Intentional homelessness definition
The legal definition of intentional homelessness, for people applying to their local authority as homeless.
Definition of intentional homelessness
A person making a homeless application is intentionally homeless if all of the following apply:
the applicant must deliberately have done, or failed to do, something in consequence of which they have ceased to occupy accommodation which was available to them
it must have been reasonable for the applicant to continue to occupy the accommodation
the applicant must have been aware of all the relevant facts before deliberately taking or failing to take the actions. An act or omission in good faith on the part of a person unaware of a relevant fact should not be treated as deliberate
Ceasing to occupy accommodation
The applicant must have actually ceased to occupy the accommodation which could be in the UK or abroad. A person cannot become intentionally homeless from accommodation they have never occupied. However, an applicant may have occupied accommodation even if they occupied it intermittently, as long as it was available for them to occupy.
The authority may say that it has discharged its duty if suitable accommodation is refused. Where the act of refusal leads to the termination of the temporary accommodation that the applicant was occupying, they may be declared intentionally homeless from the temporary accommodation.
Accommodation available for occupation
An applicant cannot be found to be intentionally homeless from accommodation that is not available for their occupation.
Accommodation can only be regarded as available for occupation by the applicant if it is also available to any other people who normally reside with them or might reasonably be expected to do so.
Accommodation that is severely overcrowded, or where only part of the household can stay (a split family), is not 'available' and an applicant should not be seen as intentionally homeless for leaving such accommodation.
However, in a case involving separated parents, the Court of Appeal held that the local authority was correct in determining that the father was intentionally homeless. The father permitted his three children to move in with him in a single room in a shared house with the inevitable result that notice to quit was served due to overcrowding. It would have been reasonable for the children to reside with the mother in the matrimonial home provided by the local authority. The single room in the shared house was accommodation available to him, the children were not reasonably expected to live with him. His own deliberate act of allowing them to come and stay with him lead to the issue of the notice to quit.
Reasonable to continue to occupy
It must also have been reasonable for the applicant and their household to continue to occupy the accommodation at the point where they left.
Collusion by giving up accommodation
A person is treated as intentionally homeless if:
they enter into an arrangement under which they are required to cease to occupy accommodation
it was reasonable for them to have continued to occupy the accommodation the purpose of the arrangement is to enable them to become entitled to assistance as a homeless person
there is no other good reason why they are homeless or threatened with homelessness
This is to avoid collusion between family or friends, landlords or tenants.
Authorities must be satisfied that collusion exists and cannot merely rely on hearsay or unfounded suspicions.
Applications made before 3 April 2018
The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references here are to this Code.
For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.
Last updated: 17 March 2021
ss.191(1) and (2) and 196(1) and (2) Housing Act 1996.
De Falco, Silvestri v Crawley BC  QB 460, CA; Trindade v Hackney LBC  EWCA Civ 942; paras 9.21 and 9.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 9.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
R v Westminster CC ex parte Chambers (1982) 6 HLR 24, QBD.
Godson v Enfield LBC  EWCA Civ 486; R v Brent LBC ex parte Awua (1995) 27 HLR 453, HL; para 9.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
s.176 Housing Act 1996; paras 6.5 and 6.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
In Re Islam (1981) 1 HLR 107, HL; R v Westminster CC ex parte Ali (1983) 11 HLR 83, QBD.
Oxford CC v Bull  EWCA Civ 609.
ss.191(3) and 196(3) Housing Act 1996.
para 6.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 9.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 9.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.