Tim Baldwin successfully challenges Brent Council's decision to offer accommodation to a homeless family over 100 miles away in Birmingham for the third time

Monday 22 January 2018

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

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This news item, published on 7 March 2017, reports that Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers represented the appellant in RB v London Borough of Brent in a successful appeal. The appeal was against a decision by Brent Council to discharge its duty owed to the appellant under section 193 Housing Act 1996 by providing permanent private rented sector accommodation in Birmingham. The London Borough of Brent made a third negative s 202 Housing Act 1996 decision on 12 July 2017 which was appealed and listed for hearing before HHJ Luba QC on 16 July 2018. On 12 January 2018 the London Borough of Brent consented to the withdrawal of their decision and payment of the appellant’s costs which was approved by HHJ Luba QC on 15 January 2018. The reasons why the Local Authority withdrew their decision after the appeal had been issued and the appellant's skeleton argument was served were not disclosed. However, it will be almost four years since the Local Authority accepted the duty to assist this homeless family but have been unable to justify to the satisfaction of the court why the housing offered 100 miles away in Birmingham was suitable.

The appellant applied as part of a homeless family to Brent Council having been made homeless as a result of the housing benefit cap leaving them longer able to afford private rented sector accommodation. The appellant's application was accepted and so they were owed the full housing duty on 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 it would have on his employment and on the education of his children. Brent discharged the duty to accommodate the appellant and his family by letter on 22 August 2014 and the appellant subsequently sought a review of the decision.

The first review upheld the decision that the accommodation offered was suitable. On issue of an appeal, though, Brent, very close to the date of the hearing, 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 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.

Pending this decision, which the basis of the further appeal rested on, the appellant, children and family remained in London and in employment and education.

The reasons why the Local Authority withdrew their decision after the appeal have not been issued, nor has a skeleton argument been disclosed. It is almost four years since the Local Authority accepted the duty to assist this homeless family, however they have still been unable to justify to the satisfaction of the court why it had initially offered housing 100 miles away in Birmingham and deemed that suitable.

Tim Baldwin is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team.

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