Local authority ends relief duty to homeless applicants

The duty to relieve homelessness can end automatically after 56 days or by the local authority serving notice.

This content applies to England

When the relief duty can end

If a local authority is satisfied that an applicant is eligible and homeless it owes them the relief duty. The local authority must take reasonable steps to help the homeless applicant secure that suitable accommodation becomes available for their occupation for at least six months.

The relief duty ends automatically after 56 days if the local authority is satisfied that the applicant has a priority need and is not intentionally homeless. 

The local authority can also end the relief duty by serving notice if either:

  • 56 days have passed and the authority has complied with the relief duty

  • 56 days have passed and the authority is satisfied the applicant does not have a priority need or is intentionally homeless

  • the applicant has deliberately and unreasonably refused to take a step in their plan

  • the applicant has suitable accommodation for at least six months

  • the applicant has refused an offer of accommodation, including a final offer

  • the applicant has become intentionally homeless

  • the applicant is no longer eligible

  • the homeless application has been withdrawn

End of the relief duty when 56 days have passed

The relief duty ends automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted if the local authority is satisfied that the applicant is in priority need and not homeless intentionally.[1] The local authority does not need to give the applicant a notice but it should issue a decision letter confirming that it accepts the main housing duty.

There is no discretion to extend the relief duty beyond 56 days in these circumstances 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 because the 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 or intentionally homeless, the relief duty does not end automatically after 56 days.

The local authority can serve a notice to end the relief duty, if:[4]

  • 56 days have passed since the local authority accepted the relief duty

  • the local authority has complied with the relief duty

The local authority can end the relief duty if 56 days have passed and it has complied with the duty, whether the applicant has found alternative accommodation or not. The authority must still make a decision on whether it owes the main housing duty to the homeless applicant.

If there is reason to believe that the applicant is in priority need, the interim accommodation duty continues 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.

Where 'significant further investigations' into priority need or intentionality are required, the authority should aim to complete their enquiries and issue a notification as to whether the main housing duty is 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 does not end automatically after 56 days. The local authority can serve a notice to end the relief duty, if:[7]

  • 56 days have passed since the local authority accepted the relief duty

  • the local authority has complied with the relief duty

The authority can extend the duty.[8] If the applicant is not in priority need, no further duties arise after the end of the relief duty.

If an applicant is found to be intentionally homelessness and in priority need, the Code advises that the authority might wish to notify the applicant during the relief stage to give warning that the main duty will not be owed.[9] The authority has further duties to someone who is intentionally homeless and in priority need.

Extending the relief duty beyond 56 days

The Code advises authorities not to adopt a blanket policy on whether to extend the relief duty beyond 56 days.[10]

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).[11]

Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate

The relief duty can be ended before 56 days from when it was accepted if the applicant has deliberate and unreasonably refused to cooperate with a step in the personalised housing plan.[12]

Applicant has suitable accommodation for at least six months

The relief duty can be ended before 56 days from when it was accepted if:[13]

  • 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 applicant will normally no longer be homeless where the relief duty is ended for this reason. It is possible for an applicant to remain homeless and potentially be owed the main housing duty if suitable accommodation is still not reasonable to continue to occupy, but this is likely to be uncommon.[14]

Find out more about when accommodation is not reasonable to continue to occupy.

Applicant refuses a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer

The relief duty ends automatically if the applicant refuses a final part 6 offer or a final accommodation offer. The local authority does not need to give the applicant notice to end the duty.[15]

The local authority must have informed the applicant of:[16]

  • the consequences of rejection

  • their right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation

If the relief duty ends for this reason, an authority does not owe the applicant the main housing duty even if they are in priority need and not intentionally homeless.[17] This is a rare case where a person in priority need is at an advantage by being intentionally homeless, as the local authority has limited duties to provide accommodation and assistance.[18]

The relief duty can also end if an applicant accepts a final accommodation offer or final part 6 offer. This is because the applicant has suitable accommodation and a reasonable prospect of suitable accommodation being available for six months. The local authority must give the applicant notice to end the duty.

Applicant refuses a suitable offer of accommodation

The local authority can give notice to end the relief duty if the applicant refuses an offer of accommodation which is not a final accommodation offer or a final part 6 offer. The applicant must have had a reasonable prospect of having accommodation for at least six months.[19] 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.

The local authority has discretion over whether to end the relief duty for this reason. In using its 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.[20]

If the applicant refuses an offer of accommodation that is not a final part 6 offer or final accommodation offer, the local authority can still owe the applicant the main housing duty if the conditions are met.

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 usually ends the relief duty.[21] If 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.[22]

Applicant is no longer eligible for assistance

The local authority only owes a person the relief duty if it is satisfied that they are homeless and eligible.[23] If there has been a change to the applicant's immigration status, they might have stopped being eligible. The authority can give a notice to end the duty.[24]

If interim accommodation duty has been accepted during relief stage, this can also end.

Applicant withdraws their homelessness application

The local authority can end the relief duty if the applicant withdraws their application.

The local authority should consider the same factors as when ending the prevention duty because of a withdrawal of a homelessness application. The same paragraphs of the Code of Guidance are relevant.

Notification requirements for ending duty

Where notice is required to end the relief duty[25] the notification must:[26]

  • 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.[27] In most cases, this should be possible on the 57th day.[28]

Challenging the decision to end the relief duty

An applicant can request a review of the decision to end the relief duty within 21 days of being notified.[29] The grounds for review depend on the reason for ending the relief duty.

Where the local authority ends the duty because the applicant has accommodation or has refused an offer, the applicant can request a review if the accommodation was not suitable

If the local authority gives notice to end the relief duty because 56 days have passed, the applicant can challenge the decision if the local authority has not complied with the duty.

Last updated: 29 August 2023

Footnotes

  • [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 14.17 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 14.17 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 14.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [9]

    para 13.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [10]

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

  • [11]

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

  • [12]

    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.

  • [13]

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

  • [14]

    Ahamed, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Haringey [2023] EWCA Civ 975.

  • [15]

    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.

  • [16]

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

  • [17]

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

  • [18]

    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.

  • [19]

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

  • [20]

    para 14.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [21]

    para 14.31 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [22]

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

  • [23]

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

  • [24]

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

  • [25]

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

  • [26]

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

  • [27]

    s.184(3) Housing Act 1996.

  • [28]

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

  • [29]

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