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Housing – Homeless person – Person becoming homeless intentionally

Alternative Citations
[2013] EWCA Civ 1582

Hearing Date
12 December 2013

Court of Appeal, Civil Division

Lord Justice Sullivan, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Briggs

Zia Nabi (instructed by the Community Law Partnership) for the claimant.
Christopher Baker and John McCafferty (instructed by Birmingham Legal Services) for the authority.

Housing – Homeless person. The Court of Appeal, Civil Division, in allowing the defendant local authority’s appeal, held that the judge had been wrong to find that the authority had failed to have proper regard to the relevant guidance when considering the issue of affordability of a property that the claimant had vacated in its decision as to whether he had made himself intentionally homeless by vacating that property.

The judgment is available at: [2013] EWCA Civ 1582

The claimant and his family lived in a flat under an assured shorthold tenancy (the property). In April 2012, the claimant vacated the property and, with his family, moved into his mother’s home which was within the defendant local authority’s area. In May 2012, the claimant sought housing assistance from the authority under Pt 7 of the Housing Act 1996. He made his application on the grounds that his tenancy had come to an end and he had to vacate the property, and that it was not reasonable for him to continue to occupy the property because it was in a poor state. By a decision letter, the authority explained that its enquiries had suggested that there were no outstanding substantial repairs to the property and that the claimant had been in arrears of rent. The authority accordingly considered that the claimant had not acted in good faith and that he had become homeless intentionally. The authority carried out a review of its decision, and the reviewing officer informed the claimant that there had been an irregularity or deficiency in the original decision because it had failed to consider the issue of affordability. However, the reviewing officer upheld the original decision. The claimant appealed under s 204 of the Act. The judge held that the review officer had failed to consider the issue of affordability in the decision, and had failed to have regard to guidance given by the Secretary of State, namely, the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities issued in July 2006 (the guidance). The judge held that the relevant provisions of the guidance had not been mentioned in the review decision in which affordability had been addressed and, accordingly, he allowed the claimant’s appeal. The authority appealed.

The authority submitted that it had asked itself the right question in the review decision, namely, whether the property had been affordable, and had assembled the necessary material to answer it.

The appeal would be allowed.

The relevant aspect of the reasoning of the review officer had not betrayed a failure to have regard to the guidance. The issue of affordability had been one which the review officer had taken for himself. He had identified the failure in the original decision to consider whether the claimant could have afforded to remain in the property, and so it had been reasonable to infer that that was a question which he had had at the forefront of his mind throughout his review. Accordingly, the review officer had had adequate regard to the guidance (see [46]-[48], [52], [57], [58] of the judgment).