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National Homeless Advice Service

Requesting a review of a homelessness decision

If a young person does not agree with a housing department’s decision on their homelessness application, they can appeal against the decision by requesting a review.

Local authority legal duties

A homeless applicant can request a review of many decisions made by a local authority under homeless law. This includes decisions where the young person is found:

  • not homeless
  • not eligible for assistance because of their immigration/residence status
  • not in priority need
  • intentionally homeless
  • to have no local connection.

A review can also be requested into the suitability of any accommodation offered (except interim accommodation). A review of the accommodation’s suitability can be requested whether or not the applicant accepts the offer.

Where there is no right to request a review of a decision, it may be challenged by way of judicial review.

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Requesting a review

A review must usually be requested within 21 days of being notified of the local authority’s decision.

The local authority should make its decision within fixed deadlines; see Shelter Legal for details of the time limits that apply.

Who should conduct the review?

The review must be conducted by a person who was not involved in the original decision. This could be:

  • another local authority officer, in which case they must be senior to the person who made the original decision
  • a panel of councillors
  • an independent person: some local authority employ a private company to conduct their reviews; some local authorities have mutual arrangements with other authorities whereby an officer from the other authority will conduct reviews.

Most reviews are based on paper evidence, but in some circumstances local authorities may hold an oral review hearing.

The review decision

The decision on review may:

  • uphold the original decision
  • find fault with the manner in which the original decision was made, but still make a negative decision (in this case, before making the decision, the local authority must notify the young person that they are minded to make a negative decision, and give them the opportunity to make further representations)
  • overturn the original decision and replace it with one that is in the young person’s interests.

The local authority must inform the young person of its decision in writing. If the decision is negative, the letter must give reasons for the decision. There is a further right of appeal to the county court on a point of law (see below).

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Provision of accommodation during the review

The local authority does not have to provide accommodation for the young person pending a decision on review. It does, however, have discretion to do so, and this discretion must be exercised reasonably, having regard to:

  • the merits of the case (does the decision appear to be one that is finely balanced)
  • any new evidence, information, or argument put forward with the request for a review
  • the consequences to the young person of not providing accommodation.

A failure to consider providing accommodating during a review, or failure to exercise discretion reasonably, can be challenged by way of judicial review.

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Further right of appeal

There is no right to request a review of a decision made on an earlier review. However, a young person can appeal a decision on review to the county court on a point of law. An appeal must be lodged within 21 days. A solicitor will be needed to help with this, so the young person should be referred to for legal advice as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline.

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Helping clients with the review process

Young people may need some assistance in understanding the review process.

Advisers can write to the council on the young person’s behalf requesting a review - a request for a review does not have to be made in writing; however, it is good practice to do so, as it keeps a record of the request (see our standard letter requesting a review). Enclose with the letter any evidence available that challenges the decision.

Young people and/or their advisers can request accommodation during the review - in the letter requesting the review, advisers should also request accommodation during the review. Arguments in support of this can include the consequences of not providing accommodation, which may be that the young person has to sleep rough. Accommodation during the review can be requested again if new evidence or argument becomes available.

It may be appropriate/necessary to gather additional evidence in support of a client’s review - this should be enclosed with the written representations.

When making written representations on behalf of clients, advisers should agree a deadline with the local authority for receipt of any further written representations to put the young person’s case. Representations can include:

  • a summary of the young person’s details and background to the case, with relevant dates (for example, when the young person was evicted)
  • a list of the evidence already considered by the local authority (this can be requested from the local authority’s file) and any new evidence provided
  • a list or summary of the relevant legislation and guidance
  • the submission, which is the main argument as to why the local authority’s decision was wrong or unlawful, which refers to the evidence and the legislation/guidance
  • a request for accommodation pending a decision, if necessary
  • a conclusion, stating what the young person/adviser want the local authority to do (usually overturn the decision) and requesting a copy of the decision letter

Advisers will usually be able to accompany clients to an oral hearing.

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County court appeal

If the decision on review is against the young person’s interests, and an young person and their adviser/advocate believes that it is a wrong decision, the young person can be referred to a solicitor for consideration of whether there is a case for a county court appeal.

This should be done as soon as possible because of time limits.

If the young person claims certain benefits or has a low income they may be entitled to legal aid. They can call the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345 for more information.

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