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Hodge Jones & Allen to pursue Supreme Court challenge over council decision to re-house client 50 miles away from London

  • Lawyers slam landmark Court of Appeal judgment allowing councils to move housing applicants out of their area without a detailed assessment of available properties nearby or within their boroughs
  • Our client has been made homeless again after she lost her appeal against the decision by Westminster Council to move her to Milton Keynes

Our client has vowed to pursue a Supreme Court challenge over a decision by Westminster Council to re-house her 50 miles away from friends and family, in Milton Keynes.

In a landmark decision on 22nd October 2014 the Court of Appeal refused our client’s appeal against the decision by Westminster Council. She had argued that Westminster had failed to examine all the available housing in and nearby Westminster. Our client refused the Milton Keynes offer on the grounds of unsuitability.

But Justice Moore-Bick said the council ‘cannot be criticized’ for not having expressly referred to the availability of housing closer than Milton Keynes when it reviewed our client’s case. He said it was not necessary for Westminster to explain in detail what other accommodation was available. He ruled the borough was allowed to take ‘a broad range of factors’ into account, including the ‘pressures’ on the council, in deciding what housing was available.

Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, will be pursuing a challenge in the Supreme Court. He said: “This judgment could have dire consequences for vulnerable families across the country. It gives the green light for councils to engage in social cleansing of the poor on a mass scale. Council tenants are being threatened with homelessness unless they agree to uproot themselves from communities they’ve lived in for years”.

Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA) will now be applying directly to the Supreme Court for permission to overturn the Court of Appeal decision. HJA believe the judgment is fundamentally flawed and contrary to the Housing Act which requires councils to house applicants within their local housing authority in so far as reasonably practicable. Our client is also represented by barristers, Jan Luba QC from Garden Court Chambers and Lindsay Johnson from Doughty Street Chambers.

In November 2012, our client was evicted from her home due to a build up of rent arrears arising from Government cuts to housing benefit. Our client was offered accommodation in Milton Keynes in January 2013, but did not accept the offer on the grounds of unsuitability and pursued a review of the Council’s decision through the courts.

Following the Court of Appeal decision, our client was yesterday made homeless again after Westminster Council ceased to provide her with temporary accommodation. She is urgently seeking temporary accommodation with friends nearby.

Jayesh Kunwardia said: “There was no evidence to suggest that Westminster had looked to find accommodation in Westminster or closer to it”.

London Councils have been heavily criticised for moving tenants out of their local areas in response to cuts in housing benefit and rising rents. Figures released earlier this year found that 21% of households in temporary accommodation were living outside their local authority area, an increase of 36% on the previous year. Of those living outside their council area, 93% were from London boroughs.* Statistics released under a Freedom of Information request earlier this year revealed that over 3000 tenants had been moved out of Westminster by the council.**

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Notes to Editors

  • Our client applied as homeless to Westminster Council in November 2012. The Council accepted a duty to house her and offered her accommodation in Milton Keynes. She did not accept the offer on the grounds of unsuitability. She had lived in Westminster for over four years and had many friends who provided her support on account of her medical problems.
  • There was a review in relation to the Council’s decision followed by an appeal which came before His Honour Judge Hornby in the Central London County Court on 31 October 2013. The County Court Judge recognised the case as a “close run thing as to whether this could be said to be an unreasonable decision” but ruled the Council’s decision was not unlawful. In December 2013, our client issued her appeal to the Court of Appeal.
  • *CLG Housing Statistical Release, June 2014
  • **FoI request to Westminster Council, June 2014
  • Hodge Jones & Allen is well known for taking on landmark legal cases. In 2013 they successfully won a case at the Supreme Court against the Ministry of Defence, allowing families of soldiers killed in Iraq to sue the government for damages under the Human Rights Act for failing to equip troops properly.
  • Hodge Jones & Allen has 200 staff based in Euston NW1.

Contact

To speak to Jayesh Kunwardia from Hodge Jones & Allen and for further information please contact David de Menezes from the Hodge Jones & Allen Media Team on 07900 497 024 or daviddemenezes@lawprofile.co.uk