Local authority interim duty to accommodate

When local authorities have a duty to provide homeless applicants with interim accommodation while carrying out inquiries. 

This content applies to England

Duty to provide interim accommodation

A local authority must provide interim accommodation while it makes inquiries into a homeless application if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be:[1]

  • homeless

  • eligible for assistance

  • in priority need

Interim accommodation is sometimes described as emergency accommodation. 

The Homelessness Code of Guidance stresses that the 'reason to believe' evidential threshold for providing interim accommodation is low.[2] The local authority must not ask for a verifiable proof of homelessness.[3]

The duty to provide interim accommodation:[4]

  • arises before the local authority makes its full inquiries

  • can arise at any point after a homeless application is made

  • is not conditional on the applicant having a local connection

  • is owed even if the applicant might have contributed to their own homelessness

Interim accommodation following a repeat homeless application

Homeless applicants who make a repeat application within two years of accepting a private rented sector offer made to discharge the main housing duty are entitled to interim accommodation even if they are not in priority need at the point when the repeat application is made.[5]

Interim accommodation during the relief duty

Usually the interim duty overlaps with the relief duty.

The interim duty starts before the relief duty, because it is triggered as soon as there is a reason to believe that the applicant may be eligible, homeless and in priority need. The relief duty arises only when the local authority is satisfied that the applicant is eligible and homeless, so after more in depth inquiries.

Interim accommodation and an early local connection referral

Local authorities can refer homeless applicants who do not have a local connection to their area to another local authority in England at the relief duty stage.[6]

The interim accommodation duty continues until the local authority notifies the applicant of its decision to make a local connection referral. If the authority has a reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need, it has a duty to continue providing accommodation under a different section of the Housing Act 1996.[7] This duty continues until the authority notifies the applicant of the decision as to whether the referral conditions are met.

If the referral conditions are not met, the local authority that has accepted the homeless application continues to provide interim accommodation.

If the referral conditions are met, the local authority the applicant has been referred to becomes responsible for securing interim accommodation. This is because the applicant is treated as if they had made a homeless application the local authority they have been referred to.[8]

Interim accommodation during the prevention duty

Local authorities do not have to provide interim accommodation during the prevention duty, because the applicant is not homeless at this stage. Local authorities should take the opportunity to plan for interim accommodation in advance where possible, so as to allow the household time to plan such things as how children will get to school in the event that the household becomes homeless.[9]

Suitability of interim accommodation

Any accommodation provided must be suitable.[10]

The courts have held that:

  • lack of available accommodation does not relieve the authority of its duty to provide suitable accommodation[11]

  • suitability means consideration of the individual applicant's needs[12]

  • a decision that a property is suitable is irrational if it's based on an unlawful and inadequate housing needs assessment[13]

  • location is a relevant consideration in the suitability of interim accommodation[14]

  • the length of occupation is a relevant consideration, so accommodation may be suitable for a very short period of time, but unsuitable for a longer period[15]

  • interim accommodation could be suitable where the applicant could not claim housing benefit straight away due to a lack of national insurance number but the authority gave an undertaking not to take action for non-payment of rent while the claim was pending and the award would cover the applicant’s housing costs, including any arrears accrued[16]

  • even though interim accommodation is subject to a lower suitability standard than longer-term housing, the local authority must not ignore the individual circumstances of the homeless applicant that could make a particular placement unsuitable[17]

Bed and breakfast (B&B)

The Code of Guidance states that while bed and breakfast may need to be used in an emergency, authorities should avoid the use of bed and breakfast wherever possible.[18]

Bed and breakfast is defined as accommodation which is not separate, self-contained premises and where a toilet, personal washing facilities or cooking facilities are shared between more than one household. It does not include accommodation which is owned or managed by the local authority, a registered social landlord, or a voluntary organisation.[19]

Bed and breakfast is not suitable for applicants with family commitments (with dependent children or a pregnant woman in the household), except for up to six weeks when there is no alternative accommodation available.[20]

Where bed and breakfast is used to accommodate an applicant with family commitments, the authority should notify the applicant that it can only be for a maximum of six weeks.[21]

From 1 June 2022, where there is no other accommodation available other than B&B accommodation, the six week limitation does not apply to applicants who:[22]

  • make a homeless application within two years of their arrival in the UK

  • did not have a right to occupy accommodation in the UK for six uninterrupted months or more in the three years before their arrival

Homeless at home

A local authority could find that although an applicant is homeless, their current accommodation is suitable for them to remain in the short term.[23]

For example, an applicant's accommodation could be not reasonable to continue to occupy, but the same accommodation could be suitable interim accommodation. This is sometimes referred to as being 'homeless at home'.

