Advising on vulnerability and priority need

A guide for frontline advisers

A local authority must secure emergency accommodation if it has reason to believe someone might be homeless, eligible and have a priority need.

Some people automatically have a priority need. Other people have a priority need if they are vulnerable for a particular reason.

This guide explains:

  • who has a priority need because they are vulnerable

  • how to advise and support a vulnerable person applying as homeless

  • what the options are if a local authority refuses to assist a vulnerable person

Priority need and why it matters

Who has a priority need

This section explains who has an automatic priority need and who has a priority need because they are vulnerable.

Priority need is one of the tests the local authority must apply when assessing a person's homeless application.

Other tests include whether the person:

  • is eligible for homeless assistance based on their immigration status

  • is legally homeless

  • is intentionally homeless

  • has a local connection with the local authority where they are making the application.

Automatic priority need

A person automatically has a priority need if they:

  • are a pregnant woman or live with a pregnant woman

  • have dependent children who live with them or who might reasonably be expected to live with them

  • are 16 or 17 years old and are not looked after by social services under the Children Act 1989

  • are 18 to 20 years old and at any time between 16 and 18 were, but are no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered

  • lost their accommodation because of an emergency such as a flood, fire or other disaster

  • are homeless as a result of being a victim of domestic abuse

Find out more about who has an automatic priority need on Shelter Legal.

Vulnerability and priority need

Someone who does not automatically have a priority need might have a priority need if they are vulnerable for a particular reason.

A person can have a priority need if they or someone they live with are vulnerable because of:

  • old age

  • mental illness

  • being physically disabled

  • some other special reason

A person can also have a priority need if they are vulnerable because they:

  • were in the regular armed forces

  • have been in prison

  • are over 21 and spent time in care

  • left their accommodation because of violence or threats of violence

Find out more about priority need of vulnerable people on Shelter Legal.

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Why priority need matters

This section explains the different duties a local authority can owe a person who has a priority need.

Priority need determines what duties the local authority owes to a person applying as homeless.

Interim accommodation duty

If a local authority has reason to believe that a person might be homeless, eligible for assistance and have a priority need, the authority must provide interim accommodation when the person applies for assistance.

This duty continues until the later of the following:

  • local authority has notified the applicant that no relief duty is owed

  • the local authority has sent a decision letter setting out what accommodation
    duties it does owe

  • the relief duty has been brought to an end

The interim duty to accommodate also continues where an applicant in priority need has requested a review of the suitability of either a final offer of accommodation or a final Part 6 offer made under the relief duty.

Find out more about the interim accommodation duty on Shelter Legal.

Main housing duty

A local authority must secure longer term accommodation for someone who:

  • is legally homeless

  • is eligible

  • has a priority need

  • is not intentionally homeless

This is known as the main housing duty.

Find out more about the main housing duty on Shelter Legal.

Duty owed to applicants who deliberately and unreasonably refuse to cooperate

The main housing duty normally arises at the end of the relief duty if someone has a priority need and is unintentionally homeless. It does not arise if the local authority has also decided the person has deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate with the reasonable steps they were asked to take to secure housing under the relief duty.

The local authority still has a duty to ensure that suitable accommodation is available for the person.

Find out more about the local authority duty to someone who has deliberately and unreasonably refused to cooperate on Shelter Legal.

Duty owed to applicants found to be intentionally homeless

A local authority must provide short term accommodation for someone who is:

  • intentionally homeless

  • eligible for assistance

  • has a priority need

The local authority must provide accommodation to give the person a reasonable amount of time to find accommodation for themselves.

Find out more about intentional homelessness on Shelter Legal.

Duties owed to all homeless applicants

A local authority still has a duty to assist a person who does not have a priority need if they are eligible and either homeless or threatened with homelessness.

If a person is threatened with homelessness, the local authority owes them the prevention duty. Under this duty, the authority must take reasonable steps to help prevent the person from becoming homeless.

Find out more about the prevention duty on Shelter Legal.

If a person is homeless, the local authority owes them the relief duty. Under this duty, the local authority must take reasonable steps to help them secure housing that is available for at least 6 months.

Find out more about the relief duty on Shelter Legal.

The local authority does not have a duty to provide accommodation under either the prevention or relief duties. It must agree a personal housing plan with them. This sets out the reasonable steps the person and authority will take to either prevent homelessness or help the person find a new home.

