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 will owe 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 6 months.

The relief duty will end 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:

  • 56 days have passed and the authority has not yet made a decision

  • 56 days have passed and the authority is satisfied 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  • the homeless application has been withdrawn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 authority is satisfied that the applicant is in priority need and is not satisfied that they are 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 they are 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 does 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 last suntil 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 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, 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 they are 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 deliberate and unreasonably refused to cooperate with a step in the personalised housing plan.[11]

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 ends automatically: there is no need for a further notice in this case.[13]

However, this occurs only if the applicant is informed of:[14]

  • the consequences of rejection

  • their 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]

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 is 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 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.

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 usually ends relief duty.[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, they 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.

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.

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]

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.[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, they are 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 during this time

Last updated: 18 March 2021

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 14.16 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.