QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| THE QUEEN
(ON THE APPLICATION OF MRS ANGELA BROOKS)
|- and -
|THE LONDON BOROUGH OF ISLINGTON
Christopher Baker (instructed by LB Islington) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 19/08/2015
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Lewis:
"Given the shortage of affordable housing in Islington, and taking into account all of your circumstances, the council believes that it is reasonable for us to offer you this accommodation, which we consider suitable for you. Should you refuse this offer, the council may discharge its duty to accommodate you and may not make you another offer."
"Following your application for accommodation to this Authority under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (homelessness) on 31 March 2015, you were provided with temporary accommodation pending enquiries into your homeless application.
"On 14 April 2015, we offered you alternative accommodation at 48 Barnsfield Road, DA17 5NG. You signed for the licence agreement but later returned to advice that the accommodation is not suitable because "it is too far for you to access and the property does not meet your son's medical needs".
"I have carefully considered the information before me and assessed that the temporary accommodation offered by this Council is reasonable and suitable for your needs. I informed you that London is cosmopolitan city with good transport links and Bexley Council is connected to Islington by good transportation networks. The average journey can be completed by car or train within 1 hour. I also advised we will review the suitability of the accommodation when medical information is received from your son's hospital with confirmation of the date of discharge from hospital.
"You further advised me that you believe that the remnant of the presence of cats exist within the property and you are allergic to cats. I confirmed that there are no cats within the property and I will get the agent to clean the property.
"I have also explained to you the implications if you refuse the offer. You have informed me that you wish to refuse the offer of Temporary accommodation provided by the Council under the above Act.
"In view of this circumstance, I regret to inform you that your temporary accommodation has now been cancelled. The council is also discharging its full duty towards you under S.188 of the above act. You are now responsible for your own housing arrangements and can seek assistance from your local Children's Services or alternatively you can seek housing advice from the authority under Section 190 of the above Act.
"If you have a General Waiting List application and you require housing assistance from the Council, you should contact the Registration Team on 020.7527.4140. Alternatively you can contact the Registration Team, to enquire as to your rights to make a General Waiting List application.
"If you are dissatisfied with the Council's decision that it was discharged its duty towards you you have the right to appeal to the County Court on a point of law or to approach the Local Ombudsman. Any such appeal must be made within 21 days of your receipt of this letter.
"You may approach this office for advice and assistance."
"i) Whether the Defendant made an error of law in its decision dated 15 April 2015 by treating its duty to the Claimant under s.188(1), of the Housing Act 1996 as having come to an end in circumstances where it was satisfied that the Claimant had refused an offer of suitable accommodation;"
ii) In the alternative, whether the Defendant lawfully decided that its duty under s.188(1), Housing Act 1996 was ended by the refusal of such accommodation, if it did not give the claimants opportunity for a few days thereafter, to reconsider her refusal or to decide how to deal with the disagreement over suitability."
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
"184.— Inquiry into cases of homelessness or threatened homelessness.
'(1) If the local housing authority have reason to believe that an applicant may be homeless or threatened with homelessness, they shall make such inquiries as are necessary to satisfy themselves—
(a) whether he is eligible for assistance, and
(b) if so, whether any duty, and if so what duty, is owed to him under the following provisions of this Part.
"(2) They may also make inquiries whether he has a local connection with the district of another local housing authority in England, Wales or Scotland.
"(3) On completing their inquiries the authority shall notify the applicant of their decision and, so far as any issue is decided against his interests, inform him of the reasons for their decision.
"(5) A notice under subsection (3) or (4) shall also inform the applicant of his right to request a review of the decision and of the time within which such a request must be made (see section 202).
"(6) Notice required to be given to a person under this section shall be given in writing and, if not received by him, shall be treated as having been given to him if it is made available at the authority's office for a reasonable period for collection by him or on his behalf."
188.— Interim duty to accommodate in case of apparent priority need.
"(1) If the local housing authority have reason to believe that an applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance and have a priority need, they shall secure that accommodation is available for his occupation pending a decision as to the duty (if any) owed to him under the following provisions of this Part. (1A) But if the local housing authority have reason to believe that the duty under section 193(2) may apply in relation to an applicant in the circumstances referred to in section 195A(1), they shall secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation pending a decision of the kind referred to in subsection (1) regardless of whether the applicant has a priority need.
"(2) The duty under this section arises irrespective of any possibility of the referral of the applicant's case to another local housing authority (see sections 198 to 200).
"(3) The duty ceases when the authority's decision is notified to the applicant, even if the applicant requests a review of the decision (see section 202).
