Local connection in homelessness applications
The criteria for establishing whether a person making a homeless application has a local connection.
What is a local connection?
Local authorities can make inquiries into whether a person has a local connection to the local authority area they have applied to.
Where an applicant has no local connection with the local authority to which they apply, the authority can refer them to another authority where they have a local connection.
A person may have a local connection on grounds of:
In addition, a former asylum seeker may have a local connection if when an asylum seeker they have been provided with UKVI accommodation in an area.
The Code of Guidance advises local authorities that they should consider each case individually on its own particular facts.
Isles of Scilly
An applicant can only have a local connection with the Isles of Scilly if they have lived in the area for two and a half years out of the three years immediately prior to application. A local connection cannot be acquired in through employment, family association, special circumstances or leaving care.
When local connection is established
In establishing whether an applicant has a local connection the local authority must look at the facts at the date of the decision: not at the date of the application. If there is a review, the local authority must look at the facts at the date of the review.
Where inquiries have taken some time, the local authority should look at whether there has been a change in circumstances which might lead to a local connection having been established.
An applicant has a local connection to an area if they normally reside there.
The period of time a person has to reside in an area to be normally resident is not defined in the homelessness legislation. The Local Authority Agreement defines normal residence as either:
six months' residence in the area during the past 12 months
three years residence during the previous five years
Housing in armed forces accommodation can be residence of choice. A member of the armed forces can obtain a local connection in the area they were posted.
See the NHAS guide to housing options in England for ex-Service personnel for information on housing options for ex-service personnel and their families.
Residence in a women’s refuge can be residence of choice.
In a Court of Appeal case, the applicant had fled domestic violence in Leicester and travelled to London to find accommodation. The Court held that this could be classed as residence of choice because at the time of seeking refuge accommodation, the applicant had alternatives and could have chosen to travel elsewhere than London, or made a homeless application to a local authority rather than seeking refuge accommodation. This is distinct from cases where the only choice would be to accept refuge accommodation or face detention or destitution.
The Code of Guidance advises that residence in temporary or interim accommodation provided by a housing authority can constitute normal residence of choice.
The House of Lords held that residence in interim accommodation pending inquiries can be residence of choice. It is not clear if this applies to both in-borough and out-of-borough placements in interim accommodation.
The High Court has held that an applicant who remained in interim accommodation after the local authority terminated their licence to occupy it did not acquire a local connection, because in these circumstances unlawful occupation was not normal residence required to establish it.
People who are street homeless or sofa surfing
The Code of Guidance advises that a homeless person who has no settled accommodation elsewhere, should be treated as normally resident in the area where they are street homeless or sofa surfing.
There is no definition of what constitutes employment in the homelessness legislation. However, the Act uses the present tense term ‘is employed’, so employment should be current.
Casual work of short duration has been held to be excluded for the purposes of establishing a local connection. Local authorities are advised to contact the employer to confirm that employment exists and is not of casual nature.
The homelessness legislation does not say that self-employment or part-time employment are excluded and the High Court has ruled that both part time and unpaid work can give rise to a local connection.
The applicant should actually work in the local authority's area, the employer's head office being located in an area does not establish a local connection.
Service in the armed forces
Serving in the regular armed forces in an area establishes a local connection in the same way as other types of employment.
A local connection should only be accepted on the basis of family association if the applicant actually wishes to live in the area of the family member concerned. A local connection referral on the basis of family association should not be made where the applicant would prefer to live in the area to which they have applied.
There is no definition of what constitutes family association in the homelessness legislation.
However, the Local Authority Agreement suggests that a family association normally arises if an applicant (or any member of the applicant's household) has parents, adult children, brothers or sisters residing in the area, and the relatives have been resident for at least five years at the date of the decision.
It is also suggests that local connection does not arise from a family association with a dependent child who is resident in a different area from their parents, because a child's residence is not residence of choice.
The Court of Appeal has held that it is the particular circumstances of an applicant that determine if an individual applicant has a local connection through family association, and the actual closeness of a relationship may be more relevant than the Local Authority Agreement guidelines.
The Code of Guidance also suggests that:
family association can include with other family members such as step-parents, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts or uncles provided there are sufficiently close links in the form of frequent contact, commitment or dependency. Family associations should be determined with regard to the fact-specific circumstances of the individual case. For example, the actual closeness of the family association may count for more than the degree of blood relation
local authorities do not rigidly require that the relative must have resided in their area for at least five years. For example, refugees or other recent arrivals to the UK may not have had five years in which to build up a residence period in anywhere in the UK
A local authority can find that an applicant has a local connection with its own or another authority's area for other special reasons. There is no definition of what constitutes special circumstances in the homelessness legislation.
Examples given in the Local Authority Agreement are:
people who have been in prison or hospital and cannot establish a local connection in another way
a person seeking to return to an area where s/he was brought up or had lived for a considerable length of time
Membership of a place of worship in a particular area does not constitute a special reason.