An applicant might prefer this to moving into alternative accommodation in the short term. The authority should seek agreement with the applicant and continue to work under the relief duty to secure other accommodation.

Duty to protect property while in interim accommodation

Where a local authority has a duty to provide interim accommodation, it also has a duty to protect the applicant's property.

Security of tenure in interim accommodation

As a general rule, applicants accommodated under the interim duty are not considered to be occupying premises as a 'dwelling' and have the status of excluded occupiers.

Security of tenure after the local authority accepts the main housing duty

Once the local authority has accepted the main housing duty, the question of whether the accommodation is occupied as a 'dwelling' becomes a question of fact. The homeless applicant may be entitled to protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This was the case where the local authority accepted the main housing duty and advised the applicant that they could stay in the accommodation previously occupied as interim until suitable long-term housing was found.[24]

Security of tenure in interim accommodation owned by a private landlord

The homeless applicant is an assured or assured shorthold tenant where the accommodation has been secured under an arrangement with a private landlord and either:[25]

  • the applicant has been notified that the tenancy is to be regarded as an assured or assured shorthold tenancy

  • the accommodation is allowed to continue for more than 12 months after the authority has made its decision on the homeless application or review

The applicant may also have protection from eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 where either:

  • the authority has made an agreement with the applicant that the accommodation is provided under a tenancy[26]

  • the accommodation is allowed to continue on a more than transient basis

Ending the interim accommodation duty

See Ending the interim duty for details of how the local authority can end the duty.

If a homeless applicant rejects an offer or is evicted from interim accommodation, it does not end any other homelessness duties.[27] The local authority must continue with their inquiries.

Applications made before 3 April 2018

This page explains the rules for homeless applications made on or after 3 April 2018. For applications made before this date, see the 2006 Code of Guidance.

Last updated: 12 September 2023


  • [1]

    s.188(1) Housing Act 1996;  R (on the application of (1) Kelly (2) Mehari (3) JI ) v Birmingham CC [2009] EWHC 3240 (Admin).

  • [2]

    para 15.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    LGCSO Complaint no. 16 014 568:10 October 2017.

  • [4]

    ss.188(1) and 188(2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [5]

    s.188(1A) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.149(2) Localism Act 2011.

  • [6]

    s. 198(A1) Housing Act 1996; para 10.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, February 2018.

  • [7]

    s.199A(2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [8]

    s.199A(5) Housing Act 1996.

  • [9]

    para 14.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [10]

    ss.206 and 210 Housing Act 1996.

  • [11]

    Ealing LBC v Surdonja and another (2000) 32 HLR 481, CA.

  • [12]

    R v Newham LBC ex parte Ojuri [No 3] (1999) 31 HLR 631, QBD.

  • [13]

    YR, R (on the application of) v London Borough of Lambeth [2022] EWHC 2813 (Admin).

  • [14]

    R v Newham LBC ex parte Sacupima and Others (2000) 33 HLR 18, CA.

  • [15]

    Codona v Mid-Bedfordshire DC [2005] HLR 1.

  • [16]

    R (on the application of Tiemo) v Lambeth LBC [2020] EWHC 1193 (Admin).

  • [17]

    R (on the application of Davidson) v Cambridge City Council [2023] EWHC 1022 (KB).

  • [18]

    paras 2.51 and 16.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [19]

    art.2 Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003 SI 2003/3326.

  • [20]

    para 16.30 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003 SI 2003/3326.

  • [21]

    para 17.36 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [22]

    art.4 Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Amendment) (England) Order 2022 SI 2022/521 as extended by the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) (Amendment) Order 2023 ; para 17.37 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [23]

    Birmingham CC v Ali and others: Moran V Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36; Temur v Hackney LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 877.

  • [24]

    Dacorum Borough Council v Bucknall [2017] EWHC 2094 (QB).

  • [25]

    s.209 Housing Act 1996; paras 16.23 and 16.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [26]

    Desnousse v (1) Newham LBC (2) Paddington Churches HA (3) Veni Properties Ltd [2006] EWCA Civ 547.

  • [27]

    para 15.22 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.