A homeless man who was denied accommodation by his local authority, has won his case against the London Borough of Islington after the borough failed to follow due process, as set out in the Housing Act 1996.
The case, The Queen (on the application of Christopher Mitchell) – v – London Borough of Islington, saw Mr Mitchell bring a Judicial Review claim against the borough, challenging its decision not to provide him accommodation under Section 188 (1) of the Housing Act 1996, namely, the duty to provide accommodation pending a full decision on a homeless application.
Currently, under the relief duty, a local authority must take reasonable steps to help the homeless applicant secure that suitable accommodation becomes available for their occupation for at least 6 months. Relief duty lasts for a minimum of 56 days, and will end either automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted, or when the local authority serves a notice to end it.
Mr James Strachan QC, sitting as Deputy Judge of the High Court of Justice, ruled in favour of Mr Christopher Mitchell on the grounds that, while the borough did notify him that he was not in priority need and of his right to request a review, it failed to inform him that the local authority would not owe him a duty to provide him with accommodation after the 56 days.
Background to the case:
Mr Mitchell initially approached the London Borough of Islington as homeless, and the interim accommodation duty under section 188 was engaged at that point. Several months later (within the 56-day period), Islington sent a letter headed RE: Notification of Decision – Part VII of the Housing Act 1996, which set out Islington’s reasons for finding that Mr Mitchell was not in priority need of accommodation.
In his claim, Mr Mitchell, sought a final order that the Defendant “do forthwith secure that suitable accommodation is available for occupation by the claimant until they lawfully discharge their duty under section 189B of the 1996 Act (the initial duty owed to all eligible persons which are homeless)”
He also sought urgent consideration of his application for permission to claim judicial review and interim relief in the form of the provision of suitable accommodation. Permission to proceed was granted.
The Court found that that a Section 184 decision provided by the Council before the s.189B (2) duty has been ended, cannot end the duty to accommodate under s.188 (1).
Mr James Strachan QC held: “In my judgment, the letter from the Defendant to the Claimant dated 5 October 2019 did not provide the type of notification set out in subsection (1ZA)(b). It did notify the Claimant that the Defendant had decided that he is not in priority need and gave reasons for that decision. It also notified him of a right to request a review. It therefore satisfied the requirements of section 184(3), (5) and (6) of the 1996 Act. But it did not comply with the notification requirement set out in section 188(1ZA)(b) by failing to inform the applicant of a decision that when the authority’s section 189B(2) duty comes to end, the local authority would not owe him a duty to provide him with accommodation under section 190 or section 193 of the 1996 Act.”
Mr Mitchell was represented by Shabnam Shekarian, Solicitor of Hodge Jones & Allen and Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Grays Inn Square.
Shabnam Shekarian, Solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “An authority has a duty of care to its community and, while the Borough of Islington satisfied some of their requirements, they failed to properly inform Mr Mitchell that they would no longer provide him with the essential accommodation that he was duly in need of.
“This case is really important, as it shines a light on the importance of the legislation we have in place to protect our community, and how we communicate that to people, particularly when making decisions that will have a huge impact on that person’s quality of life.”
Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Grays Inn Square said: “Finally, some good news for homeless persons, which is especially welcome at this time when the homeless are particularly at risk because of the Covid 19 pandemic.
“The case has confirmed that a local authority’s duty to accommodate a homeless applicant under section 188(1) of the Housing Act 1996 no longer ends when the authority make a decision on a homelessness application but continues until the applicant is fully informed about the duties owed by the authority in accordance with section 188 of the Act.”
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