Find out more about personalised housing plans on Shelter Legal.

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How vulnerability is assessed

This section explains the test local authorities must apply to determine if someone is vulnerable.

Vulnerability is not defined in legislation. The test which local authorities must apply has been developed through case law.

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

The authority must consider:

  • whether the person would suffer or be at risk of harm or detriment when homeless that an ordinary person would not

  • if that harm or detriment would make a noticeable difference to their ability to deal with the circumstances of being homeless

Vulnerability means if the person is not provided with accommodation, rather than their need for care and support generally. The local authority should assess if someone would be vulnerable if they become homeless, rather than whether they are able to manage while still in accommodation.

The local authority cannot take account of its resources when making a decision on priority need.

Comparison with an ordinary person

When assessing vulnerability, the local authority must compare the person with a hypothetical ordinary person who is homeless.

Local authorities should not compare the person to a hypothetical or actual 'ordinary homeless person'. People who are already homeless might be more vulnerable than an average person. The comparison should be made with an ordinary person if that person was then made homeless.

Local authorities should not make their comparison specific to the local authority area. They should avoid using statistical data to determine the ordinary person's characteristics.

Significantly more vulnerable

The authority must decide if the person would suffer, or be at risk of suffering, harm or detriment that an ordinary person would not suffer. The harm or detriment would have to make a noticeable difference to the person's ability to deal with being homeless.

There is not a threshold of vulnerability that a person must reach to have a priority need. A local authority who found that an applicant was not in priority need despite being 'more vulnerable than ordinarily vulnerable', acted unlawfully in applying a quantitative approach.

Support from other people

The local authority can consider care and support that the person would receive from other people if they were homeless, such as family and medical services. The authority must be satisfied that support will be available on a consistent and predictable basis, whether the support is provided voluntarily or through a legal obligation.

A person who receives substantial support can still be vulnerable. In some situations, a person's circumstances might mean no amount of support would enable them to cope with becoming homeless in the same way that an ordinary person could cope.

Local authority inquiries into vulnerability

The local authority must make necessary inquiries and consider any relevant evidence, such as medical evidence, psychiatric reports or welfare reports from social workers or advisers.

The local authority must have regard to any medical evidence submitted to them, and this can be used to confirm if a person has a specific health condition. The local authority is not bound by medical evidence and it is still for the authority to make the decision on vulnerability. Where there is conflicting information, the authority must consider all the information available to reach its decision.

Find out more about how a local authority must assess vulnerability on Shelter Legal.

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How to advise your client

How to gather information

This section explains how to gather information from your client to help assess whether they are vulnerable.

Check the categories of priority need

Go through the different categories of priority need with the client. Explain why you are asking these questions and that you might need to ask about sensitive topics.

A person can have a priority need if they are vulnerable for another special reason. You might need to ask more general questions about the client's circumstances and background to find out if something else about them means they are vulnerable.

Find out how the client's circumstances make them vulnerable

Ask questions that help the client draw out all the relevant information that shows the local authority they are vulnerable.

Focus on the impact of homelessness on the client and how this would be affected by their circumstances and background. The test for the local authority is whether your client would be significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person would be if they became homeless. Encourage your client to consider:

  • how they are more at risk of harm

  • how that risk would affect their ability to deal with homelessness

For example, old age by itself doesn't mean that someone is vulnerable. The person would need to show how their age increases the risks they would face when homeless. If someone has spent time in prison, ask how that experience of prison affects them today.

The emphasis should be on the facts and evidence relating to the client as an individual, rather than general statements about someone with that background or situation. Ask them to think of examples from their everyday life, to show how homelessness would affect them in the light of their characteristics (for example age) or condition (for example physical or mental health).

Try to understand the person's problems in the round. Several different issues combined might mean that someone would be at greater risk of harm, even where any one of them in isolation might not. For example, where someone has a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, a history of sleeping rough, and no previous experience of managing a tenancy.

Discussing vulnerability

Establishing whether someone might have a priority need because of vulnerability often means asking questions about sensitive topics. Some people might not be comfortable being described as a vulnerable person.

Make sure the client understands why you are asking about these issues. It might help to explain that these are the terms used by the law and the local authority.

Disability and protected characteristics

The local authority must comply with the public sector equality duty when considering an application by someone with a protected characteristic. For example, if the person is disabled.

