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Priority need & intentionally homeless

This content applies to England & Wales

The duties a local authority has towards an applicant who is in priority need but intentionally homeless.

Overview of duty

If a local authority considers an applicant to be eligible for assistance, in priority need but intentionally homeless, it must:

  • assess the applicant's housing needs[1]
  • provide advice and assistance[2]
  • ensure that suitable accommodation is made available to her/him for such a period as the authority considers will give the applicant a reasonable opportunity to secure other accommodation.[3]

Advice and assistance must then be provided which must include information about the likely availability of accommodation that is appropriate to the applicant's housing needs, including, in particular, the location and source of such types of accommodation.[4]

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Length of time accommodation is to be provided

In deciding what constitutes a reasonable period of time to continue to provide accommodation, the authority must assess each case individually. The Code of Guidance suggests that 'a few weeks' may be reasonable. However, it stresses that authorities need to consider each case on its merits and should take account of local circumstances. This includes how readily other accommodation is available in the area and the particular circumstances of the applicant, such as whether s/he can afford rent in advance or a deposit.[5] In one case, the High Court held that a local authority had acted unlawfully in the exercise of its duty to provide advice and assistance when it denied assistance under its deposit provision scheme to a homeless single mother on the basis that she was intentionally homeless; the local authority had erred in failing to consider the Code of Guidance[6] and its own guidance in reaching its decision.[7] A local authority is not permitted to take into account conditions peculiar to itself, such as its resources and other demands upon it, when making its decision.[8]

The use of a blanket policy of offering a set number of days would be unlawful. A guideline, for example, of 28 days, which is reconsidered in each case, would be acceptable. In areas of acute housing shortage a period of more than four months may be required for certain large households.[9]However, in a case where a mother of three children had made little effort to find a deposit or register on housing lists with letting agents, it was held that a total of 85 days was more than a reasonable amount of time to give someone an opportunity to find accommodation. Although a period of ten days initially offered by the authority was held to be inadequate.[10]

In the same case, the High Court also held that an authority did not have to actually wait for an applicant to find accommodation, it just had to give them reasonable opportunity to do so, and that there was no obligation on the authority to ensure that any accommodation found was suitable.

Where social services is carrying out a 'child in need' assessment under the Children Act 1989, accommodation should continue to be provided until the outcome of that assessment, even where the family has been placed 'out-of-area' and the assessment is being carried out by the 'receiving area' social services.[11]

Security of tenure in temporary accommodation

As a general rule, applicants accommodated under the duty to provide temporary accommodation for the intentionally homeless are excluded occupiers with no protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (see the section Who is an excluded occupier? for more information). This means the occupier has no entitlement to a notice to quit or a court order before being evicted.

For possible exceptions to this rule, and cases where the situation is unclear, see the page Interim duty to accommodate: Applications, inquiries and decisions.

Threatened with homelessness intentionally

If the authority decides that the applicant is in priority need but threatened with homelessness intentionally, it must provide advice and assistance to help the applicant in her/his attempts to make sure that the accommodation is not lost.[12] Individual needs must be assessed and information given about the likely availability of appropriate accommodation.[13] For more information see above.

If the applicant requests a review of the decision that s/he is threatened with homelessness intentionally, the authority has a power, but not a duty, pending the review decision to:[14]

  • to secure that accommodation is not lost
  • if the applicant does actually become homeless, to secure that accommodation is available.

Cooperation with social services

With effect from 1 October 2002, there is a duty of cooperation with social services in cases where:[15]

  • the applicant has a child under the age of 18 normally living with her/him, or who might reasonably be expected to live with her/him
  • there is reason for the housing authority to believe that the applicant may be homeless and may be intentionally homeless or threatened with homelessness intentionally.

The duty arises once there is reason to believe the applicant may be intentionally homeless. Action should not be delayed until a decision is made. For more information, see the section on Cooperation with other agencies.


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(4) Housing Act 1996.

[2] s.190(2)(b) Housing Act 1996.

[3] s.190(2)(a) Housing Act 1996.

[4] s.190(5) Housing Act 1996.

[5] para 14.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[6] para 14.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance, July 2006.

[7] Savage v Hillingdon LBC [2010] EWHC 88 (Admin).

[8] Conville v Richmond upon Thames LBC [2006] EWCA Civ 718, CA.

[9] Lally v Kensington and Chelsea RBC (1980) The Times 27 March.

[10] R (on the application of Nipyo) v Croydon LBC [2008] EWHC 847(Admin).

[11] R (on the application of AM) v Havering LBC and Ors [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin).

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

[13] s.195(6)-(7) Housing Act 1996.

[14] s.195(8) Housing Act 1996.

[15] s.213A Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.12 Homelessness Act 2002.

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