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Resolution of disputes

This content applies to England

How disputes over local connection referrals can be resolved.

Regulations

Regulations direct that the arrangements to be followed in the event of a disagreement between the notifying and notified local authorities over a local connection referral are the arrangements as agreed by the local government associations for England, Wales, and Scotland.[1]

Dispute procedure

The procedure for resolving disputes is set out in the 'Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority' (commonly known as the Local Authority Agreement).[2]

Where a notified authority considers the conditions for referral are not met it should write to the notifying authority giving its reasons in full, within 10 days of receipt of the referral.[3] A standard notification of referral form is attached to the Local Authority Agreement.

In the event that they cannot they should agree an arbitrator to resolve the issue between them. If the authorities cannot agree on an arbitrator they should ask the Local Government Association to appoint an arbitrator from its panel of referees. An arbritator should be appointed within 21 days of the notified authority having received the notification of the referral.[4]

Although the homeless person is not a party to the dispute, the arbitrator may invite written or oral representations from the applicant, or any other person, that are relevant to the issue. The disputing authorities should make copies of their submissions available to the applicant. The authorities should have the opportunity to comment on any information from the applicant, or any other source where the arbitrator intends to rely on that information. Where necessary there should be an oral hearing, for example, if English is not the applicant's first language.

The arbitrator's decision must be in writing and should set out the:[5]

  • issue to be determined
  • relevant findings of fact
  • decision
  • reasons for the decision.

The arbitrator's decision is binding upon the local authorities, subject to the applicant's right to request a review.

In the case of a referral at the main duty stage where the arbitrator's decision is that the conditions for referral are met the notified authority must provide accommodation immediately, although it has 14 days to make arrangements. The notifying authority must continue to secure temporary accommodation until the notified authority has accepted the referral.[6]

Judicial review

The dispute procedure is only for use when there is a dispute over the conditions for a local connection referral are met.

The decision of the notifying authority that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless is binding on the notified authority. It is only open to the notified authority to challenge the decision of the notifying authority that an applicant is owed the relief duty or main housing duty by way of judicial review on public law grounds.[7]

Local authority guidelines

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. It is a voluntary agreement (drawn up by the local government associations for England, Wales, and Scotland) that local authorities are not obliged to follow, save where it sets out statutory obligations.  

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] Homelessness (Decisions on Referrals) Order 1998 SI 1998/1578; paras 10.51-52 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[2] paras 12 to 22 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

[3] para 10.1 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

[4] para 10.3 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

[5] para 16 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

[6] s.200(1) Housing Act 1996.

[7] R v Newham LBC ex p Tower Hamlets LBC (1991) 23 HLR 62, CA.

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