A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

You might know whether the person is disabled because they disclose this to you. Ask the client whether they consider themselves to have a disability. This might be appropriate if the client has discussed physical or mental health conditions.

Tell the local authority if it appears that the person comes within the protection of the Equality Act. Include a brief description of the nature of the impairment and how it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Get consent if you need to contact the local authority

Before you help someone make a homeless application, get their agreement and make sure they understand what you’re helping them to do.

When dealing with the local authority, you might need the person’s written consent for the authority to agree to discuss their situation with you. If this isn’t possible, when you contact the local authority over the phone, try to make sure the person is with you or can join on a conference call.

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Checklists: questions for your client

This section includes prompts for what to ask your client to establish if they might be vulnerable.

The questions you need to ask depend on the person's situation. Areas to consider include the client's health, daily living activities, any support they receive from other people, and their background.

Health issues

Ask whether the person:

  • has a physical or mental health condition

  • considers themselves to be disabled

  • currently receives any medical treatment

Check if the person has special requirements to help manage a medical condition. For example medication, a need for medical equipment, attending appointments, diet, rest, quiet, warmth. Some medication needs to be stored in certain conditions, for example to be refrigerated. Find out if this would be possible if the person became homeless.

Activities of daily living

How the person manages with day-to-day activities might be relevant if they have a health condition, are elderly, or disabled. This might include:

  • if they receive personal care

  • dealing with household activities (dealing with correspondence, appointments)

  • money issues, such as paying rent or bills, or claiming benefits

  • travel and mobility issues

  • work, leisure and social activities

Any communication barriers the person has might be relevant to how they would be affected by being homeless. For example, language or literacy issues.

It might help to go through the activities of a normal day or week with the client.

Support from other people

The local authority can consider any support the person gets from other people. For example, family, friends, voluntary agencies, health or social services.

If your client gets support from another person, you should check:

  • what kind of support they receive

  • if this support could continue if the client became homeless

  • the impact if that support was no longer available

Background

Some factors are specifically mentioned in the law and guidance as meaning someone might be vulnerable. Check if the person has:

  • been in the armed forces

  • spent time in care as a child

  • spent time in prison

  • experienced domestic abuse or other violence

  • been a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery

  • experienced exploitation or financial abuse

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How to help the client prepare for an interview with the local authority

This section explains how you can help your client to present all relevant information about their circumstances to the local authority.

The initial interview and emergency accommodation

Homeless applicants should have an initial interview with a housing officer. This could be in person or over the phone. As a result of this initial assessment, if the authority has reason to believe that the person might be homeless, eligible and have a priority need, it must secure interim accommodation for them.

The local authority must also carry out a full housing needs assessment and agree a personalised housing plan. This can be done at the same time or at a separate appointment.

Find out more about personalised housing plans on Shelter Legal.

Your client might need advice and support on how best to explain their case at the initial interview.

Prepare notes

You and your client could make a list together, to help them tell the interviewing officer about:

  • any problems relating to their health and aspects of daily living

  • how those problems have got worse since they lost their accommodation, or are likely to get worse when they become homeless

  • who helps them with these problems while they have somewhere to live

  • how their support has changed, or might change when they are homeless

Emphasise to your client that the interviewing officer might not understand how a health condition would affect them when homeless, and that they should fully explain this at the interview.

Prepare a list of the names of people it would be helpful for the interviewing officer to contact for more information. For example, the client's GP, hospital consultants, social workers, community agencies. Try to include contact information, like phone numbers or email addresses.

Have relevant documents to hand

The client should try to bring any documents they have to support their application to the appointment, or have these to hand if the interview is by phone. This includes anything needed to show that they are homeless and eligible, as well as evidence relating to priority need.

Evidence might include:

  • proof of identity and immigration status such as a passport or ID card

  • a letter from their doctor or hospital about any medical conditions

  • a notice from the landlord or other proof of why they are homeless

It might also be helpful to have proof of the client's income, such as wage slips or benefit letters. Letters confirming that the person receives a disability or health related benefit could be helpful in establishing if someone has a priority need. For example, proof they receive personal independence payment (PIP) or employment and support allowance (ESA), or the limited capability for work element of universal credit.

If the client does not have all the required evidence straight away, the local authority must still secure interim accommodation if it has reason to believe the person might be homeless, eligible and have a priority need. It must then carry out inquiries to satisfy itself if the person meets these criteria. These inquiries could include obtaining the evidence it needs from the client.

