If you apply to a council for help because you are homeless, it may check if you have a local connection to the area.
If you do not have a local connection with the area it can decide to send you to another council where you do have a connection, provided you can reasonably be expected to return to that area.
The council do not always have to consider local connection and they may decide to ignore it in some cases.
Do I have a local connection?
In deciding whether you have a local connection with its area the council will look at whether you (or anyone in your household):
Live in the area
The council will usually consider that you have a local connection if you have lived in the area for a total of 6 months out of the last 12 months, or 3 years out of the last 5 years. There is however no set period and even if you have not lived in the area for those periods, the council may still consider you to have a local connection if you are clearly settled in the area.
You must have lived in the area by choice in order to have a local connection:
- You may not have a local connection if you have only lived in an area because you have been in prison or detained in a mental health hospital
- You may have a local connection if:
- you were posted in armed forces accommodation in the area
- you are a care leaver and were placed in accommodation in the area. You should also have a local connection with the area that you originally lived in should you want to return there, regardless of how long you have been away
- You are a former asylum seeker and were placed in accommodation in the area under asylum support provided by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), (not accommodation centres).
Have family connections in the area
Councils will usually consider you to have a local connection with an area if you have close family who have lived in the area for at least five years. Close family includes parents, children, brothers or sisters. It may also include other family members if you have a very close relationship (for example if you were brought up by an aunt, uncle or grandparent).
Work in the area
If you work in the area you should be considered to have a local connection with that area. However, if your employment is of a casual nature, it may not be enough to establish a local connection. Employment doesn’t have to be full time and self-employed people can have a local connection if they mainly work in the council’s area.
Have a connection with the area because of special circumstances
You may be able to show you have a local connection because you have special circumstances. For instance, you may need to live in an area to receive specialist health care, or for religious reasons, or perhaps there are strong reasons why you need to return to an area where you were brought up. If you think this is the case, get advice to see whether you could argue that you have a local connection.
You only need to fit into one category in order to have a local connection.
Can I be sent to another area?
The council may decide to send you to another area if:
- neither you or a member of your household has a local connection with the council’s area,
- at least one member of your household has a local connection with another council’s area, and
- neither you or a member of your household would be at risk of abuse in that area.
The council may only refer you to another council if it is satisfied that you are:
- in priority need, and
- not intentionally homeless.
It can only decide to send you to another council whilst it is considering whether it owes you a ‘help to secure’ duty. This means that a council cannot refuse to take an application from you just because it thinks you have a local connection elsewhere. It must take an application from you and carry out an assessment.
If the council decides to send you to another area then it must use a formal referral process.
What happens if I don’t have a local connection?
If you don’t have a local connection, the council has to look into whether you have a local connection with another council’s area. If it decides that you do, it can only refer you to the council for that area if your household is not at risk of abuse there.
If the council wants to refer you to another council, it has to inform you in writing. The letter must explain the reasons for the decision. It must also inform you that you have a right to request a review of the decision within 21 days.
How will the other council help me?
The second council will review your case and decide whether it can accept the referral from the first council. If it accepts your case, it must help you in the same way as if you had made your application there.
Whilst the second council is reviewing your case, the first council must continue to provide you with emergency housing.
If the second council accepts the referral it will then be under a duty to help you to secure accommodation and must then find you other suitable emergency accommodation.
What if the other council says it doesn’t have to help me?
In some circumstances, councils may disagree about whether you should be sent from one area to another. If this happens, the council you applied to has to continue to help you until the disagreement is sorted out.
What if there’s a risk of abuse in the other area?
The council is not allowed to refer you to another area if anyone in your household is at risk of abuse in that area. This includes domestic and non-domestic abuse. The term ‘abuse’ can include violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour. If you are in this situation, the council you applied to will have to help you unless you have a local connection with another area where your household is not at risk of abuse.
The council should also not refer you to another area if you only have a local connection with the other area due to family connections and you don’t want to be near your family.
What if I don’t have a local connection anywhere?
If you don’t have a local connection with any area at all, the council you originally applied to must help you.
What if I have a connection with more than one area?
If you have a local connection with more than one area the council should ask you where you’d prefer to go and take your preferences into account when deciding which area to refer you to.
What if I don’t want to go to another area?
If you are referred to another area but you don’t want to go, get advice immediately. Ring our helpline – an adviser can:
- check whether the council’s decision was legally correct,
- check whether you have a good case for getting the decision changed,
- help with the review process,
- help you to appeal further if your review is unsuccessful,
- explain your alternative housing options.