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Local authority ends interim duty

This content applies to England

The interim duty applies where there is reason to believe an applicant may be homeless, eligible and in priority need. When it ends will depend on the circumstances of the client.

Applications made before 3 April 2018

Where an applicant has made a homelessness application before 3 April 2018, the interim duty will cease as soon as a decision is made on the duties owed, whether or not the applicant is in priority need. If s/he requests a review of a negative decision the local authority will have a power to provide accommodation pending review. The accommodation can be ended as described below.

Note that in these cases, the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

Applications made on/after 3 April 2018

Applicant is not in priority need

Where the authority completes its enquiries into priority need and concludes that the applicant does not have it, the way in which the interim accommodation duty comes to an end will depend on whether the applicant is owed the relief duty.[1]

Where the applicant is not owed the relief duty, the interim duty to accommodate will end as soon as the applicant is notified of this.[2]

In all other cases, the interim duty will end when the applicant is notified that after the relief duty ends, no other accommodation duty will be owed to them.[3]

For example, where the applicant is notified that they are not in priority need halfway though the relief duty, for interim accommodation to end the decision letter would have to state that after the end of the relief duty no further accommodation duties will be owed.

The local authority will have no further obligations in either of these cases.

Applicant is in priority need

Where, on investigation, the applicant is found to be in priority need, the interim duty will end on the later of the following (unless, in some cases, the applicant has requested a review):[4]

  • notification that no relief duties are owed
  • issue of the decision letter as to accommodation duties under s.184
  • the relief duty ending (see ending relief duty).

If the applicant is homeless and eligible, then the authority will have to continue securing that accommodation is available after the end of the interim duty under the main housing duty, duty in cases of non cooperation or duty to intentionally homeless people.

Where the applicant has requested a review

Where the local authority has not accepted, or has given notice seeking to end a duty and the applicant has requested a review, the interim duty:[5]

  • will continue until notification of the review decision where it concerns suitability of accommodation in connection with a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer made under the relief duty (see offers of accommodation)
  • will be replaced by a power rather than a duty to accommodate in all other review cases.

When interim accommodation can be ended early

The courts have held that there is a difference between the existence and the performance of a duty.[6] So, a duty to secure that suitable accommodation is available exists from the point a local authority has reason to believe that an applicant may be homeless eligible and in priority need until one of the criteria above is met. However, in some cases, the authority may be able to say that while the duty exists, they have done all they need to in order to fulfill the duty and do not have to take any further steps.

In one case, a suitable offer was made to an applicant and the applicant refused. The courts held that the interim duty had been performed. The local authority was under no obligation to keep the offer open, or to make a further offer of interim accommodation unless there was a change of circumstances so that the accommodation already offered became unsuitable.[7]

Similarly, where an applicant acts  in a wholly unreasonable manner for a period of time, for example by breaking rules of occupation, no further performance of the interim duty may be necessary. In one case an applicant did not attend the B&B placement he was offered as he could not raise the fare to travel.[8] When he arrived the following day, he was told the booking had been cancelled. The courts held that this was not a persistent or unequivocal refusal to accept rules and so the accommodation should not have been ended.

Ending the accommodation

Interim accommodation will almost always have the status of excluded occupation (see Interim duty to accommodate). This means the occupier has no entitlement to a notice to quit or a court order before being evicted.[9] The Homelessness Code of Guidance advises that an authority should consider the terms of the licence or tenancy in deciding the notice length required. However, it should act 'reasonably' by giving the applicant 'at least some opportunity' to find alternative accommodation. What is considered 'reasonable notice' will depend on the facts of the case and allow the applicant time to consider requesting a review of the decision.[10] Where an applicant turns out not to be eligible, notice periods should take into account the needs of the applicant.[11]

Where an applicant with children is not eligible or is intentionally homeless and is evicted from interim accommodation, the local authority are under a duty to make a referral to Children's services where the applicant consents.[12] The Code suggests that a referral should be made without consent where there are safeguarding concerns.[13] Local authorities should consider having arrangements in place to assist with transition of responsibilities.[14]

Local authorities do not have a positive duty to carry out an assessment of the best interests of the children under section 11 Children Act 2004 each time they recover possession of interim accommodation from households with children. The fact that the courts should consider the proportionality of making a possession order and the housing department's duty to refer to Children's services are sufficient to ensure that the human rights and welfare of the children will be considered and taken into account in the discharge of their duties.[15]

[1] s.188(1ZA) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(4) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] s.188(1ZA)(a) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(4) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[3] s.188(1ZA)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(4) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; R (Mitchell) v Islington LBC [2020] EWHC 1478 (Admin).

[4] s.188(1ZB) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(4) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[5] s.188(2A) and s.188(3) Housing Act 1988 as substituted by s.5(4)(c) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[6] R (Brooks) v Islington LBC [2015] EWHC 2657 (Admin).

[7] R (Brooks) v Islington LBC [2015] EWHC 2657 (Admin).

[8] R (Carstens) v Basildon DC [2007] EWHC 122 (Admin).

[9] R (ZH and CN) v Newham LBC and Lewisham LBC and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Interested Party) [2014] UKSC 62; Mohamed v Manek and Kensington and Chelsea RLBC (1995) 27 HLR 439, CA.

[10] paras 15.19 and 15.20 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[11] para 15.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[12] s.213A(2) Housing Act 1996.

[13] para 15.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[14] para 14.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[15] Mohamoud v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC : Saleem v Wandsworth LBC [2015] EWCA Civ 780.

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