ON APPEAL FROM THE CENTRAL LONDON COUNTY COURT
MISS RECORDER GERALDINE CLARK
Claim No: 0CL40085
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE LLOYD
LORD JUSTICE McFARLANE
| MRS AMEERA ABDULLAH
|- and -
|WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL
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MR IAN PEACOCK (instructed by Legal and Democratic Services, Westminster City Council) for the Respondent
Hearing date: 21st July 2011
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Mummery:
"(1) A person is homeless if he has no accommodation available for his occupation, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, which he-
(i) is entitled to occupy by virtue of an interest in it or by virtue of an order of a court,
(ii) has an express or implied licence to occupy, or
(iii) occupies as a residence by virtue of any enactment or rule of law giving him the right to remain in or restricting the right of another person to recover possession.
(3) A person shall not be treated as having accommodation unless it is accommodation which it would be reasonable for him to continue to occupy.
(4) A person is threatened with homelessness if it is likely that he will become homeless within 28 days."
Background and proceedings
Discussion and conclusion
" Based on all the above factors I am satisfied that your client's accommodation at 2 Alperton Street…remains available for her and is reasonable for her to continue to occupy and as a result she is not a homeless person pursuant to Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. With regards to her housing circumstances, the Council can continue to provide advice and assistance only."
(1) Mrs Abdullah had approached the Council for housing assistance on more than one occasion. The first approach was in July 2009 when she stated that her mother had asked her to leave the house, though not "by a specific time frame".
(2) In June 2010 Mrs Abdullah was still in occupation of the house when she advised the Council that her mother and husband had asked her to leave the house. The review officer wrote that that fact strongly "suggests that [Mrs Abdullah's] accommodation remains available to her in spite of the fact that she may have been asked to leave" in July 2009. The review officer expressly took into account the length of time that Mrs Abdullah had continued in occupation of the property since her first approach to the Council for housing assistance.
(3) Mrs Abdullah's solicitor (Gillian Radford) acknowledged that her client "has matrimonial rights over her husband's part of the tenancy but not over her mother's part of the tenancy", the tenancy being a joint one, so that she "cannot exercise matrimonial home rights under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 due to her mother's interest in the property". (As to the mother's position on home rights see below)
(4) Looking to Mrs Abdullah's personal and domestic circumstances the review officer said that the evidence was insufficient to conclude that she and her husband had separated, as she had alleged. The review officer also said that, on the medical information provided, she was unable to conclude that Mrs Abdullah's mental health conditions could not be controlled or managed with the help of treatment she was receiving.
(5) Mrs Abdullah was entitled to exercise her matrimonial home rights given her marriage to her husband and was thus protected from being excluded from the property. Reference was made to s.30 and to the submission that the section does not apply because the mother also has an interest in the house. The review officer said that she could find nothing to preclude the application of s. 30 to Mrs Abdullah's case just because the mother also has an interest in the house. The crucial point was that the section was meant to apply where one spouse has a beneficial interest in a property and the other does not. That is the case here. Mrs Abdullah was entitled to avail herself of the protection afforded under the section, irrespective of her mother's interest in the house.
(6) The Council's records showed that during previous visits Mrs Abdullah told the Council that she had been asked to leave the house because it was overcrowded. The review officer was satisfied that the house was not so severely overcrowded as to make it unreasonable for her to continue to occupy, "taking account of the current occupants in the house, of the fact that many families are living in permanent and temporary accommodation using their living area as a sleeping area and of the level of overcrowding in accommodation in the Council's area".
Lord Justice Lloyd
Lord Justice Mc Farlane