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Local authority duty to allocate housing

A local authority's duties in relation to applications for housing, and how local authorities can contract out certain of their allocation functions.

This content applies to England

Allocation schemes

Local authorities are required to have an allocation scheme determining priorities for the allocation of accommodation and the procedures to be followed.[1] They are not required to maintain a housing register.

Most allocation schemes give applicants for an allocation either a certain number of points or place them in a group or band, depending on their circumstances.

Local authority duties

A local housing authority must:[2]

  • not allocate housing accommodation unless in accordance with the allocations scheme[3]

  • provide free advice and information about the right to make an application for housing accommodation

  • provide free assistance in making an application to those who may have difficulty doing so

  • inform all applicants about their rights to request information about how their application is likely to be treated

  • inform all applicants about their right to request information about whether suitable accommodation is likely to be provided and, if so, how long this is likely to take

  • consider every application, provided it is made according to the requirements of the authority's allocation scheme

  • ensure that the operation of their allocations points systems is clear under the allocation scheme[4]

  • provide a summary of the allocation scheme to any member of the public who requests one[5]

  • not inform any other member of the public that a person is an applicant without the applicant's consent

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No duty of care

A local authority does not owe each individual applicant for its scheme a duty of care.

Local authorities with no housing stock

All local housing authorities are required to set up and maintain an allocations scheme under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996.

This applies equally to authorities that have transferred all or part of their housing stock to a private registered provider of social housing (PRPSH).

Contracting out of functions

Authorities can contract out most of their allocation functions to other organisations such as to a PRPSH.[6]

This includes:

  • making enquiries and decisions as to whether a person qualifies for an allocation

  • operating the allocation scheme

  • carrying out reviews

  • providing information' advice and assistance to applicants

The following functions cannot be contracted out:[7]

  • deciding which classes of persons are, or are not, qualifying persons

  • adopting or altering the allocation scheme, including the principles on which the scheme is framed, and consulting PRPSHs about the scheme

  • making the allocation scheme available for inspection at the authority's principal office

Where allocation and homelessness functions have been delegated to a PRPSH or other external contractors (either voluntarily or under compulsory competitive tendering), the contractor must be made aware of the provisions of the Act and advised how the legislation and guidance may apply to them.

Similarly, where operational or administrative functions have been delegated or contracted out to new landlords after a large scale voluntary transfer or to PRPSHs, they too must be aware of the provisions of the Act and of the Code of Guidance.[8]

Decisions of a contractor can be reviewed or challenged in the same way as applies to local authorities.

Preparing or modifying an allocation scheme

In preparing or modifying its allocation scheme the local authority must have regard to:[9]

  • its homelessness strategy

  • its tenancy strategy (local authorities had until 15 January 2013 to prepare and publish this)

  • any statutory guidance on allocations

  • for London boroughs only, the London housing strategy

Last updated: 12 March 2021


  • [1]

    s.166A(1) Housing Act 1996.

  • [2]

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

  • [3]

    s.167(8) Housing Act 1996.

  • [4]

    s.167(1) Housing Act 1996 and R (on the application of Lin) v Barnet LBC [2007] EWCA Civ 132; R (on the application of C) v Islington LBC [2017] EWHC 1288 (Admin).

  • [5]

    s.168 Housing Act 1996.

  • [6]

    Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Allocation of Housing and Homelessness Functions) Order 1996 SI 1996/3205; para 6.7 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [7]

    Sch.1 Local authorities (Contracting Out etc.) Order 1996; para 6.6 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [8]

    para 6.10 Allocation of accommodation: Guidance for local housing authorities in England, MHCLG, June 2012.

  • [9]

    s.166A(12) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by s.147 Localism Act 2011.