This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at

Main housing duty

This content applies to England & Wales

The main housing duty under homelessness law.

The local authority is subject to an ongoing housing duty if the applicant is eligible for assistance, in priority need and unintentionally homeless.

Duration of duty

The duty[1] is owed by the authority to which the application was made unless there is a local connection referral. The duty continues until it is ended by one of the circumstances set out in section 193 of the Housing Act 1996.[2]

For further information see the page on Cessation of duty.

Ways to discharge duty

The accommodation offered can be permanent or temporary,[3] but any accommodation secured must be 'suitable'.[4] For more information see the section on Suitability of accommodation. If the accommodation offered is temporary, the authority will be under a duty to find somewhere else for the applicant if and when it comes to an end. A series of different offers of accommodation of a temporary nature can be made before the duty ceases.

It is a requirement that any accommodation must be sufficient to accommodate the applicant and anyone who normally resides, or might reasonably be expected to reside, with her/him.[5] Normally this duty will be met by the provision of a single unit of accommodation, but it could be met by the provision of two separate units of accommodation (such as two adjoining flats or two separate rooms in a hostel, whether self-contained or not), if they are located to enable the family to live together in practical terms.[6]

The authority can discharge its duty to make accommodation available by providing accommodation itself, through another landlord or by providing advice and assistance that is sufficient to secure accommodation.[7]

Providing accommodation itself

If the accommodation is from its own stock any tenancy offered will be non-secure, unless the authority notifies the tenant that it is secure and it is an offer made under Part 6, ie its allocation scheme.[8] The authority can consider using its own hostels, where it operates them,[9] or leasing accommodation from private landlords.[10]

Through another landlord

Ensuring that accommodation is obtained through another landlord, eg a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH) or a private landlord.[11] The authority can provide financial assistance to private landlords in order to secure accommodation for homeless people.[12] Lodgings, hostels, women's refuges, and mobile homes may also be considered, but authorities will need to consider the suitability of such accommodation, especially if it is possible that the accommodation will be secured for more than the short term.[13] Where the accommodation is secured from a PRPSH or private landlord, the tenancy will normally be an assured shorthold tenancy, unless the applicant is notified by the landlord that it will be an assured tenancy.[14]

Advice and assistance

Providing advice and assistance to enable the applicant to secure accommodation her/himself, eg by giving mortgage advice, or by giving advice on shared equity schemes.[15] However, the advice and assistance must result in suitable accommodation actually being secured; the duty is not discharged if it did not result in accommodation becoming available.[16]

Homeless at home

If an applicant has been found to be homeless because it is not reasonable for her/him to continue to occupy accommodation, then remaining in that accommodation, as ‘homeless at home’ can be a discharge of duty for a period whilst the local authority takes steps to secure other accommodation. How long that period can be will depend upon the applicant's particular circumstances but the point will come where it will become unreasonable for the applicant to remain there any longer.[17]

Moveable accommodation

An applicant may be homeless because they normally occupy a caravan, houseboat, or other moveable structure, but have no place where s/he is entitled to put it.[18] In such circumstances, the authority is not required to provide equivalent accommodation, or a place for the applicant to put their accommodation. However, the authority must consider whether this would be the most appropriate solution for the applicant, and whether such options are reasonably available.[19] This is particularly relevant if the applicant is a Gypsy or Traveller who has an aversion to bricks and mortar accommodation.[20]

Households with 'restricted persons'

Where applicants are not homeless intentionally and have gained priority need status through a household member who is a ‘restricted person’, the duty towards them is discharged differently than to other applicants owed the main housing duty (see the page on Cessation of duty for more information on this). A 'restricted person' is someone who is subject to immigration control and is not eligible for assistance under Part 7.[21]

Revival of duty after PRS offer

If, within two years of acceptance of a 'private rented sector (PRS) offer' in full and final discharge of the main housing duty (see the page on Cessation of duty for more information on final PRS offers), an applicant is threatened with homelessness or becomes homelessness again and make a fresh homeless application, s/he may be owned a new main housing duty regardless of whether s/he still has priority need.[22] The local authority must only satisfy itself that such an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homelessness in order to owe her/him the main housing duty (see the page on Repeat applications for more information on this).


The information on this page reflects the homelessness provisions under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. These apply to all homelessness applications made to local authoirities in England and to applications made in Wales before 27 April 2015 (with some possible variations contained in Welsh regulations and code of guidance).

For the rules under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 applicable in Wales from 27 April 2015 see Homelessness in Wales or visit Shelter Cymru.

[1] s.193(2) Housing Act 1996.

[2] s.193(3) Housing Act 1996.

[3] R v Brent LBC ex p Awua (1995) 27 HLR 453, HL.

[4] s.210 Housing Act 1996.

[5] s.176 Housing Act 1996.

[6] Sharif v Camden LBC [2013] UKSC 10.

[7] s.206 Housing Act 1996.

[8] para 4 Housing Act 1985; para 16.13 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[9] para 16.14 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[10] para 16.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[11] para 16.17 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[12] para 16.20 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[13] paras 16.24-27 and 16.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[14] para 16.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[15] paras 16.33-34 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[16] para 16.32 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[17] Birmingham CC v Ali and others: Moran v Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36.

[18] s.175(2) Housing Act 1996.

[19] para 16.37 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[20] para 16.38 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[21] s.184(7) Housing Act 1996 as introduced by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

[22] s.195A Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.149(4) Localism Act 2011.

Back to top