Local connection referral disputes between local authorities

How disputes between local authorities over local connection referrals can be resolved.

This content applies to England

Procedure for resolving disputes

In the event of a disagreement between the notifying and notified local authorities over a local connection referral, the authorities should follow the arrangements agreed by the local government associations for England, Wales, and Scotland.[1]

These arrangements are set out in the 'Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority' (commonly known as the Local Authority Agreement).[2]

Where a notified authority considers the conditions for referral are not met it should write to the notifying authority giving its reasons in full, within 10 days of receipt of the referral.[3] A standard notification of referral form is attached to the Local Authority Agreement.

If the two local authorities cannot reach an agreement, they should agree an arbitrator to resolve the issue between them. If the authorities cannot agree on an arbitrator they should ask the Local Government Association to appoint an arbitrator from its panel of referees. An arbitrator should be appointed within 21 days of the notified authority having received the notification of the referral.[4]

Although the homeless person is not a party to the dispute, the arbitrator may invite written or oral representations from the applicant, or any other person, that are relevant to the issue. The disputing authorities should make copies of their submissions available to the applicant. The authorities should have the opportunity to comment on any information from the applicant, or any other source where the arbitrator intends to rely on that information. Where necessary there should be an oral hearing, for example, if English is not the applicant's first language.

The arbitrator's decision must be in writing and should set out the:[5]

  • issue to be determined

  • relevant findings of fact

  • decision

  • reasons for the decision

The arbitrator's decision is binding upon the local authorities, subject to the applicant's right to request a review.

In the case of a referral at the main duty stage where the arbitrator's decision is that the conditions for referral are met the notified authority must provide accommodation immediately, although it has 14 days to make arrangements. The notifying authority must continue to secure temporary accommodation until the notified authority has accepted the referral.[6]

Judicial review of one authority by another

The dispute procedure is only for use when there is a dispute over the conditions for a local connection referral are met.

The decision of the notifying authority that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless is binding on the notified authority.

It is only open to the notified authority to challenge the decision of the notifying authority that an applicant is owed the relief duty or main housing duty by way of judicial review on public law grounds.[7]

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

Footnotes

  • [1]

    Homelessness (Decisions on Referrals) Order 1998 SI 1998/1578; paras 10.51-52 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [2]

    paras 12 to 22 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

  • [3]

    para 10.1 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

  • [4]

    para 10.3 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

  • [5]

    para 16 Procedures for referrals of homeless applicants to another local authority, Local Government Association, 2018.

  • [6]

    s.200(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [7]

    R v Newham LBC ex p Tower Hamlets LBC (1991) 23 HLR 62, CA.