Tim Baldwin successfully challenges Brent Council’s decision to offer accommodation to a homeless family over 100 miles away in Birmingham

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers represented the appellant in RB v London Borough of Brent in a successful appeal against a decision by Brent to discharge its duty owed to the appellant under section 193 Housing Act 1996 by providing permanent private rented sector accommodation in Birmingham.

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The appellant applied as a homeless family to Brent Council on being made homeless from private rented sector accommodation due to the impact of a housing benefit cap. The appellant’s application was accepted and was owed the full housing duty on the 29 July 2014.

Brent made an out-of-borough offer of private accommodation to discharge their homelessness duty on 13 August 2014. The appellant refused the offer of accommodation because of the impact of the offer on his employment and education of his children. Brent discharged the duty to accommodate the appellant and his family by letter on 22 August 2014. The appellant sought a review of the decision.

The first review upheld the decision that the accommodation offered was suitable but on issue of an appeal Brent, very close to the date of the hearing of the appeal, agreed to withdraw their decision, pay the appellant’s reasonable costs and conduct a fresh review with further representations. However, on the fresh review of 3 May 2016 Brent upheld the decision that the accommodation in Birmingham was suitable. This decision was appealed.

On handing down a reserved judgment on 2 March 2017 from a hearing on the 10 October 2016, Mr Recorder Wilson QC allowed the appellant’s appeal and made an order quashing the decision that the accommodation offered in Birmingham was suitable and the duty to accommodate had been lawfully discharged.

In consideration of the ruling in Nzolameso v Westminster [2015] UKSC 22, together with Guidance and giving judgment, the judge held in respect of grounds 1 and 2 of the Appeal that it is incumbent on a local authority not merely to investigate the particular needs of a family but, where far distant locality would have a considerable impact on the family’s medical, educational, employment or social connections, to investigate the likelihood of more suitable accommodation coming available within a reasonable time. No such investigation appears to have been made in the present case. The offer was made by reference solely to the availability of properties on Brent’s procurement database.

The review identified Brent had a team of five procurement officers looking for property in Brent and elsewhere. Two are looking in Brent and London Boroughs, two in the Home Counties and one in the Midlands, but what was not enquired into was the chance of something much more suitable than accommodation in Birmingham turning up within a reasonable time. Further on ground 3 in exercising the power of review, Brent failed to take into account the possibility of more suitable accommodation coming available within a reasonable time which would have avoided the disruption to the appellant’s child’s education. Under ground 5 Brent failed to investigate the change in the appellant’s income and the possibility of a change in the availability of accessing affordable accommodation nearer than Birmingham.

Pending a new decision the Appellant, children and family remain in London and in employment and education.

Tim Baldwin was instructed by Ronald Daley of Advice4Renters and is a member of the Housing Team of Garden Court Chambers.

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