Additional evidence

The local authority must consider any evidence that the person provides in support of their application. For example, letters from their GP, medical consultants, social workers, specialist support agencies, family members, friends. Consider whether it would be best to obtain letters or reports from them at this stage.

A medical report could be particularly useful where the client has mental health issues or a medical condition which might not appear to have an obvious impact on their ability to cope when homeless.

If requesting a medical report, ask the person writing it:

  • to consider whether the client's health would get worse if they were homeless

  • their opinion about whether the client would be at more risk of harm than an ordinary person in the same position, and to give reasons why they think this

Attending the interview

If the interview is in person, the client should make sure they arrive at the local authority office before the time the interview is to take place.

Suggest that the client take someone with them to the interview if they feel that they cannot explain things clearly to the interviewing officer. You could also provide a referral letter confirming what you have discussed with them.

If the interview is over the phone, the client should be notified of an appointment time and should be ready to take the call at this time. As the interview might require the client to discuss personal details, it is best if the client is somewhere quiet and private. If the client misses the call, they should contact the local authority as soon as possible to rearrange.

Where the client's first language is not English

The Homelessness Code of Guidance states that local authorities should provide interpreting services where an applicant’s first language is not English. You could suggest the client checks with the authority whether there will be an interpreter. The client could consider bringing a friend or family member along to help interpret.

The outcome of the interview

The local authority must arrange interim accommodation for the client if it has reason to believe they might be homeless, eligible and have a priority need. If the client has nowhere to stay that night, the authority should arrange something straight away.

The client should ask the local authority to confirm if it will be arranging interim accommodation. If the authority refuses, the client might need legal help to challenge this.

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How to challenge a negative decision

Local authority refuses to accept an application or provide interim accommodation

This section explains what you can do if the local authority refuses to provide interim accommodation to your client or refuses to accept a homeless application.

Application for judicial review

Your client might be able to seek judicial review in the High Court if the local authority either:

  • refuses to accept a homeless application

  • takes an application but refuses to provide interim accommodation

Find out more about judicial review in homelessness cases on Shelter Legal.

Letter to the authority

You or your client should immediately send a letter or email to the housing authority to:

  • confirm that your client made a homeless application when they approached the authority

  • explain why the authority should have ‘reason to believe’ your client might be eligible, homeless and have a priority need

  • request that interim accommodation be provided straight away while the authority carries out investigations

  • request the authority provides a written decision on the homelessness application

A solicitor can apply to the High Court for judicial review of the refusal and an order for interim accommodation to be provided.

Legal aid is available to people on a low income if there is sufficient merit in the case.

Find out more about legal aid for housing problems on Shelter Legal.

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Local authority decides the client does not have a priority need

This section explains how you can help your client to challenge a local authority decision that they do not have a priority need.

How to challenge a priority need decision

A person can ask for an internal review if, after inquiries, the local authority decides the person does not have a priority need for accommodation

The person must request a review within 21 days of receiving the decision. The local authority has the discretion to accept an out-of-time request.

A housing adviser or solicitor can help with the review if it raises difficult questions of fact or law.

Find out more about internal reviews of homelessness decisions on Shelter Legal.

Request an internal review of the decision

When challenging a final decision of the local authority you should:

  • request the client's housing file

  • check the authority’s decision letter and make sure the details and facts are correct

  • identify the key points in dispute

  • decide if any additional evidence should be provided to the local authority

  • ask the local authority for sufficient time to make representations and consider the housing file or gather evidence.

The review officer must consider all the facts and evidence which are available at the date of the review. If the person doesn’t submit fresh evidence for the review and subsequently appeals to the County Court, the court cannot consider any new evidence of vulnerability.

The review should be carried out within 56 days unless the local authority and the applicant agree to extend the time limit. If the local authority fails to complete the review in time, it might be possible to appeal to the County Court.

Internal reviews of homelessness decisions are in scope for legal aid.

Find out more about legal aid for housing problems on Shelter Legal.

Accommodation pending review

When someone requests a review of a decision, the local authority normally has a power to provide accommodation pending the outcome of the review. This is at the local authority’s discretion and the authority does not have to provide accommodation, even if the person has a priority need. The client should ask for ask for accommodation pending the review at the same time as requesting a review.

