Location and suitability of accommodation for homeless applicants

Local authorities must consider location when assessing whether an offer of accommodation is suitable for a homeless applicant.

This content applies to England

Location and out of area placements

A local authority must take into account the location of the accommodation offered, including:[1]

  • when the accommodation is located outside the authority's area, the distance from the 'placing' authority

  • the significance of any disruption to employment, caring responsibilities or education of the applicant and her/his household

  • proximity and accessibility of medical facilities and other support which are currently being provided and are essential to well-being

  • proximity and accessibility of local services, amenities and transport.

As far as reasonably practicable authorities should secure accommodation in their own areas.[2] Where this is not possible they must try to place applicants as close as possible to where they were previously living.[3]

The Supreme Court has accepted that local authorities are entitled to take account of the resources available to them in their area, but the general shortage of available accommodation is not sufficient reason for failing to comply with its obligations when making an offer of accommodation. An authority must properly consider the particular circumstances of the applicant and the availability of accommodation before securing accommodation out-of-area. A general policy of placing applicants out-of-borough because of a shortage of accommodation within the borough is not lawful. An applicant who is offered accommodation outside the district can seek a review of the decision on grounds of suitability and the review officer must take into account the availability of suitable accommodation within or closer to its area, as the facts stand at the date of the review decision.[4]

Authorities should record how decisions to place an applicant out of area have been reached, and give the applicant a reasonable amount of time to consider such an offer.[5]

Assessing suitability of temporary accommodation is an ongoing duty[6] and there may be circumstances where an out-of-area placement originally identified as suitable becomes unsuitable, for example because new housing stock becomes available in the authority's area.[7]

People who apply within two years of arriving in the UK

From 1 June 2022 a local authority does not have to take location into account when assessing suitability if the applicant has applied within two years of their arrival in the UK.[8] The local authority does not need to consider the distance from their district, disruption to employment and education, or the proximity of medical facilities, support or local services. The local authority should still try and secure accommodation in its own area as far as is reasonably practical.

This change applies to homeless applications made on or after 1 June 2022.

The local authority must consider the significance of any disruption caused by the location of the accommodation to any caring responsibilities of the applicant or their family member for someone with whom there are family associations. For example, if someone in the household provides care for a relative in the local authority area.[9]

This change is likely to affect people who have been resettled in the UK in the last two years. For example people who have fled war in Ukraine and Afghanistan and have been granted leave through a resettlement scheme.

There is an exception for a person who had a right to occupy accommodation in the UK for an uninterrupted period of six months or more in the three years before they most recently arrived here.[10] This is likely to benefit British citizens and others returning to the UK after a period of previous residence.

Welfare of children and out of area placements

Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 requires that local authorities have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the applicant's household when making its decisions. The suitability of accommodation to meet a child's needs is a key component in its suitability generally.

Disruption to education and other support networks may be detrimental to a child's development. It is not enough for a local authority to only consider whether a child is approaching a significant exam when deciding whether accommodation is suitable in terms of its location; it is incumbent on the local authority to make further enquiries pursuant to section 11 of the Children Act 2004 and ensure that the child's right to education under article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights is not violated, in particular the authority must record its decisions and reasons in a way that clearly demonstrates how it evaluated the likely impact of the location of the accommodation on the educational welfare of the child.[11]

In a non-binding judgment, the county court quashed the decision of a local authority that accommodation provided out of area was suitable. The authority had failed to assess the effect on the development of a young baby of having to travel with his mother for eighty minutes four times a day, in and out of central London using a combination of  buses, walking and the underground, so that the mother could deliver and collect her two school-age children to and from school.[12]

The authority where a child is placed becomes responsible for ensuring that Children Act 1989 duties duties to assess their needs are carried out. 

Beneficial placements out of area

An out-of-area placement may be beneficial in certain circumstances, where for example the applicant:[13]

  • faces domestic violence in the authority's area

  • is an ex-offender or drug/alcohol user who would benefit from breaking links with negative influences

  • has been subject to trafficking or modern slavery and is risk of further exploitation

  • may be able to access employment opportunities

  • does not mind where s/he lives.

