Domestic and other violence and homelessness
The Court of Appeal has been looking at the circumstances when an applicant for homelessness assistance can argue that it is not reasonable to continue to occupy their home because of threatened or actual violence from a third party. In Hussain v LB Waltham Forest  EWCA Civ 14, the Court has considered the definition of ‘other’ or ‘non-domestic violence’ in s.177(1) of the Housing Act 1996, which states: “it is not reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation if it is probable that this will lead to domestic violence, or other violence, against him”.
In Yemshaw v LB Hounslow  UKSC 3, the Supreme Court held that ‘violence’ under s.177(1) included behaviour which fell short of actual physical contact with the victim. The question in Hussain was whether there was any difference between ‘domestic’ and ‘other’ violence and whether the judgement in RB Kensington & Chelsea v Danesh  EWCA Civ 1404 , where the Court of Appeal held that non-domestic violence required physical contact, was still good law.
Ms H was a single parent who lived with her daughter in a housing association property. Over a period of time, Ms H was subjected to anti-social behaviour and harassment from the son of a neighbour, ranging from racial abuse to threatening gestures and criminal damage. Ms H suffered from depression and the neighbour’s behaviour left her distressed and anxious. She made an application to LBWF as homeless on 12/9/2012 but the council found that it was reasonable for her to continue to occupy her accommodation in Bounds Green. The reviewing officer accepted that Ms H was suffering emotional upset and distress but concluded that the neighbour’s conduct fell short of actual violence or threats of violence that were likely to be carried out.
The Court of Appeal held that there was a single concept of ‘violence’, and that domestic violence was just a type of violent behaviour. It would therefore be wrong to deprive victims of neighbour harassment of the same protection that has been extended to domestic violence victims and threatening or intimidatory behaviour may come within the legislation if it is of serious enough to cause psychological harm (i.e. harm that is more than passing upset or distress). Psychological harm may therefore include a range of conditions and it is effectively a measure of the seriousness of the violence perpetrated against the victim.
This means that it is possible for a homeless applicant to argue that they cannot reasonably occupy their home where they complain of being the victim of actual or threatened violence but no physical contact has occurred.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.