What to watch out for when challenging a priority need decision

Read the decision letter carefully. Check if there are errors which make the decision unlawful. Consider if:

  • the authority has made sufficient enquiries

  • the relevant facts and evidence have been properly taken into account

  • any relevant facts or evidence have been ignored or played down

  • the letter uses terms like “street homeless” or “fend for oneself” which are not referred in legislation and should be avoided

  • the authority has used statistics or referred to its own resources

  • the assessment of risk of harm has been set at too high a level, for example if ‘significant’ has been interpreted as ‘substantial’ or ‘very serious’ rather than having a noticeable effect on a person’s ability to deal with homelessness

  • too much weight has been given to the role of third-party support to the person if homeless

Look at whether any medical evidence your client provided has been treated unfairly. For example, if the local authority has given too much weight to the assessment of their own medical advisor rather than the person’s doctor or another professional with more involvement with the client.

If the client is disabled, look at whether there has been rigorous consideration of the Equality Act duty. There does not have to be a specific reference to the Act, but there should be evidence of a genuine consideration of the issues.

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Review upholds the decision that your client does not have a priority need

This section explains what your client can do if a negative priority need decision is upheld following an internal review.

Appeal to the County Court against negative review decision

If a review upholds the decision that a person does not have a priority need, it might be possible to appeal to the County Court.

The appeal must be made within 21 days of receiving the review decision from the local authority.

The person needs help from a solicitor to appeal to the County Court.

County Court appeals of homelessness decisions are in scope for legal aid.

Find out more about legal aid for housing problems on Shelter Legal.

An appeal can only be brought on a point of law.

Points of law that can arise from a priority need decision include if:

  • the wrong legal test for assessing vulnerability was applied

  • inadequate enquiries were made into your client’s situation

  • there is no or insufficient evidence to support the factual findings

  • the relevant factors were not taken properly into account

  • the reasons for the decision are inadequate

Find out more about appeals to the County Court on Shelter Legal.

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Further resources

Template letters

This section contains suggested wording people can use to contact a local authority about a homeless application.

A person making a homeless application can use these templates to:

  • apply as homeless

  • explain why they are likely to have a priority need

  • ask for an internal review of a negative decision

The letters can be copied into an email to send to the local authority.

Template letter: Ask to make a homeless application

(Use the subject heading: Homelessness application)

I am writing to make a homelessness application under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

I want to speak to a homelessness officer urgently.

I need help because (the reason you are or will be homeless).

I am in priority need because (include any from this list that apply):

  • I have dependent children who live with me

  • I am pregnant (or someone you live with is pregnant)

  • I am homeless because of domestic abuse

  • I am a care leaver aged under 21

  • I am vulnerable (e.g. because of old age, disability or physical or mental illness)

  • I am homeless after a flood, fire or other disaster

I am applying for myself and for (names of anyone who lives with you).

Please contact me on (say how you would like to be contacted).

(Your name)

(Your phone number)

Download


Template letter: Explain why someone is vulnerable

(Use the subject: Priority need for homeless help)

I have already made a homeless application under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.

The information below gives you reason to believe that I qualify for emergency housing under section 188 of the Housing Act while you make enquiries into my situation.

I want you to help with emergency housing straight away as I have nowhere to stay. I do not have any support from family or friends.

I am vulnerable and in priority need because of (include anything that applies):

  • disability and health conditions

  • having been in prison, care, the armed forces, asylum support housing

I am at much greater risk if I am on the streets because of this.

I have experienced (for example, violence, harassment or exploitation while homeless).

My disability and health conditions are (give details of any physical or learning disabilities, mental health conditions and other health conditions).

My medication is (give details of your medication, how it must be stored and side effects).

I use mobility aids (give details).

I get support from (give details of treatment or other help from your doctor, mental health team or support worker and how this affects you).

I am eligible for help because (write your nationality or immigration status).

Download


Template letter: Ask for an internal review

(Use the reference number on the council’s decision letter as the email subject).

I would like to ask for a review under s.202(1), Housing Act 1996.

I wish to review the council’s decision of (date decision was made) about my recent homelessness application. I received the decision on (date received).

The council decided that (include information about the decision).

Please provide me with a copy of my housing file. This request is made under s.106(5), Housing Act 1985 and s.45(1), Data Protection Act 2018.

I am seeking urgent legal advice and help with the review process.

Please delay making a decision on review until my legal adviser has had the opportunity to review my file and make written representations on my behalf.

