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Wales: local connection provisions

This content applies to Wales

Local connection provisions and referral procedures between different local authorities under Part 2 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

The local connection test

Local authorities have a discretion to apply a local connection test for the purposes of ensuring that local resources are used for local people (and non-local people who cannot reasonably be expected to return to their local area).

Referrals are discretionary and authorities are not obliged to make enquiries as to whether an applicant has a local connection.[1]

When a referral can be made

If authorities choose to apply a local connection test, they can only consider the referral of an applicant to another authority while considering whether they owe a ‘help to secure’ duty.

A referral can only be made if the authority is satisfied that an applicant:[3]

If the applicant has no local connection to any other authority, the 'help to secure' duty will remain with the authority where the homelessness application is made. This may apply to people who have had an unsettled way of life for many years.[2]

When a referral cannot be made

A referral cannot be made for the purposes of avoiding any of the following duties:

Additionally, an authority cannot make a local connection referral once it has accepted a ‘help to secure’ duty, even if the referral option was open prior to accepting the duty.

Who has a local connection

An applicant has a local connection with a local authority in Wales or England if:[4]

  • s/he normally resides there through choice or have so resided there in the past
  • s/he is employed there
  • s/he has family associations within the area
  • there are other special circumstances.

The legal definition is deliberately wide to reflect its discretionary nature.

Normal residence of choice

There is no set period that an applicant has to live in an area to be regarded as having a local connection. Authorities need to consider all the circumstances and decide whether the applicant is clearly settled and, if not, whether they have a clear connection elsewhere.

Previous guidance prescribed periods such as six out of the last 12 months, and three out of the last five years. Whilst this may give an indication of a settled period, authorities are required to look at the circumstances of each case.

Statutory guidance on what is meant by normal residence of choice and how this might affect particular categories of applicant, is contained in the Code of Guidance for Local Authorities in Wales.[5] Additional guidance is contained in the guidelines for local authorities on 'Procedures for Referrals of Homeless Applicants on the Grounds of Local Connection with another Local Authority' (to be found at para 4 of Annex 18 of the English Code of Guidance).

Care leavers

Young people in the looked-after system who have been placed out-of-area and wish to return to their original area should be accepted as having a connection with the original area even if they have been placed elsewhere for a considerable period of time. Conversely, if they wish to remain in the area where they have been placed they should be considered to have a connection to that area.

Former members of the armed forces

Former serving members of the armed forces, and anyone who normally lives with them as part of their household, have a local connection with the area where they occupied forces accommodation.

The National Housing Pathway for Ex-Service Personnel outlines the support and services available to former members of the armed forces to help them find and retain suitable accommodation, both directly on discharge from the forces or later on in their lives.

Prisoners and people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983

Residence in a prison or detention in a mental health hospital is not residence ‘of choice’.[6]

Former asylum seekers

A former asylum seeker who was provided with accommodation under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (see asylum support from UKVI for destitute asylum-seekers) will have a local connection in the area where s/he was last accommodated under asylum support, except if s/he was accommodated in an accommodation centre.[7]

This type of local connection is secondary to any other type of local connection that a former asylum seeker will have established. This means that a former asylum seeker cannot be referred back to an area where s/he was provided with asylum support if s/he has established a local connection with the area where s/he presents as homeless, for example because of employment or family associations.

Conditions for a referral

The Housing (Wales) Act 2014 only contains provisions for local connection referrals between local authorities in Wales and England. In contrast, the Housing Act 1996 provides for referrals to and from Scotland as well.[8]

The referral conditions are met where the applicant or anyone reasonably expected to reside with her/him:[9]

  • does not have a local connection to the area where they made the homelessness application
  • has a local connection to another authority in Wales or England, and
  • does not run the risk of domestic or non-domestic abuse in the area where s/he is referred.

Where an authority wants to refer an applicant to another authority, it should notify the other authority of its opinion that the conditions for referral are met. The question of whether the referral conditions are satisfied is then decided by agreement between the two authorities. The Welsh Ministers can make regulations prescribing what should happen in the absence of agreement between the authorities.

Abuse and domestic abuse

Abuse means physical violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour and any other form of abuse which, directly or indirectly, may give rise to the risk of harm.

