodia (1997) 30 HLR 562, QBD.

[5] R v Poole BC ex parte Cooper (1994) 27 HLR 605, QBD; R v Ealing LBC ex parte Chanter [1992] Legal Action December 1992, QBD.

[6] Pieretti v London Borough of Enfield [2010] EWCA Civ 1104.

[7] para 11.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

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