(Delete if not needed) I also ask that you continue to provide temporary accommodation until a review decision has been made.

Download


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Resources for your client

This section includes information and advice you can share with your client.

Shelter Housing Advice 

Shelter's housing advice pages for the public have information on the homeless application process.

Guide to homeless help from the council

Homeless help if you're at risk of domestic abuse

How to get emergency housing from the council

What is priority need?

Factsheets

Download and print our easy to read factsheets for the public. They are in PDF format and have useful information on the homeless application process.

Applying as homeless

Immigration and residence conditions

Priority need


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Principles established in case law

This section contains extracts from case law decisions relevant to assessing and establishing vulnerability.

Relevant case law

The courts have established these principles on how to define vulnerability in:

References in brackets are to the paragraph of the judgment.

Defining vulnerability

'Vulnerable' in section 189(1)(c) means being 'significantly more vulnerable than ordinarily vulnerable as a result of being rendered homeless'. All people are at risk of harm from homelessness, but the Act did not intend all homeless persons to qualify as vulnerable. (Hotak, para 53)

The comparison must be with the ordinary person who is in need of accommodation and not the ordinary homeless person or street homeless person. (Hotak, paras 57-59 and 93)

The comparison is with ‘ordinary people generally, not ordinary people in the locality' (Hotak, para 93).

The ordinary person is robust and healthy (Hotak, para 71; Rother DC, para 32)

A relevant feature of vulnerability is ‘an impairment of a person’s ability to find accommodation or, if he cannot find it, to deal with the lack of it. The impairment may be an expectation that a person’s physical or mental health would deteriorate; or it may be exposure to some external risk such as the risk of exploitation by others.’ (Panayiotou, para 44)

An applicant would be significantly more vulnerable if as a result of one of the characteristics or conditions set out in section 189(1)(c) (like old age, mental illness, physical disability, being in care etc) ‘the applicant would suffer or be at risk of suffering harm or detriment which the ordinary person would not suffer or be at risk of suffering such that the harm or detriment would make a noticeable difference to his ability to deal with the consequences of homelessness. To put it another way, what Lord Neuberger must have meant was that an applicant would be vulnerable if he were at risk of more harm in a significant way.’ (Panayiotou, para 64)

Close attention must be given to the particular circumstances of the applicant ‘in the round’, i.e. not so much by reference to each of the applicant’s problems but by reference to them when taken together. (Hotak, para 38)

No account can be taken of the demands on the local authority or its resources when making a decision on a homeless application. (Hotak, para 39)

No statistics can be used as a comparator to measure vulnerability: 'The use of statistics to determine whether someone is vulnerable is a very dangerous exercise'. (Hotak, para 43)

Taking into account support from others

The care given by statutory bodies or by a carer (whether a family member or not), can be taken into account. 'An applicant might not be vulnerable if, when homeless, he would be provided with support and care by a third party (often no doubt a family member with whom he was living).' (Hotak, paras 61-65)

This support can only be taken into account where the housing authority is satisfied that the third party will provide support 'on a consistent and predictable basis'. (Hotak, para 65)

Further, 'The mere fact that such support would be available may not prevent the applicant from being vulnerable.' (Hotak, para 69)

'It is not unreasonable to expect members of the same family to support each other if they are living together, but:

(i) whether a particular applicant will in fact receive support and if so what support, must be a case-specific question, to which the answer must be based on evidence,
(ii) in a particular case, the level of support may have to be so high to obviate vulnerability that it goes beyond what can be expected on any view, and
(iii) as already explained, the fact that there may be very substantial support does not of itself necessarily mean that the applicant will not be vulnerable.' (Hotak, para 70)

Duty under the Equality Act

Where the Equality Act 2010 is engaged because the person has a protected characteristic, the effect is to increase the level of scrutiny required by the housing authority. This requires the reviewing officer to focus 'very sharply' on:

(i) whether the applicant is under a disability (or has another relevant protected
characteristic),
(ii) the extent of such disability,
(iii) the likely effect of the disability, when taken together with any other features,
on the applicant if and when homeless, and
(iv) whether the applicant is as a result ‘vulnerable.’ (Hotak, para 78)

The duty must be ‘exercised in substance, with rigour and with an open mind’. (Hotak, para 78)

Find out more about priority need of vulnerable people on Shelter Legal.

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Find out more about homelessness applications on Shelter Legal.