Social housing allocations legal framework: statutory guidance for social landlords

Sets out the legal framework which social landlords must work within when developing their allocations policies.

9. Weighting Reasonable Preference Groups

9.1 Reasonable preference refers to the priority given to applicants for housing. It means that landlords must give that preference to persons in the three groups as set out above.

9.2 The law makes no distinction between people in the different reasonable preference categories and does not set out any weighting for them. Landlords must decide how much weight to give to each reasonable preference group.

9.3 Landlords who are local authorities have duties to provide accommodation and/or advice to those who are homeless or are threatened with homelessness. The 'Code of Guidance on Homelessness' states that 'at the very least' landlords should not give homeless people lesser preference than the other specified groups.

9.4 RSLs also have duties under section 5 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 ('the 2001 Act') to house statutory homeless people. RSLs have to meet section 5 requests from local authorities unless there are good reasons not to. Guidance was issued at the time of the introduction of section 5 by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. Further changes were made to the homelessness legislation by the Homelessness etc (Scotland) Act 2003 which set a target of phasing out the 'priority need' categories so that, from 31 December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households have been entitled to settled accommodation. The guidance describes circumstances where an RSL may have good reason not to comply with a section 5 request and the time period within which local authorities and RSLs should reach agreement. In summary, good reason is where:

  • an RSL is unable to make suitable housing available within six weeks of the request; or
  • the only housing the RSL has available is of a particular nature (for example sheltered housing for older people) and this is not suitable for the applicant.

9.5 There are no other grounds for an RSL to refuse a section 5 referral. RSLs cannot use any other terms of their allocation policy for refusing to deal with a section 5 referral. RSLs should make sure that their allocation policy reflects arrangements for section 5 referrals and nomination agreements, where these exist.

9.6 Landlords can take the needs of other groups into account as well as the reasonable preference groups and can create other factors, such as giving priority to service leavers. However any other groups being prioritised for allocations must not dominate an allocation policy at the expense of the three groups set out in section 20. Any additional criteria that are used to prioritise allocations must also comply with the requirements set out below in section 20(2) of the 1987 Act.

9.7 Landlords must make sure, whatever system they develop, that they give reasonable preference to the groups in section 20(1ZA) of the 1987 Act and meet the limitations on factors that can be taken into account.



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