2014 01 Housing

Saturday 1 February 2014

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Solihull MBC v Khan [2014] EWCA Civ 41 (Rafferty and Beatson LJJ, Sir Robin Jacob): homelessness appeal dealing with the procedural requirements of a suitability review. Ms Khan applied to Solihull as homeless. She informed Solihull that she would not be able to live in the Chelmsley Wood area owing to fear of gang violence connected to her husband. Solihull conducted their own investigations into this issue and determined that her fear was unfounded. Ms Khan was not informed of this. In due course Solihull made her an offer of accommodation in Chelmsley Wood. Ms Khan refused the offer on the footing that the property was unsuitable owing to its location. Solihull then wrote to Ms Khan informing her that the main housing duty had come to an end. The decision was upheld on review and quashed on appeal: Ms Recorder Mountfield QC held that Solihull should have put the outcome of their inquiries to Ms Khan and engaged in further dialogue before concluding that her refusal of the offer was unreasonable. The Court of Appeal allowed Solihull’s appeal. Applying Akhtar v Birmingham City Council [2011] EWCA 383, Solihull were not obliged to give reasons why the property was considered to be suitable and reasonable to accept. Click here for the judgment.

The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) (Amendment) Regulations 2014: from 27 January 2014 legal aid is no longer available for cases where the merits have been assessed as borderline including, among other things, homelessness appeals, judicial review and possession proceedings. The usual transitional provisions relating to the date of applications will apply. Click here for the regulations.

Circle 33 Housing Trust v Nelson (CA) Unreported, 27 January 2014 (Rimer andMcFarlane LJJ, Sir Robin Jacob): relief from sanctions in possession proceedings. N was the tenant of Circle 33. Circle 33 sought possession from N, having served a Notice to Quit, alleging breach of tenancy agreement, and failure to occupy the property as N’s principal home. N filed a defence. There were subsequent problems with disclosure on the part of N and Circle 33 obtained an unless order with the effect that the defence should be struck out if disclosure of certain credit card statements was not made. The order was not complied with. N’s representatives put forward various different justifications for the failure but no application for relief from sanctions was made. The defence was struck out and the judge at first instance made a possession order. N appealed seeking relief from sanctions. On appeal the Court of Appeal allowed new evidence to be adduced establishing that N had sought to obtain the credit card statements and that the fault for the delay lay with her bank. The Court allowed N’s appeal and granted relief from sanctions acknowledging that there had been substantial compliance with the unless order and that N’s solicitors had failed to do justice to her case for relief at first instance. The defence was restored, the possession order set aside and the matter was remitted. In passing the Court noted that the striking out of the defence was problematic in view of the obligations on the court to consider reasonableness and Art.8 ECHR in such a case. Judgment not available online. Based on Lawtel note.

R (Alansi) v Newham LBC [2013] EWHC 3722 (Admin) (Stuart-Smith J): a challenge to a decision under Newham’s allocation scheme. The Claimant was housed by the Defendant in temporary accommodation pursuant to the main housing duty. This entitled her to maximum preference on the Defendant’s allocations scheme. The Claimant proceeded to bid for properties under the scheme. Subsequently, the Claimant’s health deteriorated and the property she was residing in became unsuitable. Newham accepted this and sought to accommodate her in the private sector, assuring her orally and in writing on a number of occasions that her applications under the allocation scheme would not be affected and that she would retain her priority status: this was in-line with Newham’s established practice at the time. The Claimant accepted the offer of private sector accommodation and continued to bid under the allocation scheme. In 2012, following consultation, Newham amended its allocation scheme. The Claimant did not take part in this consultation though it was accepted that she would have been notified of it. Under the new policy the Claimant’s application was reassessed and her priority on the scheme reduced. The Claimant sought judicial review arguing that she had a substantive legitimate expectation that she would retain priority on the scheme. Stuart-Smith J dismissed the claim. The Defendant had resiled from representations which were clear and unambiguous, but in the circumstances of the case its actions were proportionate response to a widespread social problem and could not be characterised as an abuse of power. Click here for the judgment.

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