Local authority referrals at the relief duty stage

The process for the referral of a homeless applicant to another local authority at the relief duty stage.

This content applies to England

When referral can be made

Where an applicant would be owed the relief duty they can be referred to a second local authority in England where the conditions for referrals are met.[1]

The local authority does not have to accept the relief duty to make the referral. The referral can be made once it is clear the duty would be owed. Where the duty is accepted a referral can be made at any time during the relief duty.

This means that an applicant can be referred to a second authority once the first authority is satisfied that the applicant is homeless and eligible for assistance. This could be before it has considered whether they are in priority need and intentionally homeless.

At the relief duty stage a referral can only be made to an English local authority. It cannot be made to a Welsh or Scottish local authority.[2]

Duty to applicant after notification of referral

The first authority must give notification of the referral to the second authority and to the applicant. The applicant may be given notification either before or after the notification to the second authority.[3]

Once the applicant has been notified that the first authority has notified (or intends to notify) a second authority that it believes the conditions for referral are met, the first authority is no longer:

  • subject to the relief duty

  • under a duty to secure interim accommodation under section 188

However, if the first authority has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need it must continue to secure temporary accommodation under section 199A(2) until the second authority has accepted or rejected the referral. If the referral is rejected, the first authority may have a duty to secure accommodation.

Acceptance or rejection of referral

The first authority should notify the second authority that it is referring an applicant, firstly by telephone, email or fax and then in writing. A specimen standard notification form is attached to the Local Authority Agreement.[4]

Once the first authority notifies another that it is making a referral, the second authority must consider whether the referral conditions are met. If it agrees that they are, then it must accept the referral.[5]

Referral accepted by second authority

If the second authority accepts the referral, the first authority owes no further duties to the applicant as these are owed by the second. The applicant is to be treated as if they applied to the second authority from the date of the notification of the decision to the applicant.[6]

The second authority is:

  • subject to the relief duty

  • under a duty to secure interim accommodation under section 188 if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need

The second authority is also under a duty to assess the applicant's circumstances and housing needs and devise and review a personalised housing plan.[7] In practice, the first authority is likely to have already made an assessment and the second authority will probably use this as a starting point. The first authority must give the second authority copies of any assessment made and if the applicant consents, a copy of any personalised housing plan drawn up under the prevention duty or the relief duty.[8]

The second authority is bound by the decisions of the first authority that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance or became homeless intentionally except where:[9]

  • the applicant's circumstances change

  • further information comes to light that was not available when the first authority made its decision

Where the first authority has made a decision around priority need, it is likely that the second authority can come to a different decision (and if deciding that the applicant is not in priority need, avoid a main housing duty) on the facts available. This is the case even in the absence of a change in circumstances or further information.

If an applicant request a review of the decision that the referral conditions are met, the first authority has a power to accommodate them pending the outcome of the review.[10]

Referral rejected by second authority

If the second authority rejects the referral, and the first authority accepts its decision, the first authority must:[11]

  • carry out the relief duty (the 56 day period runs from the date of notification of decision to the applicant)

  • secure temporary accommodation if it has reason to believe that the applicant may be in priority need, until (whichever is later):

    • the relief duty comes to an end

    • it decides what other duty (if any) it owes to the applicant

Previous application to second authority

If the authority to whom the referral was made had made a negative decision in respect of a previous application, it only has to accept a duty following the referral if there has been a subsequent change of circumstances. Where there has been no change of circumstance, neither the first nor the second authority owes the applicant any duty.

Disputes

Where the two authorities are unable to come agreement as to whether the referral conditions are met, they can enter the procedure to resolve disputes.

Non cooperation and referral

Where an authority has given notice to an applicant that they have deliberately and unreasonably failed to cooperate under the relief duty it cannot make a referral under this procedure as the notice will have ended the relief duty.[12] The applicant may still be referred at main housing duty stage.

Notification of decision to applicant

When the two authorities have reached a decision on whether the referral conditions are met the first authority must notify the applicant in writing of:[13]

  • its decision and the reasons for it

  • the applicant's right to request a review of the decision within 21 days

Local authority guidelines

Voluntary guidelines on the procedure for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, and for resolving disputes between local authorities are set out in the 'Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority' (commonly known as the Local Authority Agreement).

Last updated: 17 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s198(A1) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.5(8) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [2]

    s.198(A1) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.5(8) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; para 10.37 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    s.199A(1) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [4]

    s.199A(5)(a) as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; para 6.1 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018 (the standard notification form is on page 17 of the document).

  • [5]

    s199A(5) Housing Act 1996.

  • [6]

    s.199A(5)(a) and (b) Housing Act 1996.

  • [7]

    s,189A Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.3(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; s.199A(5)(a) as inserted by s.5(9) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [8]

    s.199A(5)(d) Housing Act 1996; para 10.43 and para 11.28 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [9]

    s.199A(5)(c) Housing Act 1996.

  • [10]

    s.199A(6) Housing Act 1996.

  • [11]

    s.199A(4) Housing Act 1996.

  • [12]

    s.193C(2) Housing Act 1996 inserted by s.7(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

  • [13]

    s.199A(3) and (7) Housing Act 1996.