Multiple, repeat and withdrawn homeless applications

When a person can make a repeat homeless application or apply to more than one local authority and when an application can be treated as withdrawn. 

This content applies to England

Reapplying to the same authority

There is no limit on the number of applications a homeless person can make to a local authority.

Where an authority has accepted the main housing duty towards an applicant and that duty subsequently ends, the same applicant may make a fresh application to that authority.[1]

When a local authority must accept a repeat application

A local authority cannot rely on having previously discharged its duty, and refuse to accept a repeat application, where there has been a 'factual' change of circumstances.[2] For example if an applicant makes a further application following a relationship breakdown which has changed household membership, this should be treated as a new application.

Special rules apply to a reapplication when a new situation of homelessness arises following acceptance of a final private rented sector (PRS) offer as set out below.

Once the application is accepted, the local authority must carry out inquiries into whether any duty is owed to the applicant.

A local authority cannot rely on a discharge of duty by another authority. It can consider what the first authority discovered in its investigations and decided, but it must make its own inquiries and reach its own decision.[3]

Factors to consider

The Court of Appeal has set out criteria for how a local authority should decide whether it has to accept a repeat application:[4]

  • the onus is on the applicant to identify the facts that differentiate a fresh application from their earlier application. The authority can reject the application if the facts brought to its attention are fanciful, trivial or not new

  • the local authority should compare the applicant’s factual circumstances at the date of the fresh application with those at the date of its decision on the earlier application

  • when the repeat application reveals new facts, which are neither trivial nor fanciful then the authority must treat the application as valid

Case law on repeat applications

Repeat applications are usually made by applicants who were previously found intentionally homeless, not in priority need, or refused an offer of suitable accommodation.

Case law provides examples of where a local authority had to accept a repeat application.

Ibrahim, R (On the Application Of) v Westminster City Council

The applicant made a fresh homeless application based on medical evidence which was available to the local authority at the time of the original decision but which the homelessness officer did not consider at the time. The High Court held that while usually a new fact would postdate the original decision, this was not a requirement. What was required was a comparison between the facts known to the authority at the time of the original decision and when a repeat application was made.[5]

R v Harrow LBC ex parte Fahia

The local authority found the applicant intentionally homeless whilst they were living in a guest house provided as interim accommodation. The applicant remained in the guest house after the authority's duty had ended, and successfully applied for housing benefit. A year later they were evicted from the guest house and made a fresh homeless application.[6]

Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum

The local authority discharged its duty after the applicant refused an offer of suitable accommodation. The applicant and their child returned to the parental home from where the initial application was made. Subsequently two of the applicant's brothers moved in, one of whom was a heroin addict and two years after the first homeless application the applicant re-applied.[7]

R (on the application of Hoyte) v Southwark LBC

The applicant was affected by mental health issues and the local authority found them not in priority need. The applicant re-applied to the local authority providing new medical evidence of their increased risk of suicide, which the authority failed to investigate on the incorrect basis that the new evidence did not disclose any new facts.[8]

R (on the application of Abdulrahman) v Hillingdon LBC

The applicant and their husband made a joint application and were found intentionally homeless. Two years later, following the husband's departure and the three eldest children ceasing to be dependent, the applicant reapplied as homeless. The High Court held that the fact that the new application had not been made jointly and that the number of people seeking assistance had changed constituted a relevant change of circumstances.[9]

Bukartyk v Welwyn Hatfield BC

The applicant was originally found not in priority need due to lack of any evidence of medical problems and the applicant’s own assertions that they were in good health. The decision was upheld on review on the same basis. The applicant subsequently engaged with mental health services and after seeking advice, submitted a second application with evidence from medical professionals. The authority refused to accept it on the basis that (1) there were no new facts and (2) the evidence would not have changed the previous decision in relation to priority need. The High Court held that the decision that the new evidence introduced no new facts was irrational and confirmed that the correct test was whether the new facts were trivial or fanciful.[10]

Reapplication after private rented sector offer

If an applicant makes a further homelessness application to a local authority within two years of the date of their acceptance of a private rented sector offer made in discharge of the main housing duty (ie from the date of acceptance, not the date when the tenancy commenced or the applicant moved in), if the local authority has reason to believe that the applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homeless, it must provide suitable interim accommodation while it carries out inquiries regardless of whether the applicant still has a priority need.[11]

The reapplication must be made by the original applicant and not another member of their household.

