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Housing future needs

Temur v LB Hackney [2014] EWCA Civ 877

In 2011, following alleged domestic abuse, Ms T left her marital home to stay with friends and in a refuge before Hackney council deemed her homeless but not in priority need.

In February 2012, Ms T requested a review of this decision. In March she took an assured shorthold tenancy of a bedsit with shared bathroom facilities then in July of the same year, a family court made a shared care order and Ms T’s daughter began to stay in the bedsit most of the time.

It was argued that Ms T was effectively homeless as she and her daughter could not reasonably be expected to continue to live in the bedsit which had space for only a single bed, had shared bathroom facilities, no clothes washing facility and other residents who were noisy.

The review officer however found that the bedsit was reasonable accommodation for mother and daughter, changing the original decision from “homeless but not in priority need” to “not homeless”.

The legal team argued that the review officer did not have power to make a new, and, for Ms T, worse decision in response to a request for a review.

However, Lord Justice Jackson held in the Court of Appeal that if a person obtains accommodation deemed to be satisfactory, between the date of the original decision and the date of the review, it would be unrealistic to treat him or her as homeless.

Referring to Birmingham City Council v Ali [2009] UKHL 36 and Harouki v Kensington and Chelsea Royal London Borough Council [2007] EWCA Civ 1000, the legal team then argued that the reviewing officer failed to carry out a hazard assessment to ascertain not only whether the accommodation was reasonable to continue to occupy but also suitable in both stage 1 and stage 2 assessments.

Jackson LJ found against Ms T on the basis that the stage 1 exercise and the stage 2 exercise involve different processes as well as different criteria.

Finally it was argued that the reviewing officer had failed to consider not only whether Ms T and her daughter could endure their accommodation in the short term but also indefinitely when considering whether Ms T was homeless.

The judge found that although this was the strongest argument, the review decision had addressed it. While accepting that conditions were not ideal, the council had carefully considered shared bathroom arrangements and suggested bunk beds to improve sleeping arrangements, had identified local launderettes for washing clothes, and had offered the assistance of its private sector housing team in dealing with the problem of other tenants causing noise.

Although the appeal was dismissed, the difficulties of occupying the bedsit may increase as her daughter grows and Ms T will be able to make a fresh application which the Council must consider.

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.