Multiple, repeat and withdrawn homeless applications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make a repeat homeless application or apply to more than one local authority and when an application can be treated as withdrawn.
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.
The local authority must decide if there are any new facts that make the application different from the earlier one. The local authority can reject the application if the facts raised are fanciful, trivial or not new.
When a local authority must accept a repeat application
Where a local authority has previously discharged a homelessness duty, it cannot refuse to accept a fresh application if there has been a change in the facts. Where the repeat application reveals new facts, which are neither trivial nor fanciful then the authority must accept the application.
New facts can include a change of household makeup, eviction from subsequent accommodation, as well as new information on health conditions that was not considered by the authority in the original application.
The local authority cannot reject an application on the basis that it would likely reach the same decision as the previous application.
If the local authority accepts that there are new facts that are not trivial or fanciful, it must accept an application and carry out inquiries into what duty it may owe the applicant.
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:
the burden is on the applicant to identify the facts that differentiate a fresh application from their earlier application.
the local authority should compare the facts at the date of the new application with those at the date of its decision on the earlier application (or review decision)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Minott v Cambridge City Council
The applicant remained in interim accommodation after a notice to quit when referred to another local authority on the basis of local connection. He then made a fresh application on the basis that time in the interim accommodation meant he had by then lived in the area for six months and acquired a local connection. The authority decided there were no new facts as unlawful residence did not count towards establishing a local connection. The Court of Appeal held the authority had wrongly conflated the factual basis of the application and the assessment of whether residence in the interim accommodation could establish a local connection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. For example, a local authority must still make inquiries into any duty it owes, even where another local authority has failed to make inquiries or accept a duty.
The second authority may take the original authority's decision into consideration but cannot simply rubber-stamp it.
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.
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.
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: 3 March 2022