If the applicant is threatened with homelessness the authority has a duty to prevent homelessness, regardless of whether the applicant is in priority need, and must take reasonable steps to ensure that the applicant does not lose their accommodation.

The main housing duty is owed if the local authority is satisfied that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and not intentionally homeless.

The main duty also revives if an applicant secures their own accommodation at the expiry of the term of the original PRS offer (usually 12 months) and then becomes homeless again within two years of their acceptance of the original PRS offer.[12]

Reapplication following a section 21 notice

For the purpose of a reapplication following a PRS offer, an applicant who has been given a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 is to be treated as being homeless from the date on which the notice expires, or threatened with homelessness from the date the notice is issued.[13]

Restricted cases

The reapplication provisions do not apply where the main duty has been ended in a restricted case.[14]

Applying to multiple local authorities

The Housing Act 1996 does not limit the number of applications that can be made and applicants can apply to more than one local authority at the same time.[15]

A local authority may ask the applicant at the initial interview if they have applied to another authority (or authorities). If so, one authority may contact the other authority to agree which will take the responsibility for carrying out inquiries.[16]

If the authority carrying out inquiries reaches an unfavourable decision, the applicant may then ask the other authority to make its own inquiries.

Each authority must make its own, independent inquiries in response to all applications. The second authority may take the original authority's decision into consideration but cannot simply rubber-stamp it.[17]

Withdrawn applications

Local authorities should have procedures in place to deal with applicants who want to withdraw an application, or where an applicant has not communicated with the authority. The Code of Guidance suggests it would be reasonable to consider an application closed where the applicant has not responded to any form of contact for 56 days or longer. Any further approach from the applicant after this time may need to be considered as a fresh application.

Where an applicant renews contact within 56 days the housing authority will need to consider any change of circumstances that may affect the application.[18]

If an applicant dies before a decision is made, the authority may treat another member of the deceased's household as the applicant, if that person consents.[19]

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: 6 October 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.193(9) Housing Act 1996; para 18.11 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [2]

    R v Harrow LBC ex p Fahia [1998] 1 WLR 1396, HL; Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum [2005] EWCA Civ 340; R (on the application of Griffin) v Southwark LBC [2004] EWHC 2463 (Admin); Gardiner v Haringey LBC [2009] EWHC 2699 (Admin); R (on the application of Hoyte) v Southwark LBC [2016] EWHC 1665 (Admin); R (on the application of Kensington & Chelsea RLBC v Ealing LBC [2017] WEHC 24 (Admin); paras 18.11 to 18.13 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    Eren v Haringey LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 409; para 18.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum [2005] ECWA Civ 340.

  • [5]

    Ibrahim, R (On the Application Of) v Westminster City Council [2021] EWHC 2616 (Admin) (1 October 2021).

  • [6]

    R v Harrow LBC ex parte Fahia (1998) 30 HLR 1124, HL.

  • [7]

    Tower Hamlets LBC v Begum [2005] ECWA Civ 340.

  • [8]

    R (on the application of Hoyte) v Southwark LBC [2016] EWHC 1665 (Admin).

  • [9]

    R (on the application of Abdulrahman) v Hillingdon LBC [2016] EWHC 2647 (Admin).

  • [10]

    Bukartyk v Welwyn Hatfield BC [2019] EWHC 3480 (Admin).

  • [11]

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

  • [12]

    para 18.18 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    s.195A(2) and (4) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s. 149(4) Localism Act 2011.

  • [14]

    para 18.26 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [15]

    para 18.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [16]

    para 18.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [17]

    Eren v Haringey LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 409.

  • [18]

    para 18.14 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [19]

    para 18.14 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.