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Not in priority need

This content applies to England & Wales

A look at the duties, and powers, that local authorities have towards applicants who are not in priority need.

Duty to all non-priority homeless people

Local authorities have a duty to provide advice and assistance to help an applicant secure accommodation if s/he is:[1]

  • homeless
  • eligible for assistance
  • not in priority need.

This duty applies whether the applicant is intentionally homeless or not. Before providing advice and assistance the applicant's housing needs must be assessed.[2]

The Code of Guidance states that this assessment may need to range wider than the inquiries made into the applicant's homelessness, and should identify factors that may make it difficult for the applicant to obtain accommodation for her/himself.

Examples given in the Code are:

  • poverty
  • outstanding debt
  • health problems
  • disabilities
  • not having English as a first language.

The Code says the assessment should also take account of the circumstances that led to the applicant being homeless, as these could affect the ability to obtain or keep accommodation.[3] Advice and assistance must then be provided which must include information about the likely availability of accommodation that is appropriate to the particular applicant's housing needs, including, in particular, the location and source of such types of accommodation.[4] This means that all applicants must be properly interviewed and assessed, and then given advice and help about where they might find accommodation which would suit their needs, for example in terms of size, location, cost, and from whom they might obtain it.

The Code says that the advice and assistance might include:[5]

  • assistance with a rent deposit, or a guarantee, to help the applicant to secure privately rented accommodation
  • assistance with applying for social housing, either through the waiting list, or directly to a social landlord.

The authority may also wish to liaise with landlords who might be able to offer suitable accommodation.

Because the authority is required to assess individual needs as above, simply providing a general list of accommodation in the district would not satisfy that requirement. Advisers should be alert to the possible need to challenge the local authority about the way it is fulfilling the advice and accommodation duty. For further information see the section on Challenging local authority decisions.

If, as part of this duty, an applicant is provided with a list of addresses by the authority, it is not under a statutory duty to ensure that the list does not contain premises that are inherently dangerous or unsuitable, beyond those duties imposed on local authorities in relation to houses in multiple occupation.[6] (For more information, please see the section on HMOs)

Not in priority need and not intentionally homeless

If an authority is satisfied that an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance, not in priority need and not intentionally homeless, it:[7]

  • must provide advice and assistance to help her/him secure accommodation
  • can exercise its discretion to provide the applicant with accommodation. Any such offer will be a non-secure tenancy, unless it is subsequently allocated to the applicant under its allocation scheme[8].

It must assess the housing needs of an applicant before providing the required advice and assistance (and, as held in one case[9], before considering its discretion to provide the applicant with accommodation). A section 184 decision does not necessarily meet the authority's duty to carry out an adequate assessment of the applicant's housing needs.[10]

Not in priority need and intentionally homeless

If the applicant is not in priority need but is intentionally homeless, the authority, after assessing the individual applicant's needs, must provide the applicant with advice and assistance in any attempts s/he makes to obtain accommodation (see above for details).[11]

Not in priority need but threatened with homelessness

If the applicant is not in priority need but is threatened with homelessness, whether intentionally or not, the authority is under a duty to provide advice and assistance in any attempts s/he makes to make sure that accommodation does not cease to be available for her/his occupation.[12] This might include negotiating with the landlord or advice on tenancy rights. If the advice and assistance given is not successful in preventing the loss of the accommodation, then the authority has the duty to advise and assist the applicant to help her/him to secure alternative accommodation.


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.190(3) and 192 Housing Act 1996.

[2] s.192(4) Housing Act 1996.

[3] para 14.4 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[4] s.192(5) Housing Act 1996.

[5] para 14.25 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[6] Ephraim v Newham LBC and Mirza (1993) 25 HLR 207, CA.

[7] s.192(2)-(3) Housing Act 1996.

[8] para 4, Sch.1, Housing Act 1985.

[9] s.192(4) Housing Act 1996; R (on the application of Smajlaj) v Waltham Forest LBC [2016] EWHC 1240 (Admin).

[10] R (on the application of Smajlaj) v Waltham Forest LBC [2016] EWHC 1240 (Admin); R (on the application of Savage) v Hillingdon LBC [2010] EWHC 88 (Admin).

[11] s.190(3-5) Housing Act 1996.

[12] s.195(5) and (9) Housing Act 1996.

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