Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities

Chapter 14: Ending the prevention and relief duties

Guidance on how the prevention and relief duties come to an end.

14.1 This chapter provides guidance on how the (section 195) prevention and (section 189B) relief duties come to an end.

14.2 There are 7 circumstances under which both the prevention and relief duties can be brought to an end. In addition to these common circumstances the prevention duty will end where the applicant has become homeless, and the relief duty will end when 56 days has passed and the housing authority is satisfied that the applicant has a priority need and is homeless unintentionally, or on refusal of a final accommodation offer or Part 6 offer.

14.3 The housing authority must give the applicant notice in order to end the duties except under section 189B (4) where 56 days have passed since the start of the relief duty and the housing authority is satisfied the applicant has a priority need and is homeless unintentionally. For further guidance on notifications see Chapter 18 and for further guidance on reviews see Chapter 19. Guidance on bringing the duties to an end under each circumstance is set out below.

14.4 Chapter 15 provides guidance on the ending of interim accommodation duties following the end of relief duties.

Circumstances in which both prevention and relief duties may end

A – the housing authority is satisfied that the applicant has suitable accommodation available for occupation and a reasonable prospect of suitable accommodation being available for at least 6 months from the date of the notice. Note that the Secretary of State has a power to increase this minimum period up to a maximum of 12 months (sections 195(8)(a) and 189B(7)(a)).

14.5 Housing authorities must allow applicants a reasonable period for considering offers of accommodation that will bring the prevention and relief duties to an end. There is no set reasonable period – housing authorities must take into account the applicant’s circumstances in each case.

14.6 Applicants should be given the opportunity to view accommodation before being required to decide whether to accept or refuse an offer, and before being required to sign any written agreement relating to the accommodation (for example, a tenancy agreement). If the accommodation is in another area and it is not practical to travel to view, sufficient information about the property and the locality should be made available to them. This may, for example, include photographs and the opportunity to ask questions of the landlord or agent.

14.7 Where new tenancies are secured housing authorities are encouraged to adopt policies favouring longer tenancies than the legal minimum where market conditions in their area allow. It is recommended that, wherever possible, minimum tenancy lengths of 12 months are secured to provide more stability to individuals and particularly to families with children.

14.8 In some circumstances, determining reasonable prospect will be less clear cut. For example, a landlord may agree to allow the applicant to stay in their accommodation having previously issued a section 21 notice. Ideally in this case they would issue a new tenancy, but they may instead choose to leave the existing tenancy running, with the section 21 notice in place until it expires.

14.9 Where this is the case it is the responsibility of the housing authority to satisfy itself that there is a reasonable prospect of the accommodation being available for at least 6 months. This may, for example, involve securing written confirmation from the landlord that the applicant can remain in the accommodation on condition that they comply with documented conditions, and the housing authority having a reasonable expectation that the applicant is in a position to comply.

14.10 Where an applicant has remained at or returned home or gone to stay with friends or extended family, for example, through the use of mediation or negotiation, it is the responsibility of the housing authority to satisfy itself that accommodation will be available for at least 6 months. There may, for example, be an open ended agreement (perhaps with reasonable conditions), or an agreement that the applicant can stay until they have secured alternative accommodation (whether that happens before or after 6 months).

14.11 There may be other circumstances where there is a reasonable prospect of suitable accommodation being available for at least 6 months, but this not necessarily being the same accommodation throughout. For example, an applicant with support needs may be placed in short term supported accommodation which forms part of a planned accommodation and support pathway overseen by the housing authority. This may meet the conditions for ending the duty under this subsection if there is a clear, documented expectation that the applicant will be supported to make a planned move directly to more settled supported or independent accommodation through the pathway service.

14.12 The housing authority should take into account the support needs and vulnerabilities of an applicant, which will have been identified during assessment, in determining whether they can reasonably expect the applicant to sustain the accommodation for at least 6 months.

B – the housing authority has complied with the prevention or relief duty and 56 days have passed (regardless of whether the applicant is still threatened with homelessness in the case of the prevention duty or whether they have secured accommodation in the case of the relief duty) (sections 195 (8)(b) and 189B (7)(b)).