Out of area policies

Decisions to place applicants out-of-area must be approached in the right way. The Supreme Court has suggested that each local authority should have a policy for procuring sufficient units of temporary accommodation to meet the anticipated demand during the coming year. It should also have a policy for allocating those units to individual homeless households. Where there was an anticipated shortfall of units in its own area, that policy would explain the factors which would be taken into account in offering households those units, the factors which would be taken into account in offering units close to home, and if there was a shortage of such units, the factors which would make it suitable to accommodate a household further away. Both policies should be kept up-to-date and be publicly available.[14]

If a local authority has adopted and implement lawful procurement and allocation policies, then its decisions to offer out-of-area accommodation under the terms of such policies would generally be lawful and capable of discharging its duties.[15]

Notification to other authority

If accommodation is provided in another authority's area, the local authority in that area must be informed within 14 days. The written notice sent to the other authority must state:[16]

  • the name of the applicant

  • how many people can be expected to live with the applicant, and explain who they are

  • the address of the accommodation and the date it was made available to the applicant

  • which duty was being discharged when the accommodation was secured.

See Co-operation with other agencies for more information on how two authorities should cooperate when there is a child under 18 in the homeless household, and where the applicant is likely to be found not eligible or intentionally homeless.

Risk of violence or racial violence in the area

A local authority must take into account any risks of violence or racial violence that may affect the household.[17] For example, an offer of accommodation to a Bangladeshi family in an area of active racial harassment was quashed because the authority had not had regard to the effect of under-reporting of racist attacks.[18] The accommodation offered should not place the applicant, or any member of the household, at risk of further violence. The applicant's fear of further violence is also a consideration; not just the actual risk.[19] However the Court of Appeal has held that 'there is no room... for beliefs not based on an assessment of all the available facts' in that 'a belief may be genuinely held without being a reasonable belief.' In such circumstances the accommodation offered was suitable.[20]

Where the applicant is at risk of domestic abuse, or of modern slavery, the authority may need to offer accommodation whose location can be kept secret, and which has appropriate security and trained staff. Emergency accommodation may need to be gender-specific as well as secure.[21]

Applications made before 3 April 2018

The current Homelessness Code of Guidance was introduced on 3 April 2018 and the references on this page are to this Code. For applications made before this date, the recommendations of the 2006 Code of Guidance should apply.

Last updated: 27 May 2022


  • [1]

    art. 2 Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012 SI 2012/2601; R (on the application of E) v Islington LBC [2017] EWHC 1440 (Admin); see also paras 17.47 to 17.57 Homelessness Code of Guidance. MHCLG, Feb 2018

  • [2]

    s.208(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [3]

    para 17.49 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    Nzolameso v City of Westminster [2015] UKSC 22; Waltham Forest LBC v Saleh [2019] EWCA Civ 1944.

  • [5]

    paras 17.61 and 17.62 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    Waltham Forest LBC v Saleh [2019] EWCA Civ 1944.

  • [7]

    Bromley LBC v Celisa Broderick [2020] EWCA Civ 1522.

  • [8]

    article 2 the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012/2601, as amended by article 5 the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Amendment) (England) Order 2022/521.

  • [9]

    article 2A(2) the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012/2601, as inserted by article 5 the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Amendment) (England) Order 2022/521.

  • [10]

    article 2A(1)(d) The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012/2601 as inserted by article 5(3) the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (Amendment) (England) Order 2022/521.

  • [11]

    Nzolameso v City of Westminster [2015] UKSC 22; R (on the application of E) v Islington LBC [2017] EWHC 1440 (Admin); paras 17.51, 17.52 and 17.59 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; para 34 Home to school travel and transport' statutory guidance for local authorities on sustainable school travel, and school travel arrangements for children and young people, DfE, July 2014.

  • [12]

    Anon v Lewisham LBC, Central London County Court, 5 July 2018.

  • [13]

    paras 17.55 and 17.56, and 23.26 (for applicants with an offending history), and 25.22 (trafficking and modern slavery) Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [14]

    Nzolameso v City of Westminster [2015] UKSC 22; paras 17.47 to 62 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [15]

    Alibkhiet v Brent LBC : Adam v City of Westminster [2018] EWCA Civ 2742; paras 17.48 and 17.49 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [16]

    s.208(2) and s.208(3) Housing Act 1996, para 17.60 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [17]

    paras 17.6 and 21.37; para  25.21 (for victims of modern slavery), Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [18]

    R v Tower Hamlets LBC ex p Subhan (1992) 24 HLR 541, QBD.

  • [19]

    R v Haringey LBC ex p Karaman (1997) 29 HLR 366, QBD.

  • [20]

    Ahmed v Leicester BC [2007] EWCA Civ 843.

  • [21]

    paras 21.37 and 25.21 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.