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Local connection

This content applies to England

The criteria for establishing whether a person has a local connection.

Where an applicant has no local connection with the local authority to which s/he applies, the authority can refer her/him to another authority where s/he has a local connection. For more information see Conditions for referrals.

What is a local connection?

A person may have a local connection on grounds of:[1]

  • normal residence
  • employment
  • family association
  • special circumstances
  • (for applications made on/after 3 April 2018) leaving care.

In addition, a former asylum seeker may have a local connection if when an asylum seeker s/he has been provided with UKVI accommodation in an area.[2]

The Code of Guidance advises local authorities that they should consider each case individually on its own particular facts.[3]

Isles of Scilly

An applicant can only have a local connection with the Isles of Scilly if s/he has lived in the area for two and a half years out of the three years immediately prior to application. A local connection cannot be acquired in through employment, family association, special circumstances or leaving care.[4]

When local connection is established

In establishing whether an applicant has a local connection the local authority must look at the facts at the date of the decision: not at the date of the application. If there is a review, the local authority must look at the facts at the date of the review.[5] Where inquiries have taken some time, the local authority should look at whether there has been a change in circumstances which might lead to a local connection having been established.[6]

Normal residence

Residence of choice

Normal residence is only established if it is residence of the applicant's 'own choice'.[7]

Residence is not of choice if it is as a result of imprisonment or other form of detention.[8]

Length of residence

The period of time a person has to reside in an area to be normally resident is not defined in the homelessness legislation. However, under the Local Authority Agreement normal residence is established by:[9]

  • six months' residence in the area during the past 12 months, or
  • not less than three years residence during the previous five years.

Armed forces

Housing in armed forces accommodation can be residence of choice. A member of the armed forces can obtain a local connection in the area s/he was posted.[10]

For information on housing options for ex-service personnel and their families, see NHAS's A guide to housing options in England for ex-Service personnel.

Refuge accommodation

Residence in a women’s refuge can be residence of choice.

In a Court of Appeal case, the applicant had fled domestic violence in Leicester and travelled to London to find accommodation, the Court held that this could be classed as residence of choice because at the time of seeking refuge accommodation, the applicant had alternatives and could have chosen to travel elsewhere than London, or made a homeless application to a local authority rather than seeking refuge accommodation. This is distinct from cases where the only choice would be to accept refuge accommodation or face detention or destitution.[11]

Interim/ temporary accommodation

The Code of Guidance advises that residence in temporary accommodation provided by a housing authority can constitute normal residence of choice.[12]

The House of Lords held that residence in interim accommodation pending inquiries can be residence of choice.[13] It is not clear if this will apply to both in-borough and out-of-borough placements in interim accommodation.

Street homeless/sofa surfers

The Code of Guidance advises that a person who is street homeless or ‘sofa surfing’ in an area and who has no settled accommodation elsewhere, should be treated as normally resident (for the purposes of the 1996 Act).[14]

Former asylum seekers

A person claiming asylum who has been provided with accommodation by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) (formerly National Asylum Support Service (NASS)), will automatically have a local connection with the area in which that accommodation was sited, unless that accommodation was an ‘accommodation centre’  If s/he was accommodated in more than one local authority area by UKVI (or NASS) s/he will only have a local connection with the most recent area.[15]

UKVI accommodation in Scotland

Residence in UKVI (or NASS) accommodation does not establish a local connection with a Scottish local authority.[16]

The main housing duty (under section 193) does not apply to an applicant who:[17]

  • applies to an English local authority
  • is eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless
  • was last placed by UKVI in accommodation in Scotland
  • has no local connection elsewhere.

However, the authority has a power to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant for a period giving her/him a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation for his occupation, and to provide advice and assistance to help her/him to secure accommodation for her/himself.[18] The Code of Guidance adds that authorities may consider assisting such applicants in making an application to a Scottish authority, where (provided that authority found them to be eligible, in priority need, and unintentionally homeless) a full duty would be owed. It also states that in giving advice and assistance, housing authorities will need to take into account the wishes of the applicant.[19]

Accommodation centres

Asylum seekers and certain other groups can be placed by UKVI in accommodation centres. Some people may be subject to a condition that they stay at an accommodation centre.[20]

Residence in an accommodation centre will not give an asylum seeker a local connection to an area.[21]

Employment

There is no definition of what constitutes employment in the homelessness legislation. However, the Act uses the present tense term ‘is employed’, so employment should be current.[22]

Casual work of short duration has been held to be excluded for the purposes of establishing a local connection. Local authorities are advised to contact the employer to confirm that employment exists and is not of casual nature.[23]

The homelessness legislation does not say that self-employment or part-time employment are excluded and the High Court has ruled that both part time and unpaid work can give rise to a local connection.[24]

The applicant should actually work in the local authority's area, the employer's head office being located in an area will not establish a local connection.[25]

Serving in the regular armed forces in an area establishes a local connection in the same way as other types of employment.[26]

Family association

A local connection should only be accepted on the basis of family association if the applicant actually wishes to live in the area of the family member concerned. A local connection referral on the basis of family association should not be made where the applicant would prefer to live in the area to which they have applied.[27]

There is no definition of what constitutes family association in the homelessness legislation.

