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An applicant's right to information regarding the status of her/his application and the right to a review of any decision. The offence of giving false information.

A local authority must ensure advice and information is available free of charge about the right to make an application for an allocation of housing. This should include information about how to apply, who is eligible or qualifies for an allocation, and the criteria used for prioritising between applicants. If an applicant needs assistance to make an application the authority must ensure this is provided free of charge.[1] Find details of local authorities on Gov.uk. See also the page Local authority allocations duties.

Right to information about the application

An applicant has the right to request information from the local authority about:[2]

  • how her/his application is likely to be treated under the scheme, including whether s/he is likely to given reasonable (or additional) preference and
  • whether appropriate accommodation is likely to be offered to them, and if so, how long this is likely to take
  • the facts that have been taken into account, or are likely to be taken into account, when the authority considers whether to allocate accommodation to her/him.

An applicant also has the right to be notified of any decision about how her/his application is assessed.

Household membership

The Housing Act 1996 does not define the term 'household' in Part 6. An applicant may include on her/his application anyone who should reasonably live with the applicant. Where an allocations policy is silent on the question of household membership, the authority may decide for itself who can be considered part of the household. It must ensure that an applicant's right to family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is not breached in reaching this decision. The protection of article 8 normally extends to minor children who are dependent on a parent, and will only extend to adult relatives in exceptional cases, such as ill-health that renders a person unable to live independently.[3]

An authority may take into account the immigration status of adult family members in determining whether they form part of the applicant's household: see the paragraph 'Ineligible members of an eligible applicant's household' on the page Categories of ineligible persons for details.

The authority's decision on household membership may be challenged by way of review (see below).

Receiving an offer

There is no requirement for local authorities to make a particular number of offers of accommodation. Some authorities have a 'one offer only' policy, while others will make two or more. Many authorities operate a choice-based lettings scheme in which applicants bid for properties, some of which may restrict the number of bids an applicant can make.

An authority can take a wide range of factors into account when deciding who is to have priority, or less priority, under its allocation scheme. For more information see the page Schemes and priorities. In this way, an authority may create a scheme where applicants who had turned down an offer of appropriate accommodation are given less preference.

Offers to joint applicants

Social landlords will usually grant joint tenancies to couples (including same-sex couples), they may offer joint tenancies to joint applicants in other circumstances. This ensures that one joint tenant is able to remain in the accommodation following the death of the other tenant. Local authorities should make applicants aware of the advantages and disadvantages of joint tenancies with respect to rent liability and the position on relationship breakdown.

Reviews

An applicant has the right to request a review of a local housing authority's decision regarding:[4]

  • whether s/he is eligible for an allocation of accommodation
  • whether s/he is a qualifying person
  • how her/his case was assessed in considering whether to allocate accommodation to her/him.

The category of decisions in the third bullet above is likely to include decisions about:

  • the type of property for which an applicant will be considered
  • the extent of the applicant's household to be housed with her/him[5]
  • the applicant's medical condition and welfare needs
  • factors considered to determine the applicant's reasonable preference
  • factors considered to determine if the applicant has additional preference on the grounds of urgent housing needs
  • the applicant's priority including her/his financial needs, behaviour and local connection.[6]

The Code of Guidance outlines general principles of good administrative practice that the local authority should adopt as part of its review procedure:[7]

  • notifying applicants of the time limit for requesting a review. There is no statutory time limit and the Code suggests 21 days
  • requiring the review request to be made in writing by the applicant or her/his representative, and advising the applicant of the information that should accompany the review
  • whether provision should be made for verbal submissions
  • the review should be carried out by an officer senior to the person who made the original decision
  • all relevant information should be considered, including relevant developments since the original decision was made (for example, the repayment of rent arrears)
  • reviews should be completed within a reasonable period. There is no statutory time limit and the Code suggests eight weeks.

The authority must notify the applicant of the outcome of the review, and the reasons for the decision.[8] The reasons given must be 'proper, adequate and intelligible and enable the person affected to know why they have won or lost'.[9]

Judicial review

There is no right to appeal to the county court against the review decision - any further challenge must be pursued by judicial review. See the section Judicial review for detailed information.

Complaints

A complaint can be made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman where an applicant is dissatisfied with how her/his case has been dealt with. See the page Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for more information.

No duty of care

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a local authority does not owe a duty of care to each individual applicant for social housing. This means that a claim against an authority for negligence in the way it has carried out its statutory duties will not succeed. In one case, the court struck out such a claim against a local authority who had failed to make an allocation to an applicant who faced a life-threatening risk to his health if he was not re-housed, who subsequently died before he was made an offer.[10].

Fraudulent applications

It is a criminal offence for an applicant to:[11]

  • knowingly or recklessly give false information
  • knowingly withhold information which the local authority has reasonably required her/him to provide.

The Code of Guidance suggests this could happen in relation to:[12]

  • an application
  • a response to a request for further information
  • review submissions.

Investigations into fraudulent applications

With effect from 6 April 2014, local authorities can compel listed organisations to provide them with information where it is reasonably required for the purpose of preventing, detecting or securing evidence for the conviction of an offence of making a fraudulent application for social housing.[13]

The listed organisations are:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • other providers of credit
  • telecommunications providers
  • utilities companies.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.166(1) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by Homelessness Act 2002.

[2] s.166(A)(9) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.147 Localism Act 2011.

[3] Jones v Luton BC [2016] EWHC 2036 (Admin); see also Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Complaint 16 012 028 against Kettering BC.

[4] s.166A(9) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.147 Localism Act 2011; paras 5.14 to 5.18 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

[5] R (Ariemuguvbe) v Islington LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 1218.

[6] R (on the application of Bauer-Czarnomski) v Ealing LBC [2010] EWHC 130 (Admin).

[7] para 5.19 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

[8] s.166A(9)(c) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by Localism Act 2011.

[9] R v Brent ex parte Baruwa (1997) 29 HLR 915, CA.

[10] Darby v Richmond on Thames LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 252.

[11] s.171 Housing Act 1996.

[12] para 5.11 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

[13] s.7(7) Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013; Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information) (England) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/899.

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