Local authority ends prevention duty to homeless applicants

A local authority can only end the duty to prevent homelessness by serving notice.

This content applies to England

When a local authority can end the prevention duty

If a local authority is satisfied that an applicant is eligible and threatened with homelessness it will owe them the prevention duty. The local authority must take reasonable steps to help the applicant secure that accommodation does not cease to be available for their occupation.

The prevention duty will continue until the local authority serves notice to end it. The authority can serve notice where 56 days have passed and the authority have complied with the duty.

The local authority can serve notice to end the duty before 56 days if the applicant:

  • has suitable accommodation for at least six months

  • refuses and offer of suitable accommodation

  • becomes homeless 

  • becomes homeless intentionally

  • ceases to be eligible

  • withdraws their application

The prevention duty will also end if the local authority gives notice that the applicant has deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate.

Ending the duty if 56 days have passed

The authority can serve notice to end the prevention duty as long as they have complied with that duty to take reasonable steps to secure that accommodation does not cease to be available and 56 days have passed since it was accepted.[1]

This means that where, for example, the applicant is an excluded occupier and has been given reasonable notice but the applicant has been allowed a few extra weeks, the authority can end their prevention duty 56 days after it arises, even if the applicant is still threatened with homelessness.

There is, however, no obligation to end prevention work after 56 days. The Homelessness Code of Guidance suggests that authorities should take individual circumstances into account rather than having a blanket policy.[2] Where prevention work is ongoing and has not yet been successful but the local authority thinks it might be, 'it will be in the interests of the both the applicant and the housing authority to continue to help the applicant avoid homelessness'.[3]

Applicant threatened with homelessness because of service of section 21 notice

If the applicant became threatened with homelessness because they received a valid section 21 notice which was due to expire within 56 days, the authority cannot serve notice to end the prevention duty because it has been complied with and 56 days has elapsed.[4]

The authority is able to serve notice only if it has another reason to do so.[5]

Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate

The prevention duty can be ended if the applicant has 'deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate' with a step in the personalised housing plan.[6]

Applicant has suitable accommodation for at least six months

Where the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of having suitable accommodation for at least six months, the prevention duty can be ended.[7] This does not have to be accommodation offered by the authority itself: the authority may have assisted by, for example, supplying details of private landlords, or the applicant may have found accommodation on their own initiative.

When ending prevention duty for this reason, a local authority should assess the suitability of the accommodation at the time it becomes available. There is no requirement that the same accommodation has to be available for the whole six-month period. By way of example, the Code suggests that the 'six month' condition might be met where:[8]

  • an applicant is placed in short term accommodation with a 'pathway' to a more permanent arrangement

  • a family member has agreed to allow the applicant to stay on an open ended basis until they can find a longer term address

  • a landlord has served a valid section 21 notice but agreed not to pursue a possession claim

When assessing whether an applicant's has a reasonable prospect of sustaining accommodation for six months, the authority should consider the support needs and vulnerabilities of the applicant, as identified in the assessment.[9] If the authority ends its prevention duty for this reason, it is likely that the applicant is no longer homeless or threatened with homelessness, so no other duties apply.

Applicant refuses a suitable accommodation offer

Where an applicant has been made an offer of accommodation and has a reasonable prospect of having accommodation for at least six months (see above), the prevention duty can be ended if the applicant refuses the offer.[10] The offer must be suitable. For further guidance on how a local authority should approach making an offer see Offers of accommodation in homeless applications.

If ending the prevention duty for this reason results in the applicant becoming homeless, a relief duty will follow.

Applicant has become homeless

Where the applicant becomes homeless, the relief duty applies and prevention work can be ended.[11] The Code suggests that in these circumstances, the authority should provide a 'seamless transition', notifying the applicant of the duties owed under relief at the same time as ending the prevention duty, possibly in one document, and updating the assessment and personalised housing plan.[12]

Where the prevention duty applies because the applicant has received a valid section 21 notice which was due to expire within 56 days, it may have become unreasonable to continue to occupy the accommodation at expiry of the notice. The Code suggests that this is likely where the authority is satisfied that it is unlikely to be able to persuade the landlord not to make a possession claim. At this point, the applicant is homeless.[13]

The applicant has become intentionally homeless

The intention of the prevention duty is that the applicant remains accommodated. This could be because the local authority has provided housing, or has taken steps to allow the applicant to find or keep accommodation and remain housed for six months. This usually allows the authority to end its duty.

However, in the very limited circumstances in which they do not end the duty at this point[14], if the applicant becomes intentionally homeless, the prevention duty can be ended.[15] Where an authority ends its duty on this basis, the applicant is homeless and a relief duty applies.[16]

The applicant is no longer eligible

Where an applicant has ceased to be eligible, for example, because their refugee status has ended with no further status having been granted, the authority can end the prevention duty.[17] No relief or accommodation duties follow to a non-eligible person, even should they become homeless, but the Code points out that there is still a duty to provide general advice and assistance.[18]

Applicant withdraws the application

The prevention duty can be ended if the applicant withdraws their application. The Code recognises that an applicant may not always withdraw their application explicitly but may simply fall out of contact with the authority. It suggests that to ensure that applicants really wish to withdraw applications, authorities try to re-contact anyone who has ceased contact. They should use 'varied communication channels' in order to do so, in case an applicant has, for example, lost their phone.[19]

According to the Code, a reasonable time after which to close an application having had no contact from the applicant is 56 days.[20] Since no other duties exist at prevention stage and the local authority does not become satisfied that the applicant is homeless once they have lost contact with them, no further obligations follow ending the prevention duty in this case.

Procedure for ending duty

Prevention duty is ended by serving notice.[21]

The notice must:[22]

  • be in writing

  • include a right to request a review and 21 day deadline within which to do so

  • state why the duty ended

Where the duty has been ended because an applicant has become homeless, the authority may combine the notice ending the prevention duty with notice accepting relief duties.[23]

Challenging the decision to end the duty

An applicant can request a review of the decision to end prevention duty within 21 days of being notified.[24]

The nature of the challenge depends on the circumstances and the reason for which the duty was ended. For example, where the duty was ended because of refusal of an offer, the applicant may argue that the offer was not suitable. Where it was ended because 56 days have passed since acceptance, it may be that steps in the plan were not reasonable (if they were inappropriate or lacking) or were not carried out. See internal reviews for more information.

Last updated: 18 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.195(8)(b) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [2]

    para 14.17 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    para 14.18 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    s.195(6) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [5]

    s.195(5) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [6]

    s.195(10) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2), Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [7]

    s.195(8)(a) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [8]

    para 14.10, 14.11, 14.14 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [9]

    para 14.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [10]

    s.195(8)(d) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [11]

    s.189B(1) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.195(8)(c) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [12]

    para 14.20 and 14.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    para 6.35, Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [14]

    para 14.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [15]

    s.195(8)(e) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [16]

    Knight v Vale Royal BC [2003] EWCA Civ 1258.

  • [17]

    s.195(8)(f) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; reg 5, Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1294.

  • [18]

    para 14.32 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018. See also s.179(1) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.2 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [19]

    para 14.33 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; s.195(8)(g) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [20]

    para 14.39 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [21]

    s.195(5) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [22]

    s.195(7) Housing Act 1996 as substituted by s.4(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [23]

    para 14.20 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [24]

    s.202(1)(bc)(ii) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.9(2) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and s.202(3) Housing Act 1996.