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Who has a priority need

This content applies to England

This page looks at priority need categories in England. The definition of priority need is contained in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

Categories of persons in priority need

Section 189 of Housing Act 1996, as extended by statutory instrument, defines five categories of people who must be accepted as in priority need.[1]

These five categories are:

The Housing Act 1996 also defines the following groups who will be accepted as in priority need provided that the authority is satisfied that they are vulnerable. A person may be vulnerable as a result of:

  • old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or other special reason, or someone who lives with one of these categories of vulnerable person
  • having been looked after, accommodated or fostered and is aged 21 or over (other than ' relevant students')
  • having been a member of Her Majesty's regular naval, military or air forces
  • having served a custodial sentence, been committed for contempt of court or similar offence, or been remanded in custody
  • having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person that are likely to be carried out.

Household members

Note that priority need is extended to any person who lives with (or might reasonably be expected to live with) the following:

  • a pregnant woman
  • a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability, or another special reason.

Persons subject to immigration control

Where the applicant is a person subject to immigration control who is eligible for assistance under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (for example a person granted refugee status or indefinite leave to remain or humanitarian protection),[2] any household member who is a person from abroad who is ineligible for assistance will be disregarded in determining whether the applicant has priority need.[3]

Persons not subject to immigration control/restricted cases

Prior to 2 March 2009, the above provision applied to all applicants with a household member who was a person from abroad who was ineligible for assistance. This provision was held to be incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[4] The legislation has been amended so that the provision no longer applies to applicants who are not subject to immigration control.

A British citizen, a Commonwealth citizen with a right of abode in the UK or an EU (or Swiss) national with a right to reside in the UK can be in priority need as a result of certain household members.[5] (See above for the categories of person in a household who can confer priority need on an applicant.) However, if that household member is a 'restricted person', there are specific rules regarding discharge of the homeless duty.

See the page Ending main duty for further information on these 'restricted cases'.

A 'restricted person' is a person:[6]

  • who is not eligible for assistance under Part VII Housing Act 1996
  • who is subject to immigration control within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996

and either:

  • does not have leave to enter or remain in the UK or
  • whose leave to enter or remain in the UK is subject to a condition to maintain and accommodate himself, and any dependants, without recourse to public funds.

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

[1] Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051.

[2] reg 5 Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility)(England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1294.

[3] s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

[4] R v Westminster CC, ex p Morris; R v Lambeth LBC ex p Badu [2005] EWCA Civ 1184.

[5] s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

[6] s.184(7) Housing Act 1996 as amended para 3(3) Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

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