Circumstances in which local authority may revisit a homelessness decision

Wednesday 31 May 2017

R (Sambotin) v the London Borough of Brent [2017] EWHC 1190 (Admin), 19 May 2017

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R (Sambotin) v the London Borough of Brent [2017] EWHC 1190 (Admin), 19 May 2017

S was a Romanian national who had come to the UK in October 2013 in order to find work. He worked on and off, in various jobs (sometimes employed, sometimes self-employed), between October 2013 and around September 2015. S initially lived in the North East, but in July 2014 he moved South and obtained rented accommodation in Ilford.

In September 2015, while on holiday in Romania, S was involved in a very serious road accident with the effect that he was confined to a wheelchair thereafter. He returned to the UK in February 2016 with his mother. S was unable to return to his previous accommodation and so he and his mother spent several months living with friends before applying to the London Borough of Waltham Forest as homeless in August 2016. In due course Waltham Forest issued a decision finding that S was not eligible for homelessness assistance within the meaning of s185 Housing Act 1996.

In November 2016, S and his mother moved to the London Borough of Brent and, around one month later, sought to make a further homelessness application, this time to Brent. As part of this application, the adverse decision letter from Waltham Forest was provided to Brent. Nevertheless Brent accepted that S was eligible for assistance, found him to be owed the main housing duty but then sought to refer S’s case back to Waltham Forest pursuant to the local connection provisions contained in ss198-200 Housing Act 1996.

Waltham Forest refused Brent’s referral and made written representations to Brent to the effect that S was not eligible for homelessness assistance. This then prompted Brent to revisit their earlier decision, and write to S revising that decision and informing him that he was not in fact eligible for assistance. In subsequent correspondence Brent maintained the position that they were entitled to revisit this decision as it had ‘resulted from a fundamental mistake of fact’.

S sought judicial review of Brent’s decision. Interim relief was refused but the matter was expedited and listed for a rolled-up hearing at which Sir Wyn Williams allowed the claim. Although S had an alternative remedy available to him (in the form of a statutory review), were permission to be refused on that basis it would result in substantial sums of public money being wasted.

In relation to the substantive issue, Brent had no power to revisit the decision in question. It was clear from the decision that Brent had completed the inquiries mandated by s184 Housing Act 1996 and had made a final decision as to the duty owed under s193 of the Act. As such, Brent were not entitled to revisit the decision absent fraud or deception on the part of S, or where the decision had proceeded from a fundamental mistake of fact: see Porteous v West Dorest DC (2004) HLR 30. None of those criteria were satisfied in S’s case.

If there had been a mistake at all, it was a mistake in the application of the eligibility criteria to the facts of his case, and not a mistake as to the underlying facts. Accordingly the decision was quashed with the consequence that Brent were required to continue to accommodate S pursuant to s200 Housing Act 1996.

Click here for the judgment.

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