14.13 Under the prevention duty (section 195(6)), the 56 day period does not apply where the applicant has been given a valid section 21 notice that will expire within 56 days or has expired and is in respect of the only accommodation that is available for the applicant’s accommodation. This is to ensure continuity of prevention services where an applicant remains in the property after the expiry of their section 21 notice or longer than 56 days from the duty starting and also remains threatened with homelessness.

14.14 Where a housing authority is satisfied that, despite the section 21 notice, the landlord has agreed not to pursue possession and there is a reasonable prospect of the accommodation being available for at least 6 months the prevention duty may be ended (section 195(8)(a)) (see paragraphs 14.7 and 14.8).

14.15 The housing authority can continue to deliver the prevention or relief duty with any applicant for longer than 56 days and issue a notice to end it under this subsection at any point after this date; as long as no other duties take precedence (for example, the relief duty takes precedence where an applicant previously owed the prevention duty becomes homeless).

14.16 Where the housing authority is satisfied that the applicant has a priority need and has become homeless unintentionally, the relief duty comes to an end after 56 days (section 189B(4)). Housing authorities should not delay completing their inquiries as to what further duties will be owed after the relief duty. Where the housing authority has the information it requires to make a decision as to whether the applicant is in priority need and became homeless unintentionally, it should be possible to notify the applicant on or around day 57. In cases where significant further investigations are required it is recommended that housing authorities aim to complete their inquiries and notify the applicant of their decision within a maximum of 15 working days after 56 days have passed.

14.17 Housing authorities should not have a blanket policy of ending the prevention and relief duties after 56 days where they have the discretion to continue it; instead they should in each case take the applicant’s circumstances into account.

14.18 Where the applicant remains at risk of homelessness and the housing authority considers there is still the chance that homelessness can be prevented, it will be in the interests of both the applicant and the housing authority for work to continue to help the applicant avoid homelessness, whereupon they may make a new application to the housing authority for help under the relief duty.

14.19 During the relief stage, where an applicant does not have a priority need or they have a priority need and have become homeless intentionally, the authority may want to consider continuing the relief duty for longer. Considerations may include the needs of the applicant; the risk of the applicant sleeping rough; the prospects of securing accommodation within a reasonable period; the resources available to the housing authority, and any wider implications of bringing the duty to an end (for example, in the case of an applicant who has dependent children and who became homeless intentionally where Children Act duties may apply if accommodation could not be secured).

C – an applicant who was owed the prevention duty has become homeless (section 195(8)(c)).

14.20 Where an applicant in these circumstances is owed the relief duty the housing authority will want to provide a seamless transition between the prevention and relief duties, including notifying the applicant of any further duties owed to them at the same time as issuing the notice advising that the prevention duty has ended. These notifications may be combined.

14.21 Where interim accommodation is to be provided, this should be arranged as a priority. Authorities should take the opportunity to plan interim accommodation in advance whenever it is possible to do so, in order to minimise distress and disruption for the applicant and provide maximum opportunity for planning for, for example, children’s journeys to school.

14.22 The housing authority and the applicant will then need to review the assessment and personalised plan undertaken under section 189A, devising new reasonable steps to help secure that accommodation becomes available for the applicant under the relief duty. For further guidance on assessments and personalised housing plans see Chapter 11.

D – the applicant has refused an offer of suitable accommodation and, on the date of refusal, there was a reasonable prospect that suitable accommodation would be available for the minimum prescribed period (sections 195(8)(d) and 189B(7)(c)).

14.23 There is an important distinction between the consequences of refusal of an offer of suitable accommodation at the prevention and relief stages.

14.24 During the prevention stage the housing authority can bring the prevention duty to an end but refusal does not affect any further duties that may be owed to the applicant if they become homeless.

14.25 During the relief stage the housing authority can bring the relief duty to an end through a suitable offer of accommodation (section 189B(7)(c)) and there will be no consequences affecting any main housing duty owed to the applicant if they refuse it.

