Section 204 Housing Act Appeal: local authority was perverse to characterise acceptance whilst seeking review as refusal

Thursday 8 September 2016

Liz Davies of Garden Court Chambers represented the appellant.

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HHJ Bailey heard argument and gave judgment in the homelessness case of Cieicierska v Brent LBC on 5 September 2016.

The Appellant, a Polish national and single parent of three children, was accommodated by Brent in its district under the main housing duty at s.193(2) Housing Act 1996.

She was made a final offer of private rented sector accommodation in Telford.  The offer letter informed her that she could accept the offer and seek a review of the suitability of the accommodation, or refuse the offer. It informed her that she should travel to Telford the following week in order to sign for the tenancy and move into the property.

The day before the appointment in Telford, the applicant’s solicitors wrote to the respondent stating that she was accepting the offer “under protest” and seeking a review of the suitability. She was ill and unable to travel the following day.

Representations were made that Brent should continue to secure s.193(2) accommodation for her until her request for a review had been determined.

Brent’s response was that she should travel to Telford and sign for the tenancy. It subsequently ascertained from her employer that she had not been at work on the day of the appointment, apparently corroborating that she had been ill.

Two days after the appointment, Brent notified her that it had discharged its duty towards her since she had refused a suitable private rented sector offer.

The appellant sought a review of that decision and made representations that the accommodation in Telford was not suitable and that she had not refused.

The review decision decided that the offer had been suitable and that she had refused. It stated that an acceptance “under protest”, together with her failure to attend the appointment, was not an acceptance but a refusal.

She appealed to the county court on the issue of suitability of the offer and that Brent was wrong in law to find that she had refused.

HHJ Bailey heard argument on the issue of acceptance/refusal and quashed the review decision. It was obviously perverse for Brent to have decided that she had refused the offer. He rejected Brent’s submissions that her apparent acceptance had been conditional upon her being permitted to remain in interim accommodation and that the offer letter had specified that the offer could only be accepted by travelling to Telford and signing the tenancy. As a result, he did not need to hear argument on whether the decision that the offer had been suitable was wrong in law.

Liz Davies of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team represented the appellant, instructed by Nathaniel Matthews of Hackney Community Law Centre.

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