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Ending relief duty

This content applies to England

Under the relief duty a local authority must take reasonable steps to help the homeless applicant secure that suitable accommodation becomes available for their occupation for at least 6 months.

The relief duty:

  • can only be ended in specific circumstances allowed in the legislation
  • in some circumstances may end automatically, but in most cases a local authority will have to serve a notice to end it
  • only applies to homelessness applications made on or after 3 April 2018.

56 days have elapsed

In the circumstances described below, the relief duty will last for a minimum of 56 days and will end:

  • automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted, or
  • when the local authority serves a notice to end it (meaning, it could be extended for longer than 56 days).

Where applicant is in priority need and not intentionally homeless

The relief duty will end automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted if the authority is satisfied that the applicant is in priority need and is not satisfied that s/he is homeless intentionally.[1] No notice is required for the relief duty to end in this case.

It means that where the local authority is satisfied that an applicant is in priority need and not satisfied s/he is intentionally homeless, the authority has 56 days to take reasonable steps to help the applicant secure that suitable accommodation becomes available for their occupation for at least 6 months. There is no discretion to extend the relief duty beyond the 56 days even if the local authority has not complied with it.

Where the authority has decided that main housing duty is owed before the end of the 56 days' period, the Homelessness Code of Guidance advises the authority not to notify the applicant until the 56 days have passed for fear that notification might 'detract from activities to relieve their homelessness'.[2] The Code advises that where the authority has all the information that is required to make a decision in relation to the applicant's priority need and intentionality, it should be possible to issue a notification on or around day 57.[3]

Where no decision has been made on priority need or intentional homelessness

Where the local authority is yet to decide on whether the applicant is in priority need and/or intentionally homeless, the relief duty will not end automatically after 56 days, but the local authority may serve a notice to end the relief duty, if:[4]

  • 56 days have passed since the local authority accepted the relief duty, and
  • the local authority has complied with the relief duty.

If there is reason to believe that the applicant is in priority need, then there will be an interim accommodation duty which will last until a decision is made on main housing duty.[5] The Homelessness Code of Guidance advises local authorities that authorities should not delay completing their enquiries into what other duty is owed after the relief duty and that where 'significant further investigations' into priority need and/or intentionality are required, the authority should aim at completing their enquiries and issuing a notification as to whether the main housing duty will be owed within a maximum of 15 working days after 56 days have passed.[6]

Where applicant is not in priority need or is intentionally homeless

Where an applicant is not in priority need, or is intentionally homeless, the relief duty will not end automatically after 56 days, but the local authority may serve a notice to end the relief duty, if:[7]

  • 56 days have passed since the local authority accepted the relief duty, and
  • the local authority has complied with the relief duty.

The authority could however extend the duty for longer.[8] If the applicant is not in priority need, no further duties will follow after the end of relief. See duties to intentionally homeless people in cases where s/he is intentionally homeless.

Extending the relief duty beyond 56 days

In considering whether to extend the relief duty beyond 56 days, an authority is advised not to have a blanket policy.[9] It should consider whether there is a risk of rough sleeping, the prospects of securing accommodation within a reasonable period, the resources they have available and the wider implications of ending the duty (for example, an intentionally homeless applicant with children may be owed duties by children's services).[10]

Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate

The relief duty can be ended before 56 days from when it was accepted if the applicant has 'deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate' with a step in the personalised housing plan.[11] Considerations involved in this, and the specific notice procedure, are described in Deliberate and unreasonable refusals to cooperate.

Applicant has suitable accommodation for at least six months

The relief duty can be ended before 56 days from when it was accepted if:[12]

  • the applicant has suitable accommodation available for at least six months, and
  • the local authority serves a notice to end the relief duty.

In deciding whether the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of having suitable accommodation for at least six months, considerations are similar to those made when ending the prevention duty for this reason. The same paragraphs of the Code of Guidance apply.

Refusal of a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer

Final accommodation offers and final Part 6 offers are defined in offers of accommodation. If an applicant rejects one of these offers, the relief duty will end automatically: there is no need for a further notice in this case.[13] However, this will occur only if the applicant is informed of:[14]

  • the consequences of rejection
  • her/his right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation.

