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Local authority ends duty to intentionally homeless people

This content applies to England

When the duty to provide accommodation for an intentionally homeless applicant can be brought to an end.

Overview of duty

Where the duty to relieve homelessness has ended, if the local authority is satisfied that an applicant is eligible for assistance, in priority need but intentionally homeless, it must:[1]

  • secure that suitable accommodation is available for such a period as the authority considers will give the applicant a reasonable opportunity to secure other accommodation
  • provide advice and assistance, based on the assessment of the applicant's needs, to help her/him secure somewhere to live.

Length of time accommodation should be provided

The authority must assess each case individually in deciding what is a reasonable period of time to continue to provide accommodation. The Homelessness Code of Guidance suggests that 'a few weeks' may be reasonable.[2] However, the Code stresses that authorities need to consider each case on its merits and should take account of local circumstances. This includes how readily other accommodation is available in the area and the particular circumstances of the applicant, such as whether s/he can afford rent in advance or a deposit. [3]

In one case, the High Court held that a local authority had acted unlawfully in the exercise of its duty to provide advice and assistance when it denied assistance under its deposit provision scheme to a homeless single mother on the basis that she was intentionally homeless; the local authority had erred in failing to consider the Code of Guidance and its own guidance in reaching its decision.[4] A local authority is not permitted to take into account conditions peculiar to itself, such as its resources and other demands upon it, when making its decision.[5]

The use of a blanket policy of offering a set number of days would be unlawful. A guideline, for example, of 28 days, which is reconsidered in each case, would be acceptable. In areas of acute housing shortage a period of more than four months may be required for large households. However, in a case where a mother of three children had made little effort to find a deposit or register on housing lists with letting agents, it was held that a total of 85 days was more than a reasonable amount of time to give someone an opportunity to find accommodation. Although a period of ten days initially offered by the authority was held to be inadequate.[6]

In the same case, the High Court also held that an authority did not have to actually wait for an applicant to find accommodation, it just had to give them reasonable opportunity to do so, and that there was no obligation on the authority to ensure that any accommodation found was suitable.

Where social services is carrying out a 'child in need' assessment under the Children Act 1989, accommodation should continue to be provided until the outcome of that assessment, even where the family has been placed 'out-of-area' and the assessment is being carried out by the 'receiving area' social services.[7]

Security of tenure in temporary accommodation

As a general rule, applicants accommodated under the duty to provide temporary accommodation for the intentionally homeless are excluded occupiers with no protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This means the occupier has no entitlement to a notice to quit or a court order before being evicted.

For possible exceptions to this rule, and cases where the situation is unclear, see Interim duty to accommodate.

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] s.190(2) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] para 15.14 Homeless Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] para 15.15 Homeless Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] Savage v Hillingdon LBC [2010] EWHC 88 (Admin).

[5] Conville v Richmond upon Thames LBC [2006] EWCA Civ 718, CA.

[6] R (on the application of Nipyo) v Croydon LBC [2008] EWHC 847(Admin).

[7] R (on the application of AM) v Havering LBC and Ors [2015] EWHC 1004 (Admin).

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