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Costs and affordability of accommodation

When determining if an offer of accommodation is suitable a local authority must take into account whether the homeless person can afford the housing costs.

This content applies to England

Affordability of accommodation

Accommodation must be affordable to be suitable. The household should be able to afford the costs of accommodation from their income after essential expenses, such as reasonable living costs and child support payments.

In determining whether accommodation is suitable for a person and their family, a local authority must consider:[1]

  • financial resources available to the homeless person including salary, benefits, pensions and savings

  • accommodation costs including rent, mortgage costs, service charges, council tax, any deposit and payments to an accommodation agency

  • maintenance and child support payments

  • the person's reasonable living expenses

A local authority has the power to provide or secure accommodation at a nil or peppercorn rent for a person who has no income or savings.[2]

Affordability assessment

A local authority must consider whether accommodation is affordable when deciding if:[3]

Accommodation is not reasonable to occupy if the costs of paying for it means a person cannot pay for other basic essentials.[4]

Basic essentials include food, clothing, heating, transport.[5]

Local authorities may be guided by Universal Credit standard allowances when assessing how much residual income a household would need to meet other essential living costs.[6]

Local authorities must consider a person's actual reasonable expenses when assessing whether accommodation is affordable.[7]

When assessing affordability the authority might ask the person for financial proof, including bank statements. Find out more about applying for and managing a bank account.

A person should prepare and submit a detailed financial statement as part of their written submissions to challenge the suitability of accommodation based on affordability. Any excessive or unusual items of expenditure should be clearly explained, for example where expenditure is higher due to the additional costs of living with a disability.

Debt and money advice

An advice agency can help to prepare the financial statement.

A debt adviser can help someone who finds it difficult to afford accommodation because they have debts or need budgeting help.

Find out more about where to get debt and money advice.

Suitability over time

The suitability of accommodation is to be looked at over time and depends on the person's individual circumstances.[8]

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.[9] This does not mean that there is a general lower standard of suitability for temporary accommodation.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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]

    Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 1996 SI 1996/3204; Samuels v Birmingham City Council UKSC 28.

  • [2]

    R (on the application of Yekini) v Southwark LBC [2014] EWHC 2096 (Admin).

  • [3]

    Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 1996/3204; Birmingham CC v Ali and others : Moran v Manchester CC [2009] UKHL 36; Baptie v The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames [2022] EWCA Civ 888.

  • [4]

    R v Wandsworth London Borough Council ex p Hawthorne [1994] 1 WLR 1442, CA, R v Brent London Borough Council ex p Baruwa (1997) 29 HLR 915, CA.

  • [5]

    paras 6.28,17.48 and 17.49 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [6]

    paras 17.48-49 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018; R v Tower Hamlets LBC ex p Kaur (1994) 26 HLR 597, QBD; Samuels v Birmingham City Council UKSC 28.

  • [7]

    Paley v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2022] EWCA Civ 112.

  • [8]

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

  • [9]

    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).

  • [10]

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

  • [11]

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

  • [12]

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

  • [13]

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

  • [14]

    Safi v Sandwell BC [2018] EWCA Civ 2876.