Homeless applicants living in split households

A person is homeless if their accommodation is not available for the entire household.  

This content applies to England

Homelessness where accommodation is not available for the whole household

A person is homeless, even when they have a clear right of occupation, if their accommodation cannot also be occupied by anyone who either:[1] 

  • normally lives with them as a member of their family 

  • might be reasonably expected to live with them 

Accommodation available for occupation normally means a single unit of accommodation. It can be two separate units of accommodation if they are located to enable the household to live together in practical terms. For example two adjoining flats or two separate rooms in a hostel.[2] 

People normally residing with applicant as member of the family

The local authority's assessment must include anyone who normally resides with the applicant as a member of the family.

A member of the family is not defined in legislation. The Homelessness Code of Guidance interprets it to include: 

  • close blood or marital relationships 

  • cohabiting partners 

Authorities must decide which members of the family normally live, or might be expected to live, with the applicant. When considering whether children live or might be expected to live with an applicant, authorities should consider that residence orders are not always in place and it could simply be a matter of agreement between the parents.[3] 

If a family member normally resides with the applicant, the local authority does not need to decide if it is reasonable for them to do so.[4] A family member should be included in the household if they usually live with the applicant but are unable to do so solely because there is no accommodation they can occupy together.[5] 

If a family member does not normally live with the applicant, the authority must decide if it is reasonable to expect them to reside together.

People who might reasonably be expected to reside together

The local authority has discretion to decide if someone who does not normally live with the applicant as a family member is part of the household. The local authority must consider whether it would be reasonable to expect them to reside with the applicant. 

This includes: 

  • family members not currently living with the applicant 

  • people who live with the applicant who are not family members.

Other household members might include housemates or foster children. 

Carers of disabled people   

Where a single man applied for accommodation for himself and a carer with whom they had lived for several years, the court held that the question for the local authority was whether it would be reasonable for the friend to live with the applicant, not whether the applicant was so disabled that they needed a live-in carer.[6]  

Expectant parents 

A couple who are expecting a child, but have always lived separately with their respective parents, have been treated as a homeless household.[7] The authority should consider whether it is reasonable to expect them to live together, and whether they are homeless because they do not have accommodation available to them as a household. 

Applications by people from abroad

Some household members are not taken into account when a local authority assesses if an applicant is homeless. If the applicant is subject to immigration control, a household member is disregarded if they are:[8] 

  • a person from abroad 

  • not eligible based on their immigration status

Subject to immigration control means they require leave to remain in the UK. For example, in an application made by a refugee, any ineligible household members are disregarded when assessing if they are a split household. 

Use our homeless rights checker for a quick answer on whether someone is likely to be eligible based on their immigration status.

If the applicant is not subject to immigration control, then ineligible household members can be taken into account. For example, if the applicant is a British citizen. The authority must consider them when assessing whether the applicant is homeless or threatened with homelessness.[9] If the main housing duty is owed then there are special rules on how it can be discharged.  

Last updated: 20 October 2022


  • [1]

    s.176 Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

    Sharif v Camden LBC [2013] UKSC 10.

  • [3]

    para 6.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, DLUHC, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    para. 6.7. Homelessness Code of Guidance, DLUHC, Feb 2018.

  • [5]

    R v Newham LBC ex parte Khan and Hussain (2000) 33 HLR 269, QBD; R v Ealing LBC ex parte Surdonja [1999] 1 All E.R. 566; para 6.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, DLUHC, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    R v Hackney LBC ex parte Tonnicodi (1997) 30 HLR 916, QBD.

  • [7]

    R v Peterborough ex parte Carr (1990) 22 HLR 206 CA.

  • [8]

    s.185(4) Housing Act 1996.

  • [9]

    s.185(4) Housing Act 1996.