Priority need decision letters

Requirements for decision letters where the local authority has decided that an applicant is not in priority need.

This content applies to England

Decision letters where an applicant is found not to have a priority need

If a local authority is satisfied that an applicant is not in priority need, the decision letter must include the:[1]

  • reasons for the decision

  • applicant's right to request a review of the decision

  • time within which a request for a review must be made

The reasons given must be proper and adequate, and deal with the substantial points that have been raised'.[2] This means that an authority must explain why it has rejected an applicant's argument[3]

Content of the decision letter

The letter must contain sufficient information to enable the applicant to understand why they have been unsuccessful and enable them to assess the prospects of challenging the decision.

If the local authority decides that the applicant is not in priority need, its decision letter is not usually lawful if it merely lists the categories of priority need and records that an applicant does not fall within any one of them.[4]

In applying the test of vulnerability an authority is not required to spell out the characteristics of the comparator – such as an 'ordinary person' – nor to define the terms 'vulnerable' or 'significantly'.[5] However, using statistical data to determine who the comparator is and whether an applicant is vulnerable is dangerous and should be avoided.[6]

The content of the decision letter, in particular the amount of detail it contains, depends on the circumstances of the individual case.[7] Public sector equality duty requires that the authority must focus on whether an applicant with an actual or probable disability, or other protected characteristic, is vulnerable as a result. Where an applicant has a protected characteristic, inquiries must be even more careful, and fuller reasons must be given for a negative decision.[8]

Where a decision letter stated the correct test of vulnerability, and proceeded to list a number of reasons why the council found an applicant to be 'not vulnerable', the Court of Appeal held that the reviewing officer's failure to 'tie' each of those reasons to the correct comparator did not mean that he had applied the wrong test.[9]

Applications made before 3 April 2018

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

Last updated: 28 April 2021


  • [1]

    s.184(3) and (5) Housing Act 1996

  • [2]

    Re Poyser and Mills' Arbitration [1964] 2 QB 467.

  • [3]

    [3] R v Newham LBC ex parte Qureshi [1997] Legal Action March 1998, QBD; R v Croydon LBC ex parte Graham (1994) 26 H.L.R 286; South Bucks DC v Porter [2004] UKHL 33.

  • [4]

    R v Islington LBC ex p Trail (1993) The Times May 27, QBD.

  • [5]

    Tetteh v Kingston Upon Thames RLBC [2004] EWCA Civ 1775; Rother DC v Freeman-Roach [2018] EWCA Civ 368.

  • [6]

    Hotak v Southwark LBC : Kanu v Southwark LBC : Johnson v Solihull MBC [2015] UKSC 30.

  • [7]

    Tetteh v Kingston Upon Thames RLBC [2004] EWCA Civ 1775.

  • [8]

    Hotak v Southwark LBC : Kanu v Southwark LBC : Johnson v Solihull MBC [2015] UKSC 30.

  • [9]

    Rother DC v Freeman-Roach [2018] EWCA Civ 368.