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Circumstances of homeless applicant and household

Accommodation must be suitable for the homeless person and every member of their household.

This content applies to England

Household needs and circumstances

The accommodation must be suitable for the homeless person and all members of their household who reside with them, or might reasonably be expected to reside with them.[1]

When making a decision about the suitability of accommodation the local authority must have regard to the need to promote and safeguard the welfare of any children in the household.[2]

Local authorities are required to assess whether accommodation is suitable for each household individually. A local authority case records should demonstrate it has taken the statutory requirements into account in securing the accommodation.

Consideration of whether accommodation is suitable requires an assessment of all aspects of the accommodation in the light of the relevant needs, requirements and circumstances of the homeless person and their household.

Suitability and public sector equality duty

When assessing the suitability of accommodation offered to disabled people or people with another protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, the local authority must comply with the public sector equality duty. To comply with the duty, the decision maker must demonstrate consideration of:

  • the person's disability or other protected characteristic

  • how the impairments or protected characteristics are relevant to the suitability of the accommodation

  • any disadvantages that a person might suffer when compared with a person without the particular impairments or characteristic

  • accommodation needs arising from the impairments or protected characteristic

  • the requirement that some people might need to be treated more favourably than people without impairments or characteristics

The authority does not have to individually address each of these matters in its decision letter.[3] However, the decision must show a recognition of the severe effects of the disability or other protected characteristic. [4]

Find out more about the public sector equality duty.

Special medical and physical needs

A local authority must consider carefully the suitability of accommodation for households with particular medical or physical needs.

The local authority must form an overall or composite view which may involve a multi-disciplinary approach with information from doctors, health visitors or other agencies to assess specific housing need.[5] Some local authorities have special 'housing needs panels' to assist with such assessments.

In one case, it was irrational for a local authority to find that accommodation where two autistic children had to share a bedroom was suitable despite overwhelming professional evidence to the contrary.[6]

Physical access to and around the home, space, bathroom and kitchen facilities, access to a garden and modifications to assist people with sensory loss as well as mobility needs are all factors which might need to be taken into account.

Local authorities must be alert to circumstance in which the suitability of accommodation will require more regular review because the person’s needs are likely to change. This would include, for example, regularly reviewing the suitability of accommodation provided to a person who is terminally ill and in need of palliative care.

Households with pets

A local authority should be sensitive to the importance of pets for someone, particularly older people and rough sleepers who may rely on pets for companionship.[7]

Although it will not always be possible to make provision for pets, government guidance recommends that local authorities should give careful consideration to this when making provision for a person who wishes to retain their pet.

Requirements for medical evidence

In one case, the High Court considered whether a local authority policy requiring medical evidence of a need to be housed with an animal discriminated against disabled people under the Equality Act 2010. The court found the claimants had not shown that they had been disadvantaged. Even if they had, the policy would be a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim of obtaining suitable properties for those with a medical need. The court also held that the policy was not inconsistent with the Code of Guidance.[8]

Suitability over time

The suitability of accommodation is to be looked at over time and depends on the person's individual circumstances.[9]

The suitability of accommodation can change over time. Somewhere might be suitable for occupation for a short period while the authority is looking for alternative accommodation. The same accommodation might not be suitable if it is to be occupied for a longer period.[10] This does not mean that there is a general lower standard of suitability for temporary accommodation.[11]

Where a local authority’s review letter said that after considering the relevant law, guidance, and the person’s circumstances, it had found the temporary accommodation was unsuitable, the authority could not later argue that the decision was to be read as meaning the accommodation was suitable in the short-term.[12]

In one case, a local authority identified in an applicant's housing register application that the household needed a three bedroom level-access property, but they remained in two bedroom temporary accommodation with stairs for another 14 months, and for three years and eight months in total. The authority was found to be in breach of the main housing duty as any short or medium term for which the accommodation could have been suitable had passed.[13]

Reasonableness over time

Reasonable to continue to occupy is to be looked at over time. A person can be statutorily homeless and it could be reasonable for them to remain where they are for the short or medium term, while the local authority takes steps to secure other accommodation. How long is reasonable for them to remain depends on the person's particular circumstances.[14]

The local authority should look ahead to the foreseeable future as well as the present situation. If the accommodation is unreasonable to occupy over the medium to long term the authority must consider how long in the short term it is reasonable for the person to remain.[15]

How to challenge suitability decisions

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.

Find out more about challenges to accommodation suitability.

Last updated: 1 March 2024


  • [1]

    ss.206(1) and 207(3) Housing Act 1996; para 17.2 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; R v Brent LBC ex p Omar (1991) 23 HLR 446, QBD.

  • [2]

    s.11 Children Act 2004; Nzolameso v City of Westminster [2015] UKSC 22.

  • [3]

    Hackney LBC v Haque [2017] EWCA Civ 4.

  • [4]

    Kannan v Newham LBC [2019] EWCA Civ 57.

  • [5]

    R v Lewisham LBC ex p Dolan (1993) 25 HLR 68, QBD; Hackney LBC v Haque [2017] EWCA Civ 4.

  • [6]

    Uddin v Hackney LBC (2023) J40CL175, the County Court at Central London, reported on the Nearly Legal blog on 30th July 2023.

  • [7]

    para 17.69 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [8]

    AB & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Westminster City Council [2024] EWHC 266 (Admin).

  • [9]

    Birmingham CC v Ali and others [2009] UKHL 36; Temur v Hackney LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 877.

  • [10]

    Birmingham CC v Ali and others [2009] UKHL 36; Kannan v Newham LBC [2019] EWCA Civ 57; Codona v Mid-Bedfordshire DC [2005] HLR 1; R (on the application of Elkundi & Ors) v Birmingham City Council [2022] EWCA Civ 601; Coleman v Harrow LBC, 4 May 2023, Administrative Court, London, David Pittaway KC (unreported).

  • [11]

    see, for example Anon v Lewisham LBC, Central London County Court, 5 July 2018 (non-binding County Court case).

  • [12]

    R (M) v Newham LBC [2020] EWHC 327 (Admin).

  • [13]

    Jaberi, R (On the Application Of) v City of Westminster (Re Housing Act 1996) [2023] EWHC 1045 (Admin).

  • [14]

    Birmingham CC v Ali and others: Moran V Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36; Temur v Hackney LBC [2014] EWCA Civ 877.

  • [15]

    Safi v Sandwell BC [2018] EWCA Civ 2876.