Applications, offers and reviews under a local authority allocation scheme

Applicants have the right to get information regarding the status of their application and the right to a review of any decision.

This content applies to England

Local authority advice and information

A local authority must ensure that advice and information about the right to make an application for an allocation of housing is available free of charge. This should include information about how to apply, who is eligible or qualifies for an allocation, and the criteria used for prioritising between applicants.

When an applicant needs assistance to make an application the authority must ensure this is provided free of charge.[1]

Rights to information about the application

An applicant has the right to request information from the local authority about:[2]

  • how their application is likely to be treated under the scheme, including whether they are likely to given reasonable (or additional) preference

  • whether appropriate accommodation is likely to be offered to them, and if so, how long this is likely to take

  • the facts that have been taken into account, or are likely to be taken into account, when the authority considers whether to allocate accommodation to them

An applicant also has the right to be notified of any decision about how their application is assessed.

Household membership

The Housing Act 1996 does not define the term 'household' in Part 6.

An applicant may include on their application anyone who should reasonably live with the applicant. Where an allocations policy is silent on the question of household membership, the authority may decide for itself who can be considered part of the household. It must ensure that an applicant's right to family life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is not breached in reaching this decision.

The protection of article 8 normally extends to minor children who are dependent on a parent, and only extends to adult relatives in exceptional cases, such as ill-health that renders a person unable to live independently.[3]

An authority may take into account the immigration status of adult family members in determining whether they form part of the applicant's household.

The authority's decision on household membership may be challenged by way of review.

Receiving an offer

There is no requirement for local authorities to make a particular number of offers of accommodation.

Some authorities have a 'one offer only' policy, while others make two or more. Many authorities operate a choice-based lettings scheme in which applicants bid for properties, some of which may restrict the number of bids an applicant can make.

An authority can take a wide range of factors into account when deciding who is to have priority, or less priority, under its allocation scheme. In this way, an authority may create a scheme where applicants who had turned down an offer of appropriate accommodation are given less preference.

Offers to joint applicants

Social landlords usually grant joint tenancies to couples (including same-sex couples).

They may offer joint tenancies to joint applicants in other circumstances. This ensures that one joint tenant is able to remain in the accommodation following the death of the other tenant.

Local authorities should make applicants aware of the advantages and disadvantages of joint tenancies with respect to rent liability and the position on relationship breakdown.

Reviews

An applicant has the right to request a review of a local housing authority's decision regarding:[4]

  • whether they are eligible for an allocation of accommodation

  • whether they are a qualifying person

  • how their case was assessed in considering whether to allocate accommodation to them

The category of decisions in the third bullet above is likely to include decisions about the:

  • type of property for which an applicant will be considered

  • extent of the applicant's household to be housed with them[5]

  • applicant's medical condition and welfare needs

  • factors considered to determine the applicant's reasonable preference

  • factors considered to determine if the applicant has additional preference on the grounds of urgent housing needs

  • applicant's priority including their financial needs, behaviour and local connection[6]

The Code of Guidance outlines general principles of good administrative practice that the local authority should adopt as part of its review procedure:[7]

  • notifying applicants of the time limit for requesting a review. There is no statutory time limit and the Code suggests 21 days

  • requiring the review request to be made in writing by the applicant or their representative, and advising the applicant of the information that should accompany the review

  • whether provision should be made for verbal submissions

  • the review should be carried out by an officer senior to the person who made the original decision

  • all relevant information should be considered, including relevant developments since the original decision was made (for example, the repayment of rent arrears)

  • reviews should be completed within a reasonable period. There is no statutory time limit and the Code suggests eight weeks

The authority must notify the applicant of the outcome of the review, and the reasons for the decision.[8] The reasons given must be 'proper, adequate and intelligible and enable the person affected to know why they have won or lost'.[9]

Judicial review

There is no right to appeal to the county court against the review decision. Any further challenge must be pursued by judicial review.

Complaints

An applicant is dissatisfied with how their case has been dealt with can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

No duty of care

The Court of Appeal has confirmed that a local authority does not owe a duty of care to each individual applicant for social housing. This means that a claim against an authority for negligence in the way it has carried out its statutory duties will not succeed.

In one case, the court struck out such a claim against a local authority who had failed to make an allocation to an applicant who faced a life-threatening risk to his health if he was not re-housed, who subsequently died before he was made an offer.[10].

Fraudulent applications

It is a criminal offence for an applicant to knowingly or recklessly give false information or knowingly withhold information which the local authority has reasonably required them to provide.[11]

The Code of Guidance suggests this could happen in relation to:[12]

  • an application

  • a response to a request for further information

  • review submissions

Investigations into fraudulent applications

With effect from 6 April 2014, local authorities can compel listed organisations to provide them with information where it is reasonably required for the purpose of preventing, detecting or securing evidence for the conviction of an offence of making a fraudulent application for social housing.[13]

The listed organisations are:

  • banks

  • building societies

  • other providers of credit

  • telecommunications providers

  • utilities companies

Suitability of accommodation

The right to apply for a review of the suitability of an allocation of accommodation depends on whether the offer is made to end a homelessness duty under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 or not.

Allocation to discharge a Part 7 duty

Homeless applicants who are being offered settled accommodation under the main housing duty,[14] which could be an offer of accommodation through the allocations scheme, have the right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation that is provided.

Challenging suitability outside Part 7 offers

An applicant who has been offered accommodation outside the main housing duty owed to homeless applicants, does not have the right to request an internal review of the suitability of the accommodation.

Authorities may create their own provision for reviews of suitability of accommodation. Where this is not the case, applicants who are dissatisfied with the accommodation offered should first be advised to request another offer and, if the authority refuses to make one, to follow the local authority's internal complaints procedure.

An applicant who is dissatisfied with the response to their complaint can apply for a judicial review. The judicial review would not look directly at the suitability of the offer, but would review the local authority's decision not to make another offer – ie by suspending the applicant from the allocations scheme for a certain period. The judicial review would be on the ground that the local authority had failed to consider relevant issues (for example the property was in fact unsuitable according to the criteria in the authority's allocations scheme), or that the policy on suspensions is unlawful because it is operated as a blanket policy and/or because it denies a reasonable preference in the individual case.

Case law concerning suitability of accommodation provided under Part 7 can be used when challenging suitability of accommodation provided through the allocations scheme.

Last updated: 22 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.166(1) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by Homelessness Act 2002.

  • [2]

    s.166(A)(9) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.147 Localism Act 2011.

  • [3]

    Jones v Luton BC [2016] EWHC 2036 (Admin); see also Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Complaint 16 012 028 against Kettering BC.

  • [4]

    s.166A(9) Housing Act 1996 as inserted by s.147 Localism Act 2011; paras 5.14 to 5.18 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [5]

    R (Ariemuguvbe) v Islington LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 1218.

  • [6]

    R (on the application of Bauer-Czarnomski) v Ealing LBC [2010] EWHC 130 (Admin).

  • [7]

    para 5.19 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [8]

    s.166A(9)(c) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by Localism Act 2011.

  • [9]

    R v Brent ex parte Baruwa (1997) 29 HLR 915, CA.

  • [10]

    Darby v Richmond on Thames LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 252.

  • [11]

    s.171 Housing Act 1996.

  • [12]

    para 5.11 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [13]

    s.7(7) Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013; Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information) (England) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/899.

  • [14]

    s.193 Housing Act 1996.