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Wales: duty to protect property

This content applies to Wales

The duty to protect personal belongings of homeless applicants under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

Duty to protect property

A local authority must take reasonable steps to prevent loss or damage to an applicant’s personal property, if it has reason to believe that:[1]

  • there is danger of loss or damage due to the applicant’s inability to deal with it, and
  • no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made.

An applicant may be unable to protect her/his property if, for example, s/he is ill or is unable to afford to pay for storage. An officer of the authority can enter the applicant’s current or former home for the purposes of dealing with the applicant’s belongings in any way which is reasonably necessary.[2]

The duty to protect property is concurrently owed to applicants in priority need who are owed any of the following duties:[3]

The duty to protect property will continue even if the substantive duty which triggered it comes to an end.[4]

Charges and conditions

Protection of property usually means arranging storage and may be subject to conditions including:[5]

  • making a reasonable charge for storage
  • reserving the right to dispose of property in specified circumstances (for example, where the applicant cannot be traced or the property is perishable).

Households with pets

The Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales states that authorities should be sensitive to the accommodation needs of applicants with pets and be aware that some people may be undergoing animal assisted therapy.[6]

Where an applicant is dependent on the companionship provided by a pet, the local authority should aim to provide accommodation that is suitable for a pet owner. Where this is not immediately available, authorities should aim to provide pet-friendly accommodation as soon as possible. If pet-friendly accommodation is not available, the applicant should be encouraged to make arrangements with friends or family or with kennel/cattery services.

If the authority arranges kennel or cattery services for an applicant, it can make a reasonable charge under the protection of property provisions.

Circumstances in which the duty ends

The duty to protect property comes to an end if the:

  • authority no longer has reason to believe that there is a danger of loss or damage to the property due to the applicant’s inability to deal with it.[7] This could occur where the applicant recovers from illness, finds accommodation where s/he can keep her/his possessions, or becomes able to afford the storage costs
  • applicant asks the authority to move her/his belongings to a particular location and the authority complies with this request, as long as the applicant has been informed that the duty will be discharged in this way.[8]

Where the duty to protect property comes to an end, the authority must notify the applicant of this decision and the reasons for it.[9] Applicants dissatisfied with decisions of the local authority about protection of property can only challenge them by way of judicial review - see Wales: challenging LA decisions.

Applications made before 27 April 2015

The provisions in Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 apply to homelessness applications made to local authorities in Wales on or after 27 April 2015.

For the law applicable to applications made in Wales before that date, contact Shelter Cymru.

[1] s.93 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[2] s.94(1) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[3] s.93(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[4] s.93(3) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[5] s.93(4) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[6] paras 11.22 to 11.25 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[7] s.94(6) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[8] s.94(4) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[9] s.94(8) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

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