Whether accommodation under s193(2) Housing Act 1996 occupied ‘as a dwelling’

Friday 8 September 2017

Dacorum Borough Council v Bucknall (aka Acheampong) EWHC 2094 (QB), 10 August 2017.

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Dacorum Borough Council v Bucknall (aka Acheampong) EWHC 2094 (QB), 10 August 2017

The Appellant, Ms Bucknall, lived in accommodation provided to her, together with her young daughter, by the Respondent in Hemel Hempstead. The accommodation was provided under a non-secure licence, granted in January 2014. It had initially been provided to Ms Bucknall, pursuant to s188(1) Housing Act 1996, after she applied to the Respondent as homeless and while inquiries were made into her application. However, in September 2014, the Respondent found her to be owed the main housing duty under s193(2) Housing Act 1996. The letter informing her of this explained that it was not possible to predict exactly when such accommodation would be found but that she should continue to occupy the property for the time being on the same terms as before.

Toward the end of October 2014, the Respondent wrote to Ms Bucknall making her an offer of accommodation in the private rented sector. In February 2015, having viewed the property, Ms Bucknall refused the offer saying that it was not suitable. The Respondent duly carried out a review of the suitability of the property and shortly after wrote to Ms Bucknall informing her that the property was suitable and that the duty owed to her under s193(2) Housing Act 1996 had come to an end. The Respondent then served a notice to quit and commenced possession proceedings.

The notice to quit relied on by the Respondent did not contain the information set out in the Notices to Quit etc (Prescribed Information) Regulations 1988, as required by s5 Protection from Eviction Act 1977. At trial, one of the principle issues was whether the notice needed to comply with s5 or not: a question of whether or not the property was occupied ‘as a dwelling’ within the meaning of that provision.

The judge at first instance, purporting to follow the decision of the Supreme Court in R (N) v Lewisham London Borough Council [2015] AC 1259, held that the property was not occupied as a dwelling and proceeded to grant a possession order.

Popplewell J allowed Ms Bucknall’s appeal. At the time the notice to quit expired, and contrary to the argument put forward by the Respondent, Ms Bucknall had been occupying the property under the main housing duty and not one of the interim duties that had formed the subject of the decision in R (N) v Lewisham London Borough Council. Whether accommodation provided pursuant to the main housing duty was occupied as a dwelling required a ‘fact specific’ inquiry, which looks to the purpose of the relevant lease or licence. Such accommodation should not automatically be treated as a dwelling. In this instance, the purpose of the licence granted to Ms Bucknall had changed in September 2014, when the interim duty ended and the main housing duty arose, and the Respondent wrote to tell her that she would continue to occupy the property indefinitely while suitable private rented sector accommodation was identified. From that point on she occupied the property as a dwelling, meaning that s5 Protection from Eviction Act 1977 applied and the notice to quit was invalid.

The judgment is available here: Dacorum Borough Council v Bucknall (aka Acheampong) EWHC 2094 (QB)

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