The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal to quash Westminster’s decision that it had discharged its duty to house the appellant “so far as reasonable practicable” under the Housing Act 1996, s 208, because she had refused suitable accommodation.
The appellant is a single mother and has serious health problems. After being evicted from her privately rented home following the introduction of a cap on housing benefit and being unable to pay her rent, the respondent housing authority, Westminster, owed a duty to provide her with suitable accommodation but offered her temporary accommodation in Bletchley, near Milton Keynes. She refused the accommodation and Westminster served notice that its duty to house her had come to an end. She applied for the decision to be reviewed but it was unsuccessful, as was her appeals to the County Court and the Court of Appeal.
In giving the only judgment Lady Hale stated that no enquiries were made to assess the practicability of moving the family to Bletchley or as to the children’s needs, subject to the Children Act 2004, s 11(2). Consideration or explanation also did not seem to have been given to the duty to offer accommodation as close as possible. Lady Hale therefore concluded that Westminster still owed the appellant a duty to secure suitable accommodation.
The Court also gave the following guidance: Ideally each local authority should have an up to date publically available policy for securing sufficient units of temporary accommodation to meet the anticipated demand for the coming year, reflecting its obligations under the 1996 Act and the Children Act 2004. It should also have a policy for the allocation of those units to individual homeless households, to which reference would be made in explaining any decisions to accommodate a household out of the area. This way decisions will be properly evidenced and explained, and can be challenged if required.
David Wolfe QC was involved in this case.