Sioned Wyn Roberts, Associate in our Housing Law team has recently successfully settled a s.204 Housing Act 1996 appeal on behalf of a woman in temporary accommodation experiencing domestic violence.
In this case the client had been living in her temporary accommodation for a number of years and had no statutory right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation now that she was experiencing and wishing to flee from domestic violence. The time to request a review of suitability of such accommodation is 21 days from the offer of accommodation.
However local authorities must keep the issue of suitability under review. We initially therefore asked that they make a new decision of suitability in light of the domestic violence, which would then carry its own statutory right to review.
The local authority in this case decided to conduct a statutory review. They decided that the property was suitable and we brought an appeal on a point of law under s.204 Housing Act 1996. The primary ground was that the authority had not complied with the review regulations, i.e. “minded to” notification.
These regulations state that if, on reviewing its decision, the reviewing officer considers that there is a deficiency or irregularity in its original decision (in this case the original offer of accommodation) or the way in which it was made, but still wishes to make an adverse finding, they must notify the applicant that they are minded to make an adverse decision and the reasons why, and allow representations to made before a final decision is reached.
This case successfully argued that a decision can become deficient retrospectively by the occurrence of domestic violence.
With thanks to counsel Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Gray’s Inn.
Solace Women’s Aid, a national domestic abuse helpline, commented: “This case highlights the dangers of current homelessness processes that place obstructions in the path of women fleeing violence and abuse, forcing them to remain in [temporary] accommodation that puts them at continued risk of harm from their abusers. This positive result will help more women experiencing domestic violence in temporary accommodation.
We greatly value the work that Hodge Jones and Allen are doing in supporting Solace clients and advancing housing law to protect and improve the experiences of vulnerable women facing homelessness in England.”