14.26 However, the housing authority can also bring the relief duty to an end through a final accommodation offer (section 189B(9)(a)) or a final Part 6 offer. Refusal of either of these types of offer will preclude the applicant from subsequently being owed the main housing duty (section 193A(3)). A final accommodation offer must be of an assured shorthold tenancy of at least 6 months duration, and the applicant must have been informed of the consequences of refusal as well as the right to request a review of the suitability of the offer. For guidance on the suitability of offers see Chapter 17.

14.27 It will be up to the housing authority to decide whether or not to end the prevention or relief duty when a suitable offer, other than a final offer or Part 6 offer, is refused. In reaching their decision a housing authority should consider the applicant’s circumstances, the reason for their refusal, the reasonable steps they are taking to secure accommodation that better suits their needs and preferences and, in the case of the prevention duty, the likelihood of the applicant subsequently becoming homeless and applying for help under the relief duty.

14.28 For many applicants, working with the housing authority to prevent or relieve their homelessness will provide an opportunity to explore what realistic options are available to them and consider what compromises they may wish to make in order to achieve the best option for them. The opportunity to consider more than one property can play an important part in this process.

E – the applicant has become homeless intentionally from any accommodation that has been made available to them as a result of reasonable steps taken by the housing authority during the prevention or relief duty, whichever is relevant (sections 195(8)(e) and 189B(7)(d)).

14.29 Where the prevention duty ends under this circumstance, the applicant’s entitlement to the relief duty will not be affected as the relief duty applies irrespective of whether or not an applicant is considered to be intentionally homeless.

14.30 Where the applicant has a priority need and the relief duty has ended under this circumstance, the main housing duty will not apply. An applicant should only be considered intentionally homeless under this provision if they have ceased to occupy accommodation which it would have been reasonable for them to continue to occupy, and which has been provided to them within the ‘reasonable steps’ provisions of the Act (sections 195(2) and 189B(2)). In most cases where such accommodation has been secured the housing authority will already have notified the applicant that the prevention or relief duty has come to an end, and so there will be very limited circumstances in which the duty is brought to an end through the provision of section 195(8)(e) and 189B(7)(d).

14.31 Under section 190, duties to persons becoming homeless intentionally, the housing authority will need to secure that accommodation is available for the applicant’s occupation for long enough to give them a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation and provide advice and assistance in any attempts the applicant makes to secure accommodation. This advice must have regard to the assessment the housing authority made under section 189A, assessment and personalised plans. For further guidance on intentional homelessness see Chapter 9.

F – the applicant is no longer eligible for assistance (sections 195(8)(f) and 189B(7)(e)).

14.32 In circumstances where an applicant is found not to be eligible for assistance, the housing authority must provide, or secure the provision, of information and advice as set out in section 179. For further guidance on eligibility see Chapter 7. If (section 188) interim accommodation has been provided, notice periods should take account of the needs of the applicant and the time required for them to access assistance. For households including children or particularly vulnerable adults who are owed duties under the Children Act 1989 or Care Act 2014, local authorities should consider having arrangements in place to manage a transition in responsibilities, so that there is no break in the provision of accommodation for applicants who cease to be eligible for 1996 Act support.

G – the applicant has withdrawn their application for homelessness assistance (sections 195(8)(g) and 189B(7)(f)).

14.33 Some applicants will cease contact with the authority rather than explicitly withdraw their application. It is recommended that local authorities have procedures in place to attempt to maintain or regain contact with applicants who have ceased contact prior to deciding to end the prevention or relief duty under this subsection. These efforts should take into account the circumstances and needs of the applicant, and use varied communication channels to help prevent, for example, losing contact with someone because they have lost their mobile phone. For further guidance on losing contact with applicants see Chapter 18.

14.34 It is recommended that where the housing authority considers that the applicant has withdrawn their application because they have failed to maintain contact, the duty is ended under this subsection rather than because 56 days has passed. This will help to ensure accurate data relating to the reasons why duties end.

H – deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate (sections 195(10) and 189B(9)(b)).

