Priority need due to domestic abuse

A person has a priority need if they are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse.

This content applies to England

Priority need as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse

A person has a priority need if they are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse.[1]

They are automatically in priority need and do not need to be considered vulnerable.

There is no requirement that the person must have ceased to occupy the accommodation for this category of priority need to apply. A person is homeless if accommodation is unreasonable to continue to occupy because it is probable that this will lead to domestic abuse against them or someone in the household.

Chapter 21 of the Homelessness Code of Guidance contains guidance on providing homelessness services to people who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

A person will also have a priority need if they are vulnerable as a result of leaving accommodation due to non-domestic violence.[2]

Definition of domestic abuse

The definition of domestic abuse local authorities must use is set out in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.[3]

Domestic abuse is defined as abusive behaviour towards another person who is personally connected to the perpetrator.[4]

The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that domestic abuse is ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’. Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.[5]

Behaviour is classed as abusive if it consists of:[6]

  • physical or sexual abuse

  • violent or threatening behaviour

  • psychological or emotional abuse

  • controlling or coercive behaviour

  • economic or financial abuse

Economic abuse is behaviour that has a substantial negative effect on the victim’s money, property, goods or other services.

The behaviour can consist of a single incident or a course of conduct. Abusive behaviour can be classed as domestic abuse even if the conduct is directed at another person, for example the child of the personally connected person.[7]

Meaning of personally connected

Abusive behaviour is classed as domestic abuse within the meaning of the legislation, if the perpetrator is personally connected to the victim.

Personally connected means they are, or have:

  • been married to to each other

  • been in a civil partnership with each other

  • agreed to marry one another (whether that agreement has ended or not)

  • entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether that agreement has ended or not)

  • been in an intimate personal relationship

  • had a parental relationship to the same child

Relative are also classed as personally connected. Relatives include parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Step and half relations are included.[8]

The perpetrator and victim must be aged 16 or over for the definition to apply.[9]

Decisions the definition applies to

This definition of domestic abuse applies in relation to homelessness decisions, including decisions on review and appeal, made on or after 5 July 2021.[10] For decisions made before that date a different definition applied.

Inquiries into domestic abuse priority need

Establishing whether a person has a priority need involves assessing whether they are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse. Chapter 21 of the Code contains guidance on assessing homelessness as a result of domestic abuse.

Local authorities can seek further evidence where it is available and appropriate to do so. They should not approach the alleged perpetrator. With consent from the applicant the authority can ask for information from friends and relatives, social services, health professionals and the police. Authorities should not have a blanket approach towards domestic abuse which requires corroborative or police evidence to be provided.[11]

Local authorities should have policies in place to identify and respond to domestic abuse, including referring for help and support.[12]

Interim accommodation and domestic abuse priority need

A local authority must secure that interim accommodation is available if it has reason to believe that a person is homeless, eligible and in priority need.[13]

If there is reason to believe a person is homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic violence then there is also reason to believe they are in priority need.

If there is evidence that gives the authority reason to believe the applicant may be homeless as a result of domestic abuse the authority should make interim accommodation available to the applicant immediately while carrying out inquiries.[14]

Last updated: 7 October 2021


  • [1]

    s.189(1)(e) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s. 78 Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [2]

    article 6 Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002 SI 2002/2051.

  • [3]

    s.177(1A) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.78 Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [4]

    s.1(2)(b) Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [5]

    paras 21.2 to 21.9 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    s.1(3) Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [7]

    s.1(5) Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [8]

    s.63(1) Family Law Act 1996.

  • [9]

    s.1(2)(a) Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

  • [10]

    Art 2(1)(b) The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (Commencement No. 1 and Saving Provisions) Regulations SI 2021/797.

  • [11]

    para 21.24 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [12]

    para 21.12 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [13]

    s188(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [14]

    para 21.25 Homelessness Code of Guidance MHCLG, Feb 2018.