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Local authority main housing duty

The main housing duty owed by a local authority to someone who is homeless, eligible, has a priority need and is not intentionally homeless. 

This content applies to England

When the main duty applies

The main housing duty is a duty to provide temporary accommodation until such time as the duty is ended, either by an offer of settled accommodation or for another specified reason.

A local authority will owe an applicant the main housing duty when the duty to relieve homelessness has ended, and they are satisfied the applicant is:[1]

  • homeless and eligible for assistance

  • in priority need

  • not intentionally homeless

The duty is owed by the authority to which the application was made unless the authority makes a local connection referral.[2] Find out more about local connection referrals on Shelter Legal.

When the main duty does not apply

The main duty does not apply where an applicant applied to the local authority on or after 3 April 2018 and has:[3]

  • turned down a suitable final accommodation or final Part 6 offer made by the authority in pursuance of its duty to relieve homelessness, or

  • been served a notice of 'deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate' with a step in her/his personalised housing plan. In this case, the authority must ensure that accommodation is available to the applicant until such time as either a final accommodation offer of a final Part 6 offer of suitable accommodation is made, or the duty comes to an end in another way.[4] This provides an unintentionally homeless applicant who is in priority need with a 'safety net'

What the local authority must do under the main duty

The main housing duty can be carried out or 'discharged' with an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation. 

Most homeless applicants owed the main duty will be placed in temporary accommodation initially. The local authority may require the applicant to move from one temporary accommodation to another before a permanent offer is made.[5]

Any accommodation secured under the main duty must be suitable.[6] The main housing duty is ongoing, so if one temporary accommodation ends, the authority is under a duty to find the applicant somewhere else to stay on a temporary basis until the duty can be lawfully brought to an end.

Any accommodation must be sufficient to accommodate the applicant and anyone who normally resides, or might reasonably be expected to reside, with them.[7] Normally this duty is met by the provision of a single unit of accommodation, but it could be met by the provision of two separate units of accommodation (such as two adjoining flats or two separate rooms in a hostel, whether self-contained or not), if they are located to enable the family to live together in practical terms.[8]

The authority can discharge its duty to make accommodation available by providing accommodation itself, through another landlord or by providing advice and assistance that is sufficient to secure accommodation.[9] Alternatively, it may be possible for the applicant to be 'homeless at home'.

The authority provides accommodation

If the accommodation is from its own stock, any tenancy offered is non-secure, unless the authority notifies the tenant that it is secure and it is an offer made under Part 6 through its allocation scheme. [10] The authority can consider using its own hostels, where it operates them,[11] or leasing accommodation from private landlords.[12]

Accommodation provided through another landlord

Where the authority provides accommodation through another landlord, this may be a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH) or a private landlord.[13]

The authority can provide financial assistance, such as a finder's fee or a one-off payment to prevent an eviction, to private landlords in order to secure accommodation for homeless people.[14]

Lodgings, hostels, women's refuges, and mobile homes may also be considered, but authorities must consider the suitability of such accommodation, especially if it is possible that the accommodation will be secured for more than the short term.[15] Where the accommodation is secured from a PRPSH or private landlord, the tenancy is usually an assured shorthold tenancy, unless the applicant is notified by the landlord that it is an assured tenancy.[16]

Advice and assistance

The authority may discharge its duty by offering advice and assistance that enables the applicant to secure accommodation themselves. This could be, for example, by giving mortgage advice, or by giving advice on shared equity schemes.

The advice and assistance must result in suitable accommodation actually being secured; the duty is not discharged if it does not result in accommodation becoming available.[17]

Homeless at home

If an applicant has been found to be homeless because it is not reasonable for them to continue to occupy accommodation, then remaining in that accommodation, as ‘homeless at home’ can be a discharge of duty for a period whilst the local authority takes steps to secure other accommodation. How long that period can be depends upon the applicant's particular circumstances, but the point will come where it is unreasonable for the applicant to remain there any longer.[18]

Accommodation for people who normally live in mobile homes

An applicant may be homeless because they normally occupy a caravan, houseboat, or other moveable structure, but have no place where they are entitled to put it.[19] In such circumstances, the authority is not required to provide equivalent accommodation, or a place for the applicant to put their accommodation.

However, the authority must consider whether this would be the most appropriate solution for the applicant, and whether such options are reasonably available. This is particularly relevant if the applicant is a Gypsy or Traveller who has an aversion to bricks and mortar accommodation.[20]

Households with 'restricted persons'

Where applicants are not homeless intentionally and have gained priority need status through a household member who is a restricted person, the duty towards them is discharged differently than to other applicants owed the main housing duty.

A 'restricted person' is someone who is subject to immigration control and is not eligible for assistance under Part 7.[21]

Revival of duty after PRS offer

If, within two years of acceptance of a private rented sector (PRS) offer in full and final discharge of the main housing duty, an applicant is threatened with homelessness or becomes homelessness again and make a fresh homeless application, they may be owned a new main housing duty regardless of whether they still have priority need.[22]

The local authority must only satisfy itself that such an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homelessness in order to owe them the main housing duty.

How the main duty ends

The duty continues until it is ended by one of the circumstances set out in section 193 of the Housing Act 1996. These include where a person accepts or refuses certain types of offer, or stops being eligible for assistance.

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]

    s.193(2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

    s.198(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [3]

    s.193(1A) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [4]

    s.193C Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.7 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [5]

    Godson v Enfield LBC [2019] EWCA Civ 486; R v Brent LBC ex p Awua (1995) 27 HLR 453, HL.

  • [6]

    s.210 Housing Act 1996.

  • [7]

    s.176 Housing Act 1996.

  • [8]

    Sharif v Camden LBC [2013] UKSC 10.

  • [9]

    s.206 Housing Act 1996.

  • [10]

    para 16.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [11]

    para 16.33 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [12]

    paras 16.25 to 16.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    paras 16.12 and 16.16 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [14]

    para 16.17 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [15]

    paras 16.32, 16.33, 16.41 and 16.45 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [16]

    para 16.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [17]

    para 16.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [18]

    Birmingham CC v Ali and others: Moran v Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36.

  • [19]

    s.175(2) Housing Act 1996.

  • [20]

    paras 16.43 to 16.45 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [21]

    s.184(7) Housing Act 1996 as introduced by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

  • [22]

    s.195A(1) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.149(4) Localism Act 2011.