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Intentional homelessness definition

The legal definition of intentional homelessness, for people applying to their local authority as homeless.

This content applies to England

Definition of intentional homelessness

A person making a homeless application is intentionally homeless if all of the following apply:[1]

  • 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


Accommodation is not defined in the Housing Act 1996.

In one case, an applicant argued that a room in supported housing was not accommodation as it was occupied under a license and was not settled. The court held that the local authority was entitled to find that the room was accommodation, and that accommodation does not need to be settled accommodation for a person to be found intentionally homeless.[2]

Ceasing to occupy accommodation

The applicant must have actually ceased to occupy the accommodation which could be in the UK or abroad.[3] 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.[4]

The authority may say that it has discharged its duty if suitable accommodation is refused.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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 intentionally homeless if:[10]

  • they enter into an arrangement which requires them to cease to occupy accommodation

  • it was reasonable for them to have continued to occupy that accommodation

  • the purpose of the arrangement is to enable them to become entitled to homelessness assistance

  • 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.[11]

The Homelessness Code of Guidance suggests that good reasons might include overcrowding and an obvious breakdown in relations between the applicant and their host or landlord.[12]

Authorities must be satisfied that collusion exists and cannot merely rely on hearsay or unfounded suspicions.[13]

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


  • [1]

    ss.191(1) and (2) and 196(1) and (2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

    Hodge v Folkestone and Hythe District Council [2023] EWCA Civ 896.

  • [3]

    De Falco, Silvestri v Crawley BC [1980] QB 460, CA; Trindade v Hackney LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 942; paras 9.21 and 9.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    para 9.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [5]

    R v Westminster CC ex parte Chambers (1982) 6 HLR 24, QBD.

  • [6]

    Godson v Enfield LBC [2019] 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.

  • [7]

    s.176 Housing Act 1996; paras 6.5 and 6.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [8]

    R. v Hillingdon LBC Ex p. Islam, also known as: Islam (Tafazzul), Re, R. v Hillingdon Homeless Families Panel Ex p. Islam [1981-82] 1 HLR 107; R v Westminster CC ex parte Ali (1983) 11 HLR 83, QBD.

  • [9]

    Oxford CC v Bull [2011] EWCA Civ 609.

  • [10]

    ss.191(3) and 196(3) Housing Act 1996.

  • [11]

    para 6.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [12]

    para 9.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    para 9.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.