If the relief duty ends on this basis, an authority will not owe a main housing duty even if the applicant is in priority need and unintentionally homeless.[15] This is a rare case where a person in priority need is at an advantage by being intentionally homeless, as limited accommodation and other duties may still apply: see duties to intentionally homeless people.[16]

Note that relief duty can also be ended if an applicant accepts a 'final accommodation offer' or 'final part 6 offer'. This is likely to be on the basis that the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of suitable accommodation being available for six months. In this case, notification will be required.

Applicant refuses a suitable offer of accommodation

Where an applicant has refused an offer of accommodation and at the time of the offer had a reasonable prospect of having accommodation for at least six months (other than a final accommodation offer or a final Part 6 offer), an authority can end relief duty before 56 days from when it arose by serving notice.[17] In looking at 'reasonable prospect', similar considerations will apply as above. It is likely that for the authority to end the duty in this way, it would have had to have made the offer itself. The accommodation offered must be suitable. For guidance on how a local authority should approach making an offer, see offers of accommodation.

The local authority has discretion over whether to end the relief duty for this reason. In using their discretion, the Code recommends that the authority look at the applicant's circumstances, including the reason for their refusal and the reasonable steps they are taking to secure accommodation of their preference.[18]

Applicant becomes homeless intentionally

Where a local authority has helped an applicant to find suitable accommodation and there is a reasonable prospect of the applicant having accommodation for six months, it will usually end relief duty (see above).[19] If, however, it has not already done so, the authority can end the relief duty by serving a notice if the applicant becomes intentionally homeless from the accommodation it assisted in finding.[20]

Applicant no longer eligible for assistance

In order to owe the relief duty, the authority must have been satisfied that the applicant was homeless and eligible.[21] If there has been a change to the applicant's immigration status, s/he may have become ineligible, in which case the authority can issue a notice to end the duty.[22] If interim accommodation duty has been accepted during relief stage, this can also be ended - see ending interim duty for more details.

Applicant withdraws homelessness application

The considerations which are relevant in this case are similar to those when ending the prevention duty because of a withdrawal of a homelessness application and the same paragraphs of the Code of Guidance are relevant. See ending prevention duty for more information.

Notification requirements for ending duty

In all cases above where notice is required,[23] the notification must:[24]

  • be in writing
  • include a right to request a review within 21 days
  • state why the duty was ended.

Where no notice is required because 56 days have elapsed and the applicant is in priority need and not intentionally homeless, the authority must notify the applicant of its decision as to the main housing duty.[25] In most cases, this should be possible on the 57th day.[26]

Challenge

An applicant can request a review of the decision to end relief duty within 21 days of being notified.[27] The nature of the challenge will depend on the facts of the case. For example:

  • where the local authority ends the duty on the basis that the applicant now has accommodation or has refused an offer of any type, this could be on the basis that the accommodation was not suitable
  • a challenge could also relate to the facts of the case. It might be argued, say, that the applicant did not, as the authority allege, refuse to cooperate or that contrary to the authority's arguments, s/he is still eligible for assistance
  • where the duty is ended because of the passage of 56 days since acceptance, it may be that the duty was not complied with (perhaps the steps taken were not appropriate or obviously reasonable steps were missed) during this time.

See internal reviews for more information.

[1] s.189B(4) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[2] para 13.10 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] para 14.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[4] s. 189B(5) and s.189B(7)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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

[6] para 14.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[7] s.189B(5) and s.189B(7)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[8] See also para 14.15 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[9] para 14.17 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[10] para 14.19 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[11] s.189B(9)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[12] s.189B(7)(a) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[13] s.189B(9)(a) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193A(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[14] s.193A(1)(b) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[15] s.193A(2) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[16] There is no equivalent of s.193A(2) Housing Act to prevent duties under s.190 arising for people who are in priority need and intentionally homeless and refuse a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer.

[17] s.189B(7)(c) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[18] para 14.27 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[19] para 14.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[20] s.189B(7)(d) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[21] s.189B(1) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[22] s.189B(7)(e) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[23] s.189B(5) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[24] s.189B(6) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

[25] s.184(3) Housing Act 1996.

[26] para 14.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[27] s.202(1)(ba)(ii) and s.202(3) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.9(2)(b) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

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