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Referrals: relief duty stage

This content applies to England

Referral to another local authority at the relief duty stage.

When referral can be made

Where an applicant is owed the relief duty s/he can be referred to a second local authority in England where the conditions for referrals are met.[1]

This means that an applicant can be referred once the authority (the 'first authority') is satisfied that the applicant is homeless and eligible for assistance, ie before it has considered whether s/he is in priority need and intentionally homeless.

When referral cannot be made

A referral cannot be made at the relief duty stage:

  • to a Welsh or Scottish local authority[2], or
  • when an applicant made her/his homelessness application before 3 April 2018[3].

Duty to applicant after notification of referral

The first authority must give notification of the referral to the second authority and to the applicant. The applicant may be given notification either before or after the notification to the second authority.[4]

Once the applicant has been notified that the first authority has notified (or intends to notify) a second authority that it believes the conditions for referral are met, the first authority will no longer be:

  • subject to the relief duty
  • under a duty to secure interim accommodation under section 188.

However, if the first authority has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need it must continue to secure temporary accommodation (under section 199A(2)) until the second authority has accepted or rejected the referral. If the referral is rejected, the first authority may be under a continued duty to accommodate (see below).

Acceptance or rejection of referral

The first authority should notify the second authority that it is referring an applicant, firstly by telephone, email or fax and then in writing. A specimen standard notification form is attached to the Local Authority Agreement.[5]

Once the first authority notifies another that it is making a referral, the second authority will have to consider whether the referral conditions are met. If it agrees that they are, then it will have to accept the referral. 

Referral accepted by second authority

If the second authority accepts the referral, the first authority will owe no further duties to the applicant as these will be owed by the second. The applicant is to be treated as if s/he applied to the second authority from the date of the notification of the decision to the applicant.[6]

The second authority will be:

  • subject to the relief duty
  • under a duty to secure interim accommodation under section 188 if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need.

The second authority will also be under a duty to assess the applicant's circumstances and housing needs and devise and review a personalised housing plan.[7] In practice, the first authority is likely to have already made an assessment and the second authority will probably use this as a starting point. The first authority must give the second authority copies of any assessment made and if the applicant consents, a copy of any personalised housing plan drawn up under the prevention duty or the relief duty.[8]

The second authority is bound by the decisions of the first authority that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance or became homeless intentionally except where:[9]

  • the applicant's circumstances change
  • further information comes to light that was not available when the first authority made its decision.

Where the first authority has made a decision around priority need, it is likely that the second authority can come to a different decision (and if deciding that the applicant is not in priority need, avoid a main housing duty) on the facts available - ie, even in the absence of a change in circumstances or further information.

If an applicant request a review of the decision that the referral conditions are met, the first authority has a power to accommodate her/him pending the outcome of the review.[10]

Referral rejected by second authority

If the second authority rejects the referral, and the first authority accepts its decision, the first authority must:[11]

  • carry out the relief duty (the 56 day period will run from the date of notification of decision to the applicant (see above))
  • secure temporary accommodation if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need, until (whichever is later):
    • the relief duty comes to an end
    • it decides what other duty (if any) it owes to the applicant.

Previous application to second authority

If the authority to whom the referral was made had made a negative decision in respect of a previous application, it will only have to accept a duty following the referral if there has been a subsequent change of circumstances. Where there has been no change of circumstance, neither the first nor the second authority will owe the applicant any duty.

For further details about applications to more than one authority see Multiple, repeat and withdrawn applications.

Disputes

Where the two authorities are unable to come agreement as to whether the referral conditions are met, they can enter the procedure to resolve disputes.

Non cooperation and referral

Where an authority to has given notice to an applicant that s/he has deliberately and unreasonably failed to cooperate under the relief duty it cannot make a referral under this procedure as the notice will have ended the relief duty.[12] The applicant may still be referred at main housing duty stage.

Notification of decision to applicant

When the two authorities have reached a decision on whether the referral conditions are met the first authority must notify the applicant in writing of:[13]

  • its decision and the reasons for it
  • her/his right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.

Local authority guidelines

Voluntary guidelines on the procedure for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, and for resolving disputes between local authorities are set out in the 'Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority' (commonly known as the Local Authority Agreement). This has been updated to take account of the changes introduced by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[1] s198(A1) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.5(8) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] s.198(A1) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.5(8) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; para 10.37 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] reg 4(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (Commencement and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/167.

[4] s.199A(1) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[5] s.199A(5)(a) as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; para 6.1 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018 (the standard notification form is on page 17 of the document).

[6] s.199A(5)(a) and (b) Housing Act 1996.

[7] s,189A Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; s.199A(5)(a) as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[8] s.199A(5)(d) Housing Act 1996; para 10.43 and para 11.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] s.199A(5)(c) Housing Act 1996.

[10] s.199A(6) Housing Act 1996.

[11] s.199A(4) Housing Act 1996.

[12] s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[13] s.199A(3) and (7) Housing Act 1996.

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