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Introduction to homelessness in Wales

This content applies to Wales

Overview of the law relating to homelessness in Wales under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

Since the devolution settlement reached with the UK government, the Welsh Assembly has enhanced law-making powers in several areas of law, including housing, local government and social welfare.

Primary legislation

The Welsh Assembly has enacted the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Part 2 of the Act prescribes new homelessness rules for Wales. The Act also legislates on other areas of housing, including the regulation of the private-rented sector.

These new provisions apply to homelessness applications made to local authorities in Wales on or after 27 April 2015. Applications made before that date will be governed by Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 until any duty is discharged or ended.[1] See Homelessness applications for the rules applicable (with some possible variations contained in Wales regulations) to homelessness applications made before 27 April 2015.

Secondary legislation

The Welsh Assembly has issued regulations under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 to specify details regarding:

Code of Guidance

With effect from 24 March 2016, a new statutory Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales has been issued. Part 2 provides guidance on exercising homelessness functions. Part 1 provides guidance on exercising allocation functions under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996.[6]

The new Code replaces the 'Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness' issued in April 2015.

The Code is not legally binding but failure to have regard to it can lead to the quashing of homeless decisions as unlawful under public law. Advisers can quote what the Code says on any particular issue to support a case, and the courts can require authorities to justify any departure from it.[7]

Case law

In England and Wales, lower courts are bound to follow precedents established in higher courts when deciding analogous cases. Decisions of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are binding on all county courts. Decisions of county courts are not binding on other county courts, but may be 'persuasive' in illustrating how a matter was decided in another county court, and can be useful to quote when negotiating with local authorities.

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 is new legislation and there is no case law on its provisions yet. In the meantime, case law developed under the Housing Act 1996 should remain binding in relation to those parts of the Welsh legislation which are unchanged, although caution may need to be exercised in relation to areas where the aspects of the previous law have been modified.

Cross-border referrals

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 and the Housing Act 1996 both contain provisions for local connection referrals between local authorities.[8] Under these provisions, applicants can be referred between Welsh and English authorities.

See Wales: local connection provisions for more information on:

  • establishing a local connection
  • referral conditions and procedures
  • duties of the respective authorities when dealing with such cases.

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] Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (Commencement No. 3 and Transitory, Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2015 SI 2015/1272.

[2] Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (Wales) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/2603; under art.5 Housing (Wales) Act 2014 (Commencement No. 3 and Transitory, Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2015 SI 2015/1272 any reference to eligibility rules under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 should be read as a reference to the substantive duties under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[3] Homelessness (Intentionality) (Specified Categories) (Wales) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1265.

[4] Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Wales) Order 2015 SI 2015/1268.

[5] Homelessness (Review Procedure) (Wales) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1266.

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

[7] R v Newham LBC ex p Bones (1992) 25 HLR 357, QBD; R v Newham LBC ex p Ugbo (1994) 26 HLR 263, QBD.

[8] s.80 Housing (Wales) Act 2014; s.198 Housing Act 1996.

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