Challenges to accommodation suitability
The procedure for challenging the suitability of an offer of homelessness accommodation, and the courts' powers where a challenge is successful.
How to challenge suitability
It is usually in the person’s best interests to accept the offer and request a suitability review.
A person can request an internal review of an authority's offer of temporary or permanent accommodation.
A person does not have a statutory right to an internal review of the suitability of interim accommodation offered by a local authority while carrying out homelessness inquiries. The suitability of interim accommodation can only be challenged by way of judicial review.
Review of suitability of temporary or permanent accommodation
Where a local authority makes an offer of temporary or permanent accommodation to someone it owes the main housing duty, the person can accept the offer and request an internal review of its suitability.
The person can ask for the review whether they accept or refuse the offer. The local authority can discharge the main housing duty if the person refuses the offer.
If the review finds that the accommodation is not suitable then the main duty to the homeless person is not discharged. The authority has an immediate duty to provide the person with suitable alternative accommodation. However, performance of that duty will necessarily take some time.
Challenges on the issue of suitability do not often succeed. It is likely to be in the person’s best interests to accept an offer and then request a review.
A local authority must consider the needs of the individual person when deciding whether accommodation is suitable at the time of the offer. The authority is not required to set out its reasons as to why it considered that a property was suitable for the person in the decision letter.
Usually the accommodation must be suitable as the facts stand at the date of review. In some circumstances the court might hold that in the interests of fairness the facts are to be considered at the date of the original decision, for example when a person refused an offer of accommodation on grounds of suitability. Local authorities are not obliged to leave accommodation empty until the conclusion of a review.
There is only a statutory right to one review of suitability. A request for review must be made within 21 days of the decision that the accommodation is suitable.
Find out more about internal reviews of homelessness decisions.
County Court appeal
If the reviewing officer upholds the decision that the accommodation is suitable, a person can appeal to the County Court on a point of law. The County Court can quash the decision, or vary a decision of suitable to not suitable.
Find out more about appeals on a point of law to the county court.
A judicial review claim can address the suitability of temporary or permanent accommodation, but because applicants have the right to an internal review and a County Court appeal, in most cases judicial review is an inappropriate route of challenge.
Judicial review of suitability of interim accommodation
A person does not have the right to request an internal review of the suitability of interim accommodation. If the accommodation offered is unsuitable, this can only be challenged by judicial review in the High Court.
The court can quash a decision for failure to have regard to relevant factors in deciding on suitability, and require a new one. It cannot vary a decision of suitable to not suitable.
When deciding whether to grant a mandatory injunction against a local authority to enforce its duty to provide suitable accommodation to a homeless person, the Hight Court should:
if there is a general contingency fund to deal with unexpected expenditure, ask the authority to explain why this cannot be used to meet its legal obligation
consider the length of time the authority has been on notice of its failure to meet its duty
consider the extent of the impact on the individual to whom the duty is owed
consider granting a mandatory injunction if the authority is not moving to rectify the situation and satisfy the individual’s rights
be mindful not to give a person undue priority over others who may have an equal or better right to suitable accommodation
If resources are an issue, a local authority must consider using Part 6 housing stock to perform Part 7 duties. An allocation under Part 6 is merely a matter of discretion; an offer under Part 7 is a matter of binding legal obligation.
Find out more about judicial review and when to refer a homelessness case for judicial review.
Complaints to the Ombudsman
A person can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about the suitability of accommodation offered to them in the course of a homelessness application.
The Ombudsman awarded financial compensation to two families where a local authority had exceeded the six-week time limit for leaving them in bed and breakfast accommodation pending further inquiries.
An award was also made where a local authority placed a person in accommodation which was unsuitable because of her child's autism. She made them aware of this at the outset and evidence was provided a short time later. The authority failed to carry out a review of suitability and she remained there for 20 months. 
Where a person with impaired mobility and sense of balance was placed in accommodation on the fourth floor without a lift, the Ombudsman recommended the local authority paid compensation and improved its procedures for dealing with suitability of interim accommodation.
Where a local authority failed to deal with a request to review the suitability of temporary accommodation in an efficient and timely manner, the person was awarded financial compensation. The Ombudsman recommended an audit of all suitability review requests received within the relevant period to be conducted by the authority.
Find out more about complaints to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Last updated: 22 February 2024