The authority may secure that accommodation is available for the applicant's occupation pending a decision on a review."
"193.— Duty to persons with priority need who are not homeless intentionally.
"(1) This section applies where the local housing authority are satisfied that an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, and are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally.
"(2) Unless the authority refer the application to another local housing authority (see section 198), they shall secure that accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant.
"(3) The authority are subject to the duty under this section until it ceases by virtue of any of the following provisions of this section.
"(5) The local housing authority shall cease to be subject to the duty under this section if—
(a) the applicant, having been informed by the authority of the possible consequence of refusal or acceptance and of the right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation, refuses an offer of accommodation which the authority are satisfied is suitable for the applicant,
(b) that offer of accommodation is not an offer of accommodation under Part 6 or a private rented sector offer, and
(c) the authority notify the applicant that they regard themselves as ceasing to be subject to the duty under this section.
"(6) The local housing authority shall cease to be subject to the duty under this section if the applicant—
(a) ceases to be eligible for assistance,
(b) becomes homeless intentionally from the accommodation made available for his occupation,
(c) accepts an offer of accommodation under Part VI (allocation of housing), or
(cc) accepts an offer of an assured tenancy (other than an assured shorthold tenancy) from a private landlord,
(d) otherwise voluntarily ceases to occupy as his only or principal home the accommodation made available for his occupation.
"(7) The local housing authority shall also cease to be subject to the duty under this section if the applicant, having been informed of the possible consequence of refusal or acceptance and of his right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation, refuses a final offer of accommodation under Part 6.
"(7AA) The authority shall also cease to be subject to the duty under this section if the applicant, having been informed in writing of the matters mentioned in subsection (7AB)–
(a) accepts a private rented sector offer, or
(b) refuses such an offer."
"206.— Discharge of functions by local housing authorities.
"(1) A local housing authority may discharge their housing functions under this Part only in the following ways—
(a) by securing that suitable accommodation provided by them is available,
(b) by securing that he obtains suitable accommodation from some other person, or
(c) by giving him such advice and assistance as will secure that suitable accommodation is available from some other person.
"(2) A local housing authority may require a person in relation to whom they are discharging such functions—
(a) to pay such reasonable charges as they may determine in respect of accommodation which they secure for his occupation (either by making it available themselves or otherwise), or
(b) to pay such reasonable amount as they may determine in respect of sums payable by them for accommodation made available by another person."
THE PRINCIPAL ISSUE – THE PROPER CONSTRUCTION OF SECTION 188 OF THE ACT
"Where – [the housing authority] are satisfied – that he is homeless, and that he has a priority need, but (b) they are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally their duty subject to section 5 below, is to secure that accommodation becomes available'.
"What would have been the correct approach? It would have been this. In July 1981, Mr Chambers was homeless and had a priority need for accommodation. As the council accepted, he was not then intentionally homeless, so they were under a duty to secure that accommodation became available for his occupation. That is provided by Section 4(5). Their duty could be performed inter alia by "making available to him accommodation", in accordance with Section 6. By "accommodation" is meant "appropriate accommodation": see Parr v Wyre Borough Council (1982) 2 HLR 71, in the Court of Appeal.
"If 48 Padbury House was not appropriate accommodation, the council's offer did not amount to the performance of its duty. But if, as the council contends, the accommodation was appropriate, their duty was performed by making the offer. They were obliged to do no more. The fact that Mr Chambers refused would be neither here nor there.
"When he returned in June 1982, the council should not have said that he was an intentionally homeless person to whom they owed no duty. Taking the view they did of the unreasonableness of his refusal the previous year, they should have said that he was a person who had become unintentionally homeless and to whom they had owed a duty which had been performed. Had they said this, their decision would have been unimpeachable."
"(2) Where [the local housing authority] are satisfied that he has a priority need and are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally, they shall, unless they notify another local housing authority in accordance with section 67 (referral of application on grounds of local connection) secure that accommodation becomes available for his occupation."
"By securing an offer of suitable accommodation, they would have fulfilled their statutory duty under section 65(2) and 69(1)(b) of the Act: see R v Westminster City Council ex p. Chambers (1982) 6 H.L.R. 24 and R v Ealing London Borough Council ex p. McBain  1 W.L.R. 1351."
"Nothing I have said affects the ordinary rule, which is both lawful and convenient, that a housing authority fulfils its statutory duty under Part III of the Housing Act 1985 by making a single offer of suitable accommodation, subject only to a subsequent change of circumstances."
The Position in the Present Case