Abuse is domestic if the victim and the abuser are associated as:[10]

  • fiancés/fiancées
  • current or former spouses/civil partners
  • living together in an enduring family relationship, now or in the past
  • living together as part of the same household, now or in the past
  • close relatives such as parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces
  • people who have (or had) an intimate personal relationship of significant duration
  • parents of the same child or people who jointly have (or had) parental responsibility for a child.

In domestic abuse cases, an applicant cannot be referred back to another area if s/he or anyone reasonably expected to reside with her/him would run the risk of domestic abuse there.

In non-domestic abuse cases, an applicant cannot be referred back to another area if s/he, or anyone reasonably expected to reside with her/him, has suffered abuse in the other area and it is probable that a return to the area will lead to further abuse of a similar kind. Local authorities should take ‘similar kind’ to mean any abuse forming a pattern of conduct against them, even where the individual perpetrators may vary.[11]

Guidelines on procedures for referral

When a local authority makes a decision about local connection, it may wish to consider the guidelines for local authorities on 'Procedures for Referrals of Homeless Applicants on the Grounds of Local Connection with another Local Authority' (to be found at para 4 of Annex 18 of the English Code of Guidance).

The guidelines contains non-statutory guidance on:

  • the working definition of local connection
  • procedural arrangements for referrals
  • dispute procedures between authorities
  • a standard notification form.

The guidelines have been agreed by the local government associations for England, Wales, Scotland, and London.[12] They pre-date the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 but the current Welsh Code of Guidance directs authorities to them whilst noting that there have been legislative changes.[13]

Referrals from Wales to Wales and England

When a local authority in Wales has referred an applicant to another authority, or decided that the conditions for referral there are met, it must send a notice of end of duty to the applicant detailing:[14]

  • reasons for the authority's referral
  • cessation of any interim accommodation duty
  • applicant's right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.

The referring authority retains a duty to secure that suitable accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant and her/his household pending acceptance of the referral by the other authority.[15]

There is a discretionary power for the referring authority to continue to accommodate pending a review decision if the applicant exercises the right to review.[16]

Where the conditions for referral are not met (for example, if the other authority disputes the local connection of the applicant, or if there is a risk of abuse if the applicant returns to that area) the referring authority will owe to the applicant a:

  • ‘help to secure’ duty, and
  • interim accommodation duty.

Acceptance by an authority in Wales

If the referral conditions are met and another authority in Wales accepts the referral, the accepting authority will owe to the applicant a:[17]

  • ‘help to secure’ duty, and
  • interim accommodation duty.

Acceptance by an authority in England

If the referral conditions are met and a local authority in England accepts the referral, the accepting authority will owe to the applicant the main housing duty under the Housing Act 1996.

Referrals from England to Wales

If the referral conditions under the Housing Act 1996[18] are met and an authority in Wales accepts the referral, the accepting authority will owe to the applicant a:[19]

  • ‘help to secure’ duty, and
  • interim accommodation duty.

The referring authority in England must issue a decision letter notifying the applicant of the decision, the reasons for it, and the right to request a review within 21 days.[20]

There is a power for the referring authority in England to continue to accommodate pending a review decision if the applicant exercises their right to review.[21]

Concurrent duty to protect property

During the referral process, both the referring and accepting authority will have a concurrent duty to take reasonable steps to prevent loss or damage to the applicant’s personal property if the applicant is unable to make suitable arrangements.

See Wales: duty to protect property for more information on how the duty applies to local authorities in Wales.

See Protection of property for more information about the duty on local authorities in England.

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] para 18.1 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[2] para 18.9 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[3] s.80(1)-(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[4] s.81(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[5] paras 18.8 to 18.18 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[6] s.81(3) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[7] s.81(5)-(6) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[8] s.201 Housing Act 1996.

[9] s.80(3)-(4) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[10] s.58(1) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[11] para 18.20 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[12] Annex 18 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, DCLG, July 2006.

[13] para 18.7 Code of Guidance for Local Authorities on the Allocation of Accommodation and Homelessness, Welsh Government, March 2016.

[14] s.84 Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[15] s.82(1) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[16] s.82(4)-(6) Housing (Wales) Act 2014

[17] ss.68(3) and 82(3) Housing (Wales) Act 2014..

[18] s.198 Housing Act 1996.

[19] s.83(2) Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

[20] s184 Housing Act 1996.

[21] s.188(3) Housing Act 1996.

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