Social Welfare Update: Discharge of homelessness duties

Monday 28 October 2019

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The Claimant, SH, arrived in the UK in 2012. She was a victim of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and was granted refugee status. In September 2014 she applied to Waltham Forest, the Defendant, as homeless. In April 2015, Waltham Forest accepted that she was owed the main housing duty. Then, in May 2016, SH was provided with private sector accommodation in Ilford. She was later evicted, through no fault of her own, and sought further assistance from Waltham Forest who, in August 2017, provided her with private sector accommodation in Tottenham. From the outset there were very real problems with the Tottenham property: the communal grounds of the property were used as an ‘open air brothel’, and witnessing such activity was having a serious impact on both SH and her young daughter.

In July 2018, as a result of the problems at the Tottenham property, SH approached Waltham Forest for assistance once again. Her approach was treated as a fresh homelessness application and, in October 2018, she was made an offer of accommodation in Kettering pursuant to the relief duty under Housing Act 1993 s189B(2). SH refused this offer and Waltham Forest took the view that the duties owed to her had been discharged.

SH sought judicial review. David Pittaway QC allowed her claim. SH’s approach to Waltham Forest in July 2018 could not properly be characterised as a new application, as the original homelessness duty under s193(2) Housing Act 1996 which Waltham Forest had accepted in April 2015 subsisted.

The 2015 duty had not been brought to an end by means of the provision of accommodation in Ilford. That was because Waltham Forest had not met the procedural requirements necessary for the offer of accommodation to be regarded as a private rented sector (PRS) offer for the purposes of s193(7AA)-(7AF). Specifically, SH had not been given an offer letter meeting the requirements of s193(7AA) and (7AB), informing her of the consequences of refusal of the accommodation and her right to request a review.

Further, the 2015 duty had not been brought to an end by means of the provision of accommodation in Tottenham. Because that accommodation was never suitable accommodation: ‘any proper due diligence should have alerted the defendant to the unlawful sexual activity that was taking place in the communal gardens of the Tottenham property’. See [23].

As the main housing duty had been ongoing since April 2015 and had never been discharged, there could be no question of the lesser duty under s189B(2) Housing Act 1996 subsequently arising. Meaning that Waltham Forest’s decision that the duty owed to SH had been brought to an end by virtue of that section was wrong in law and the main housing duty continued.

Click here for the judgment: R (SH) v Waltham Forest BC [2019] EWHC 2618 (Admin), 11 October 2019

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