1. Home
  2. Housing and support
  3. Process for homelessness assistance

Process for homelessness assistance

Step 1: Application

Applications for homelessness assistance can be made to any local authority. Local authorities generally publish details on their websites about where homelessness applications can be made. They should also publish an out-of-hours number for emergencies. It is important to note that there is no formal procedure for making a homelessness application and support agencies can make an application by sending a letter on their clients’ behalf. Clients can also make the application in person.

Some victims of trafficking will need to leave the area that they are residing in because of risks to their safety.  There is no obligation to make the application in an area in which the person has been residing. [Local connection.]

Once an application has been made, the local authority has a duty to conduct inquiries into the application.  

Temporary accommodation

A local authority must provide accommodation to a person while it conducts its inquiries into a homelessness application, if it has reason to believe that a person may:

The local authority only has to have reason for believing that these factors apply to the person.

If the local authority refuses to accommodate, an application can be made to the High Court for an order that the local authority accommodates.

Legal aid

Homelessness cases can often be very complicated. Applicants will need assistance in gathering evidence, challenging decisions to refuse to provide temporary accommodation and putting forward representations for reviews of decisions not to provide support. This may involve making applications to the County Court and/or the High Court.

Many victims of trafficking will be eligible for legal aid either because they are in low paid employment or on benefits. We advise that victims be referred to a specialist housing solicitor with a legal aid contract as soon possible.

Step 2. Duty to conduct inquiries

The local authority is under an obligation to investigate the homelessness application. This means that it should gather information from medical professionals and other agencies. However, it is often helpful for clients to provide any medical evidence that they have when they make their application.

Step 3. Section 184 decision

Once the local authority has conducted its inquiries into the application, it then goes on to decide, what, if any duty it owes to the applicant. There is no time limit within which this must be done.

This is commonly referred to as the section 184 decision. There is no time limit within which this must be done but the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities set out that this decision should be made as quickly as possible.

The duty to provide temporary accommodation ceases at the point at which the applicant is notified of the s.184 decision.

The full housing duty

A local authority owes a full housing duty to an applicant where it is satisfied that a person:

  • Is homeless
  • Is eligible for assistance
  • Has a priority need for accommodation
  • Is not intentionally homeless
  • Has a local connection.

Once the decision is made, the local authority has a duty to provide accommodation or ensure that someone else provides accommodation to that person. If it decides that the person does not have a local connection to its area, it may refer the person to another local authority if certain conditions are met. .

Suitable accommodation  

The accommodation that is provided must be suitable to the needs of  the applicant and their household. It should also be in the area of the local authority so far as is reasonably practicable.

Some local authorities, particularly in London, place people in temporary accommodation from which applicants are then asked to bid for more permanent accommodation. Temporary accommodation must also be suitable in terms of space and size and the local authority has to assess suitability in light of the relevant needs, requirements and circumstances of the homeless person and his or her family.

If the person believes that the  accommodation provided is unsuitable, they can apply for a review of the decision to provide it them.

Duty to provide advice and assistance

Where a local authority finds that a person:

  • Is homeless
  • Is eligible for assistance
  • Is not intentionally homeless
  • But does not have a priority need

It has a duty to provide the person with advice and assistance in finding alternative accommodation. It also has the discretion to provide the person with accommodation.

Duty to provide accommodation for a reasonable period of time

Where a local authority finds that the person:

  • Is homeless
  • Is eligible for assistance
  • Has a priority need for accommodation
  • But is intentionally homeless

It only has a duty to provide accommodation for a period that it considers is reasonable for the person to find alternative accommodation. It also has a duty to provide advice and assistance in finding that accommodation.

Alternative sources of support
Step 4: Application for review

If the applicant is unhappy with the s.184 decision, he or she can request a review of that decision in regards to:

  • Eligibility
  • The type of duty owed
  • Suitability of the accommodation
  • Referring to another local authority.

The deadline for applying for a review is 21 days from when they are notified of the decision.

Clients should be referred to a housing solicitor with a legal aid contract to obtain assistance. It is really important that the correct evidence is submitted at this stage because fresh evidence cannot be submitted at the appeal stage.

Accommodation pending review

The local authority has a discretion to accommodate pending the outcome of the review.

If the local authority refuses to accommodate, the remedy is an application for permission for judicial review, which can be made to the High Court. At this stage it is difficult to obtain any relief.

Clients should be referred to a housing solicitor with a legal aid contract to obtain assistance.

Step 5. The review

The person conducting the review must not have been involved in the original decision and must be more senior than the original decision maker. After receiving the request for the review, the review officer should write to the applicant setting out the review procedure and how the applicant can make further representations.

The review decision should be made within eight weeks of the application for review being made.

Step 6. The appeal

If the applicant is unhappy with the review decision, they can appeal that decision to the County Court.

An appeal must be brought on a point of law and cannot simply be brought because the applicant does not like the decision.  

The deadline for bringing an appeal is 21 days from the date of being notified of the review decision.

If no review decision has been made within the eight-week deadline, the deadline for appealing the decision is 21 days from the date of the eight-week deadline.

Clients should be referred to a housing solicitor with a legal aid contract to obtain assistance.

Temporary accommodation pending appeal

In certain circumstances, the local authority has a discretion to provide accommodation pending an appeal. There may be grounds to appeal a refusal to provide accommodation.