However, the Local Authority Agreement suggests that a family association normally arises if an applicant (or any member of the applicant's household):[28]

  • has parents, adult children, brothers or sisters residing in the area, and
  • the relatives have been resident for at least five years at the date of the decision

It is also suggests that local connection will not arise from a family association with a dependent child who is resident in a different area from her/his parents, because a child's residence is not residence of choice.

The Court of Appeal has held that it is the particular circumstances of an applicant that will determine if an individual applicant has a local connection through family association, and the actual closeness of a relationship may be more relevant than the Local Authority Agreement guidelines.[29]

The Code of Guidance also suggests that:[30]

  • family association can include with other family members such as step-parents, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts or uncles provided there are sufficiently close links in the form of frequent contact, commitment or dependency. Family associations should be determined with regard to the fact-specific circumstances of the individual case. For example, the actual closeness of the family association may count for more than the degree of blood relation
  • local authorities do not rigidly require that the relative must have resided in their area for at least five years. For example, refugees or other recent arrivals to the UK may not have had five years in which to build up a residence period in anywhere in the UK.

Special circumstances

A local authority can find that an applicant has a local connection with its own or another authority's area for other special reasons. There is no definition of what constitutes special circumstances in the homelessness legislation.

Examples given in the Local Authority Agreement are:[31]

  • people who have been in prison or hospital and cannot establish a local connection in another way
  • a person seeking to return to an area where s/he was brought up or had lived for a considerable length of time.

Membership of a place of worship in a particular area does not constitute a special reason.[32]

The Code suggests that special circumstances might include the need to be near special medical or support services only available in a particular district.[33]

A local authority must exercise its discretion when considering whether there are any special circumstances that could give rise to a local connection.[34]

Care leavers

For applications made on or after 3 April 2018 only.

A care leaver will have a local connection to a local authority area:[35]

  • where it owes her/him duties as a former relevant child. This local connection category will apply until the care leaver's 21st birthday, or 25th birthday if s/he is pursuing a course of education set out in her/his pathway plan.[36] In non-unitary authorities the care leaver will have a local connection with all the local housing authority areas within the social services authority's area
  • in which s/he was normally resident for a continuous period of two years, at least some of which fell before her/his 16th birthday, as a result of being looked after by a local authority. This connection will last until her/his 21st birthday.

Care leavers who apply before 3 April 2018

Applicants who apply as homeless before 3 April 2018 will not be able to establish a local connection through the leaving care rules. However, they may be able to show that they have another form of local connection: for example, through special circumstances.

Local authority guidelines

Voluntary guidelines on the procedure for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, and for resolving disputes are set out in the Local Authority Agreement. The references in the footnotes on this page are made to the draft agreement which is expected to come into force soon. In the interim readers may wish to refer to the old Local Authority Agreement (which can be found at Annex 18 to the 2006 Homelessness Code of Guidance).

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references on this page are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] s.199 Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.8 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] s.199(6) Housing Act 1996.

[3] para 10.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] Homelessness (Isles of Scilly) Order 1997 SI 1997/797.

[5] Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC (2002) HLR 7, HL.

[6] para 4.2 Draft Local Authority Agreement.

[7] s.199(1)(a) Housing Act 1996.

[8] s.199(3)(b) Housing Act 1996.

[9] para 4.3(i) Draft Local Authority Agreement, Local Government Association.

[10] s.199 Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.315 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[11] NJ v Wandsworth LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1373.

[12] para 10.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[13] Mohamed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2001] UKHL 57; see also Al-Ameri (FC) v Kensington and Chelsea RBC [2004] UKHL 4.

[14] para 10.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[15] s.199(6), (7)(a) and (b) Housing Act 1996.

[16] s.27(2)(a)(iii) Housing Scotland Act 1987.

[17] s.11(2) and (3)(a) Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004.

[18] s.11(3)(b)  Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004.

[19] para 10.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[20] part 2, Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

[21] s.199(7)(b) Housing Act 1996.

[22] s.199(1)(b) Housing Act 1996.

[23] R v Vale of White Horse DC ex parte Smith and Hay (1984) 17 HLR 160, QBD; paragraph 4.3(ii) Draft Local Authority Agreement.

[24] R. v Ealing LBC Ex p. Fox (1998) 95(11) L.S.G. 35.

[25] para 10.8 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[26] s.199 Housing Act 1996 amended by s.315 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

[27] para 4.3(iii) Draft Local Authority Agreement, Local Government Association; para 10.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[28] para 4.3(iii) Draft Local Authority Agreement, Local Government Association.

[29] Ozbek v Ipswich LBC [2006] EWCA Civ 534; see also Surdonja v Ealing LBC (2000) HLR 481, CA.

[30] paras 10.9 and 10.10 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[31] para 4.3(iv) Draft Local Authority Agreement, Local Government Association.

[32] R v Westminster CC ex parte Benniche (1997) 29 HLR 230, CA.

[33] para 10.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[34] para 4.1(iv) Draft Local Authority Agreement, Local Government Association.

[35] s.199(8) to (11) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.8 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; reg 3 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (Commencement and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Regulations 2018.

[36] s.199(8) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.8(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Note that s.199(8) refers to s.23C Children Act 1989 which imposes duties lasting for this period. Other duties to former relevant children aged 21 or over are imposed by different sections of the Children Act.

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