Local connection and repeat homelessness applications

Friday 3 February 2017

R (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) v London Borough of Ealing and Ms Hacene-Blidi (Interested Party) [2017] EWHC 24 (Admin), 13 January 2017

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R (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) v London Borough of Ealing and Ms Hacene-Blidi (Interested Party) [2017] EWHC 24 (Admin), 13 January 2017

The interested party, Ms Hacene-Blidi, was a disabled wheelchair user with four children. She had lived in the area of Ealing since 2008 in accommodation in the private rented sector. In March 2015, her landlord having commenced possession proceedings, she applied to the defendant, Ealing LBC, as homeless. Ealing accepted the main housing duty under s193(2) Housing Act 1996 toward her.

In November 2015, Ms Hacene-Blidi was made an offer of accommodation under Part VI Housing Act 1996 which Ealing regarded as suitable. She refused this offer and Ealing duly notified her by letter of 24 November 2015 that, pursuant to s193(7) Housing Act 1996, the duty owed to her had come to an end.

Ms Hacene-Blidi was evicted from her accommodation by her landlord on 1 December 2015. She then applied to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for homelessness assistance. Kensington and Chelsea decided she was owed the main housing duty and, by letter of 12 January 2016, sought to refer her back to Ealing pursuant to the local connection provisions. Ealing responded, acknowledging that the conditions for referral were satisfied but stating that they had previously discharged their duty toward Ms Hacene-Blidi and that no further duty was owed. In reaching this decision they relied on the decision in the case of R v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC, ex p. O'Brian (1985) 17 HLR 471, where Glidewell J had taken the view that a local housing authority that had previously discharged its duty, was not then required to accept a referral under the local connection provisions on behalf of the same applicant save where there had been a new incidence of homelessness. Kensington and Chelsea sought judicial review of Ealing’s decision.

HHJ Karen Walden-Smith allowed the claim. O’Brian was decided under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 which – unlike Part VII Housing Act 1996 – contained no express provision for the cessation of duty, and should no longer be regarded as good law. Following the decisions in R v LB of Harrow, ex p Fahia [1998] 1 WLR 1396 and Rikha Begum v LB of Tower Hamlets [2005] EWCA Civ 340, it was clear that a local housing authority must accept a homeless application save where it is based on exactly the same facts as an earlier application.

In this case Ms Hacene-Blidi’s second application was not based on exactly the same facts as her first. Her first had been made at a time when her then landlord had begun possession proceedings against her. Her second had been made following her eviction. As such Kensington and Chelsea had been right to accept the second application. And since there was no suggestion that Kensington and Chelsea had acted unreasonably or irrationally in accepting the main housing duty, Ealing were bound to accept the referral.

Click here for the judgment.

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