The Code suggests that special circumstances might include the need to be near special medical or support services only available in a particular district.
A local authority must exercise its discretion when considering whether there are any special circumstances that could give rise to a local connection.
A care leaver has a local connection to a local authority area where it owes them duties as a former relevant child. This local connection category applies until the care leaver's 21st birthday or if they are pursuing a course of education set out in their pathway plan, until that course of education is finished. 
In non-unitary authorities, where social services are part of the county council but housing is the responsibility of the district councils, the care leaver has a local connection to all the district councils that fall within the area of the county council.
A care leaver also has a local connection to a local authority area in which they were normally resident for a continuous period of two years, at least some of which fell before their 16th birthday, as a result of being looked after by a local authority. This connection lasts until their 21st birthday.
Care leavers who applied before 3 April 2018
Applicants who applied as homeless before 3 April 2018 could not establish a local connection through the leaving care rules. However, they may have been able to show that they had another form of local connection, for example through special circumstances.
Social services accommodation under Care Act 2014
Where an ineligible person from abroad has been accommodated by social services under the Care Act 2014, this is not accommodation of their choice, and may therefore not give rise to a local connection for the purposes of Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, even if the person becomes eligible for homelessness assistance.
Former asylum seekers
Former asylum seekers who were at any time provided with accommodation by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (asylum support) automatically have a local connection with the area in which that accommodation was sited, unless that accommodation was an accommodation centre.
If the former asylum seeker was accommodated in more than one local authority area by UKVI (or NASS), they only have a local connection with the most recent area.
This type of local connection is never lost. However it does not prevent a former asylum seeker or a member of their household from establishing a local connection elsewhere, for example by securing employment or living in a different area.
UKVI accommodation in Scotland
Residence in UKVI (or NASS) accommodation does not establish a local connection with a Scottish local authority.
The main housing duty (under section 193) does not apply to an applicant who:
applies to an English local authority
is eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless
was last placed by UKVI in accommodation in Scotland
has no local connection elsewhere
However, the authority has a power to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant for a period giving them a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation for their occupation, and to provide advice and assistance to help them to secure accommodation for themselves.
The Code of Guidance adds that local authorities may consider assisting such applicants in making an application to a Scottish authority, where (provided that authority found them to be eligible, in priority need, and unintentionally homeless) a full duty would be owed. It also states that in giving advice and assistance, housing authorities must take into account the wishes of the applicant.
Asylum seekers and certain other groups can be placed by UKVI in accommodation centres. Some people may be subject to a condition that they stay at an accommodation centre.
Residence in an accommodation centre does not give an asylum seeker a local connection to an area.
Last updated: 17 March 2021
s.199 Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.8 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.
s.199(6) Housing Act 1996.
para 10.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
Homelessness (Isles of Scilly) Order 1997 SI 1997/797.
Mohammed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC (2002) HLR 7, HL.
para 4.2 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
s.199(1)(a) Housing Act 1996.
s.199(3)(b) Housing Act 1996.
para 4.3(i) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
s.199 Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.315 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.
NJ v Wandsworth LBC  EWCA Civ 1373.
para 10.5 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
Mohamed v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC  UKHL 57; see also Al-Ameri (FC) v Kensington and Chelsea RBC  UKHL 4.
Minott, R (On the Application Of) v Cambridge City Council  EWHC 211 (Admin); see s.199(1)(a) Housing Act 1996.
para 10.6 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
s.199(1)(b) Housing Act 1996.
R v Vale of White Horse DC ex parte Smith and Hay (1984) 17 HLR 160, QBD; paragraph 4.3(ii) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
R v Ealing LBC ex parte Fox (1998) 95(11) L.S.G. 35.
para 10.8 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
s.199 Housing Act 1996 amended by s.315 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.
para 4.3(iii) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018; para 10.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 4.3(iii) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
Ozbek v Ipswich LBC  EWCA Civ 534; see also Surdonja v Ealing LBC (2000) HLR 481, CA.
paras 10.9 and 10.10 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 4.3(iv) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
R v Westminster CC ex parte Benniche (1997) 29 HLR 230, CA.
para 10.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
para 4.1(iv) Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.
s.199(8) to (11) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.8 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017; reg 3 Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (Commencement and Transitional and Savings Provisions) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/167.
s.199(8) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.8(1) Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Note that s.199(8) refers to s.23C Children Act 1989 which imposes duties lasting for this period. Other duties to former relevant children aged 21 or over are imposed by different sections of the Children Act.
Ciftici v Haringey LBC , Legal Action, January 2004, 32.
s.199(6) Housing Act 1996.
s.199(7)(b) Housing Act 1996.
s.199(7)(a) Housing Act 1996.
s.27(2)(a)(iii) Housing Scotland Act 1987.
s.11(2) and (3)(a) Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004.
s.11(3)(b) Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004.
para 10.29 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.
part 2, Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
s.199(7)(b) Housing Act 1996.