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Homelessness Judicial Review with interim relief granted – success for housing lawyers Retha Khan and Edward Sharp

Retha Khan’s client (KG) was notified of the section 184 decision letter finding that she is not in priority need for housing in accordance to s.189(1) Housing Act 1996. The authority, Westminster City Council, found that KG was not vulnerable as a result of mental illness or any other special reason.

Westminster Council had accepted the relief duty and accommodated KG at a shared accommodation. However, KG was required to leave the accommodation on 18 August 2020 due to her erratic behaviour after a decline in her mental health.

On 18 August 2020, the HJA Housing Team requested a review and sought accommodation pending review. Initial representations had been sent explaining that KG was vulnerable suffering from multi-personality disorder and bipolar and required to take a high dosage of medication. She also is fighting a long and hard battle with alcohol and drug abuse over the years and now suffers from mild brain damage.

Following our intervention, KG’s accommodation was initially extended for seven days leading to 25 September 2020.

On 24 August 2020, a voids officer emailed us to confirm that accommodation pending review would not be provided. A pre-action protocol letter before claim was prepared and sent to Westminster, on 25 August 2020, expressing that her temporary accommodation was ending unlawfully and therefore requesting that accommodation be provided pending review. Westminster responded to confirm that KG’s accommodation would be extended till 4 September 2020.

Westminster City Council formally rejected HJA’s request for accommodation pending review on 3 September 2020. This was an appalling response as the authority clearly had new information before them including an updated GP letter confirming that our client was “high risk” and “clearly vulnerable” yet they failed to take this into consideration.

Edward Sharp took immediate action and sought assistance from Counsel at Doughty Street Chambers. Mr Lindsey Johnson, barrister assisted in preparing a claim for a s.188 judicial review.

On 7 September 2020, an urgent application for judicial review was issued seeking interim relief. That same day, the Honourable Mr Justice Julian Knowles heard our application for interim relief.

The judge ruled in the favour of HJA’s client. The Honourable Mr Justice Julian Knowles ordered Westminster Council to provide KG with suitable accommodation pending her final resolution of her application for judicial review. The rationale for this was clear – our client has a long-standing diagnosis of personality disorder and bipolar, for which she takes a high dosage of medication. She also has a history of alcohol and drug abuse and suffered brain damage as a consequence. Sadly, she also has a history of suicidal attempts.

Given KG’s vulnerability interim relief was granted. This was a positive outcome for all those involved, especially as the matter had required immediate action from the onset of being instructed.

The substantive application is now awaiting a permission hearing.

Our Housing team have a strong track record in successfully challenging unlawful decisions made by local authorities. They regularly advise individuals who are dealing with homelessness and other complex housing matters.