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How local authorities should inquire into intentional homelessness

This content applies to England

How a local authority should conduct inquiries to establish if an applicant is intentionally homeless .

Burden of proof

When processing a homelessness application, the burden is on the local authority to satisfy itself that the applicant is intentionally homeless. It is not up to the applicant to prove that s/he is not intentionally homeless.[1]

If there is any uncertainty about the matter, for example where the applicant became homeless some years previously and the facts are therefore unclear, it may not be possible for the authority to satisfy itself that the applicant became homeless intentionally.[2]

A local authority is entitled to rely on a court's decision to grant a possession order without having to carry out inquiries designed to question whether the court's judgement was correct.[3]

A local authority must resolve whether events such as threats and intimidation, which caused an applicant to leave her/his home, have occurred as alleged. It must not put the burden of proving whether events occurred on the applicant.[4]

The local authority should disclose to the applicant any information given by a third party.[5]

Public sector equality duty

The public sector equality duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (formerly section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) to take account of a person's protected characteristics (ie age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation) applies to the homelessness decision making process.

For example, in one case, failure to make adequate inquiries into an applicant's disability and to consider the relevance of that disability as to whether or not the applicant was 'intentionally homeless' was a breach of the above duty and the decision was quashed.[6] The duty will only apply where the authority has reason to believe such inquiries are relevant, so advisers should make the local authority aware of all the applicant's circumstances.

Code of Guidance

The Homelessness Code of Guidance makes it clear that decisions on intentional homelessness must arise from the investigations carried out in each individual case. General policies, which seek to predefine what is and what is not intentional homelessness cannot be applied.[7]

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] Hawa Abdullah Ali v Newham LBC [2000] Bow County Court, Legal Action November 2000; R v Camden LBC ex parte Cosmo (1997) 30 HLR 817, QBD; R v Westminster CC ex parte Rahman [1983], QBD; para 9.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[2] R v West Dorset DC ex parte Phillips (1984) 17 HLR 336, QBD; R v Thurrock BC ex parte Williams (1981) 1 HLR 128, QBD; para 9.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

[3] Green and Coyne v Croydon LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 1367.

[4] R v Barnet LBC ex parte Babalola (1996) 28 HLR 196, QBD; R v Wandsworth LBC ex parte Dodia (1997) 30 HLR 562, QBD.

[5] R v Poole BC ex parte Cooper (1994) 27 HLR 605, QBD; R v Ealing LBC ex parte Chanter [1992] QBD, Legal Action December 1992.

[6] Pieretti v  Enfield LBC [2010] EWCA Civ 1104.

[7] para 9.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

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