Whether lengthy period in temporary accommodation is ‘settled accommodation’

Friday 15 July 2016

Huda v London Borough of Redbridge [2016] EWCA Civ 709, 12 July 2016

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Huda v London Borough of Redbridge [2016] EWCA Civ 709, 12 July 2016

H applied to Redbridge as homeless in October 2008 and was placed in temporary accommodation under s188(1) Housing Act 1996. He occupied the accommodation under a licence granted by a third party. In due course Redbridge, by a decision under s184 Housing Act 1996 found H to be homeless, eligible and to have a priority need, but to have become homeless intentionally. This decision was upheld by a review decision issued on 13 January 2010.

Following this decision, R remained in the temporary accommodation pursuant to s190(2): the duty to provide accommodation for a ‘reasonable’ period to those in priority need who have become homeless intentionally. But as a result of an administrative oversight, no action was taken to remove him from the property, and he remained there for a further two years.

On 12 July 2012 – by which point R had been in the accommodation for nearly four years – R’s solicitors wrote to Redbridge asserting that his being allowed to remain in the property had rendered it settled accommodation meaning that he could no longer be regarded as having become homeless intentionally. This was treated as a fresh homeless application.

By decision dated 17 July 2012, R’s argument was rejected. This decision was upheld on review. The temporary accommodation, it was said, was not settled accommodation and so was not sufficient to remove H’s ‘self-imposed disqualification’.

The reviewing officer held that ‘accommodation under this provision is simply not capable of being settled’. In addition, the accommodation was held to have been precarious and with little security of tenure, principally on the basis that R’s continued occupation was under a licence, was always contingent on the mistake of his occupation being overlooked, and that action might have been taken to remove him at any time.

H’s appeal to the County Court was dismissed. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, H sought to argue that that:

  • at some point during the course of H’s occupation, he had become an assured shorthold tenant;
  • that this factor made it more likely that the accommodation was settled, and so should have been given more weight by the reviewing officer;
  • in the alternative, the s190(2) duty expired during the course of H’s occupation meaning that s3 Protection from Eviction Act 1977 applied from that point on, and so H had a form of security of tenure;
  • that the decision that accommodation provided under s190(2) was not capable of being settled accommodation was wrong in law, as whether accommodation is settled is a question of fact and degree;
  • that only factors arising outside of the relevant occupation agreement may break the causal chain, and so the reviewing officer was wrong to focus principally on the terms of the licence in reaching his decision.

The Court of Appeal dismissed R’s appeal. The reviewing officer’s finding that R’s occupation had been under a licence was a finding of fact and was not perverse. The fact that the s190(2) duty came to an end did not change the nature of the permission to occupy (i.e. the licence was unaffected). Whether accommodation is settled is a question of fact or degree. There is no rule of law that only circumstances outside the occupation agreement are relevant to whether accommodation is settled. Overall the conclusion of the reviewing officer was open to him on the facts.

Click here for the judgment.

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