Court of Appeal is considering when a person is “significantly” more vulnerable than ordinarily vulnerable as a result of being homeless

Thursday 12 October 2017

Tessa Buchanan appeared this week in the case of Panayiotou v London Borough of Waltham Forest.

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The case, which had been linked with the case of Smith v London Borough of Haringey, concerns the correct test for vulnerability when assessing whether an applicant for homelessness assistance is in priority need.

Section 189(1)(c) of the Housing Act 1996 provides that a person has a priority need for accommodation if he or she is “vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason”.

In Hotak v Southwark LBC [2015] UKSC 30, Lord Neuberger stated that “‘vulnerable’ in section 189(1)(c) connotes ‘significantly more vulnerable than ordinarily vulnerable’ as a result of being rendered homeless” (at paragraph 53).

The meaning of “significantly” as used by Lord Neuberger has subsequently been the subject of several appeals to the County Court. This was the first time it fell to be considered by the Court of Appeal.

The case is expected to clarify this issue and is therefore of immense importance to homelessness applicants who assert that they are in priority need due to vulnerability.

The Court has reserved judgment.

Tessa was instructed by Simon Mullings of Edwards Duthie and was led by Martin Westgate QC of Doughty Street Chambers.

Tessa Buchanan is a social welfare practitioner and is a member of the Housing Team at Garden Court Chambers.

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