14.35 The prevention and relief duties can also be brought to and end as a result of the applicant’s deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate. For further guidance on non-cooperation see Chapter 14. Where the prevention duty is brought to an end due to deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate, the applicant’s entitlements under any other section of Part 7, including the relief and main housing duties, are not affected.

14.36 Where the relief duty is brought to an end as a result of the applicant’s deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate the main housing duty will not apply. However, under section 193C(4) the housing authority will, be required to secure that accommodation is available for an applicant who has priority need and is unintentionally homeless, until such time as they make a final accommodation offer or a final Part 6 offer of suitable accommodation, or the duty comes to an end for another of the reasons set out in section 193C(5).

Notification to end the prevention duty

14.37 Section 195(8) provides the circumstances in which the housing authority can give notice under section 195(5) to the applicant to bring the prevention duty to an end. For further guidance on the prevention duty see Chapter 12.

14.38 The notice must specify which of the circumstances in section 195(8) apply and inform the applicant that they have a right to request a review of the housing authority’s decision to bring the duty to an end, and of the time frame within which such a request must be made.

14.39 Section 195(6) prevents a housing authority from bringing the prevention duty to an end after 56 days if the applicant has been given a valid section 21 notice which will expire in 56 days or has expired, and is in respect of their only available accommodation. This means that the housing authority will continue to owe a prevention duty beyond the initial 56 days, until the applicant is served with a section 195(5) notice on the basis that another of the circumstance set out in section 195(8) applies.

Notification to end the relief duty (section 189B(7))

14.40 Section 189B(7) provides the circumstances in which the housing authority can give notice under section 189B(5) to the applicant bringing the relief duty under section 189B(2) to an end. For further guidance on the relief duty see Chapter 13.

14.41 The notice must specify which of the circumstances in section 189B(7) apply and inform the applicant that they have right to request a review of the authority’s decision to bring the relief duty under section 189B(2) to an end, and of the time frame within which such a request must be made.

14.42 Housing authorities may refer an applicant’s case to another housing authority in England during the relief duty if the applicant does not have a local connection with the authority to which they have applied, and does have a local connection to another district where they would not be at risk of violence. For guidance on local connection referrals see Chapter 10.

Deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate (sections 193B and 193C)

14.43 Both the prevention and relief duties can be brought to an end under section 193B and section 193C if an applicant deliberately and unreasonably refuses to take any of the steps that they agreed to take, or the housing authority set out for them to take where agreement could not be reached, in their personalised housing plan (subsections (4) and (6)(b) of section 189A).

14.44 Before bringing either duty to an end by issuing a section 193B(2) notice, the housing authority must first issue a warning letting the applicant know that if they deliberately and unreasonably refuse to take any of the steps in their personalised housing plan after receiving the warning the authority intends to issue a notice bringing the prevention or relief duty, whichever is relevant, to an end. The warning must explain the consequences of a notice being given and the housing authority must allow a reasonable period after the warning is given before issuing a notice (section 193B(4) and (5)). There is no set reasonable period, but housing authorities should ensure sufficient time is given to allow the applicant to rectify the non-co-operation and prevent a notice being issued to end the prevention or relief duty. This will vary according to the particular needs and circumstances of the applicant.

14.45 Notices issued under section 193B(2) must explain why the housing authority are giving notice and its effect, and inform the applicant of their right to request a review of the decision to issue the notice (section 202(1)) and that a request for a review must be made within 21 days of being notified of that decision, or such longer period as the housing authority may allow in writing (section 202(3)).

14.46 Regulations relating to the procedure to be followed by housing authorities in connection with notices under section 193B (section 193B(7)) are set out in the Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 – these relate to decisions to issue a notice.

14.47 The ending of the prevention duty under sections 193B and 193C will not affect the housing authority’s assessment of what duties are owed if the applicant subsequently seeks help having become homeless.

14.48 For applicants who are eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and have a priority need, the ending of the relief duty under sections 193B and 193C will mean that section 193 (the main housing duty) will not apply. However, the housing authority must secure that accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant by making a final accommodation offer or final Part 6 offer (sections 193C(4) to (10). For further guidance on accommodation duties and powers see Chapter 15.

