Categories of priority need

The categories of people who have a priority need when making a homeless application.

This content applies to England

Priority need in homeless applications

Section 189 of Housing Act 1996, as extended by statutory instrument sets out who has a priority need when making a homeless application. 

Whether a person has a priority need affects what duties a local authority may owe them. 

A local authority only has a duty to provide interim accommodation where they have reason to believe that an applicant is homeless, eligible and in priority need.[1]

The main housing duty only arises if the local authority is satisfied that the applicant is homeless, eligible, in priority need and not homeless intentionally.[2]

Some groups of people automatically have a priority need. Others only have a priority need if the local authority determines they are vulnerable.

People who are automatically in priority need

The following categories of people must be accepted as in priority need:[3]

  • pregnant women, or any person who resides with a pregnant woman

  • households with whom dependent children reside or might reasonably be expected to reside

  • all 16 and 17 year olds, provided they are not a 'relevant child' (relevant children remain the responsibility of social services) or a child in need to whom a local authority owes a duty under section 20 of the Children Act 1989

  • all 18 to 20 year olds (other than 'relevant students'), who 'at any time after reaching the age of sixteen, but while still under eighteen' were, but are no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered

  • any person who has lost their accommodation as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster

  • a person who is homeless as a result of domestic abuse (for decisions made on or after 5 July 2021)

People who are in priority need if vulnerable

A person has a priority need if the authority is satisfied that they are vulnerable as a result of:[4]

  • old age, mental illness or disability, physical disability or other special reason

  • having been looked after, accommodated or fostered and is aged 21 or over (other than ' relevant students')

  • having been a member of Her Majesty's regular naval, military or air forces

  • having served a custodial sentence, been committed for contempt of court or similar offence, or been remanded in custody

  • having had to leave accommodation because of violence or threats of violence from another person that are likely to be carried out

A household member of a person who is vulnerable because of old age, mental illness, physical disability or other special reason also has a priority need. For example, if an application is made by a person whose partner is vulnerable due to a disability, the applicant is in priority need.

The local authority must determine whether if the applicant became homeless, they would be significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless.

Household members who are disregarded

If the applicant is subject to immigration control, any household member who is a person from abroad who is ineligible for assistance is usually disregarded when determining whether the applicant has a priority need.[5]

For example, in an application made by a refugee, any ineligible household members would be disregarded when assessing whether they had a priority need.

If the applicant is not subject to immigration control then any ineligible household members can be considered when assessing whether they have a priority need.[6] If the main housing duty is owed then there are special rules on how it can be discharged.

Last updated: 7 July 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.188(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

    s.193(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [3]

    s.189 Housing Act 1996 as amended by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051.

  • [4]

    s.189 Housing Act 1996, Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051.

  • [5]

    s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).

  • [6]

    s.185(4) Housing Act 1996 as amended by s.314 and Sch.15 Housing and Regeneration Act 2008; Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Order 2009 SI 2009/415 (C.28).