Meaning of deliberate and unreasonable refusal

14.49 Section 193B(6) provides that the housing authority must have regard to the particular circumstances and needs of the applicant, whether or not identified in the assessment under section 189A, in deciding whether refusal by the applicant is unreasonable.

14.50 Housing authorities should make reasonable efforts to obtain the co-operation of the applicant, including seeking to understand the reasons for their lack of co-operation, before invoking and during the use of section 193B. Where an applicant appears not to be co-operating the housing authority should review their assessment of the applicant’s case and the appropriateness of the steps in the personalised housing plan (section 189A(9)) and explain the consequences of not co-operating before issuing a warning under section 193B(4). For further guidance on personalised housing plans see Chapter 11.

14.51 Where the applicant is receiving support from other services, for example the leaving care team, an offender management service, or a family support service, the housing authority should alert relevant service(s) to the problem as soon as possible and seek to involve them in supporting the applicant to resolve the situation. Having local information sharing arrangements in place will facilitate this.

14.52 The housing authority should take into account any particular difficulties that the applicant may have in managing communications when considering if failure to cooperate is deliberate and unreasonable, particularly if they are street homeless or moving between temporary places to stay such as the homes of different family and friends.

  1. 14.53 The housing authority should be satisfied of the following before ending the prevention or relief duty under sections 193B and 193C:

    1. (a) the steps recorded in the applicant’s personalised housing plan are reasonable in the context of the applicant’s particular circumstances and needs;

    2. (b) the applicant understands what is required of them in order to fulfil the reasonable steps, and is therefore in a position to make a deliberate refusal;

    3. (c) the applicant is not refusing to co-operate as a result of a mental illness or other health need, for which they are not being provided with support, or because of a difficulty in communicating;

    4. (d) the applicant’s refusal to co-operate with any step was deliberate and unreasonable in the context of their particular circumstances and needs. For example, if they prioritised attending a Jobcentre or medical appointment, or fulfilling a caring responsibility, above viewing a property, this is unlikely to constitute a deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate. However, if the applicant persistently failed to attend property viewings or appointments without good reason; or they actively refused to engage with activity required to help them secure accommodation, then this might be considered deliberate and unreasonable refusal to cooperate.

Please see Chapters 21-24 for client group specific considerations sections.

Notices in cases of an applicant’s deliberate and unreasonable refusal to co-operate (section 193B(2))

14.54 Under section 193B(2), the housing authority may give a notice to an applicant if they consider that the applicant has deliberately and unreasonably refused to take one or more of the steps in their personalised housing plan.

14.55 Before serving this notice, the housing authority must have given a relevant warning to the applicant and a reasonable period of time has elapsed since the warning. The relevant warning must be a written notice to warn the applicant that if they deliberately and unreasonably refuse to take any step in their personalised housing plan the housing authority will issue a notice under section 193B(2), and explain the consequences of a section 193B(2) notice being served.

  1. 14.56 A housing authority must develop a procedure to be followed when issuing notices bringing their prevention or relief duties to an end under section 193B(2)). The procedure must:

    1. (a) be in writing;

    2. (b) be kept under review; and,

    3. (c) make provision for the decision to give a notice under section 193B(2) to be made by an officer of that housing authority and authorised by an appropriate person.

  1. 14.57 The original decision to issue the notice must be made by an officer of the housing authority and then receive authorisation by an appropriate person. An ‘appropriate person’ is someone of at least an equivalent seniority to the officer who made the original decision to issue a notice, and they must:

    1. (a) work for the housing authority or local authority; and,

    2. (b) not have been involved in the original decision to issue the notice.

14.58 The housing authority’s procedures may provide that second sign off of the decision to issue a notice can be given by an appropriate person from another service within the local authority (or upper tier local authority). For example, in the case of a care leaver, second sign off by an officer of at least an equivalent seniority within Children’s Services may be appropriate.

14.59 The appropriate person conducting the second sign off should give particular consideration as to whether the original decision to issue the notice had due regard to the circumstances and needs of the applicant, whether or not these were properly identified in the authority’s assessment of the applicant’s case under section 189A.