Gloucester City Council v Miles

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE PARKER,Mr JUSTICE PARK,LORD JUSTICE STEPHENSON
Judgment Date20 Feb 1985
Judgment citation (vLex)[1985] EWCA Civ J0220-1
Docket Number85/0059

[1985] EWCA Civ J0220-1

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

(DIVISIONAL COURT)

(MR. JUSTICE MANN)

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

Lord Justice Stephenson

Lord Justice Parker

and

Mr. Justice Park

85/0059

In the Matter of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1971

Between:
The Council of the City of Gloucester
Appellant
and
Christine Georgina Miles
Respondent

MR. D. FLETCHER (instructed by Mr. H.R.T. Shackleton, Chief Executive Officer, City of Gloucester) appeared on behalf of the Appellant

MR. R. GORDON (instructed by Messrs. Whiteman Brotherton & Co, Solicitors, Gloucester) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

LORD JUSTICE PARKER
1

In this judgment all references to sections are references to sections of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977.

2

The appellants are a housing authority within the meaning of that Act. On 28th July 1981 the respondent applied to them for accommodation for herself and her children. Upon such an application being made, if the appellants had reason to believe that she might be homeless or threatened with homelessness it became their duty under s.3(l) to make appropriate inquiries, which inquiries are defeined by s.3(2), which provides:

"In subsection (1) above 'appropriate inquiries' means—

(a) such inquiries as are necessary to satisfy the authority whether the person who applied to them is homeless or threatened with homelessness, and

(b) if the authority are satisfied that he is homeless or threatened with homelessness, any further inquiries necessary to satisfy them—

(i) whether he has a priority need, and

(ii) whether he became homeless or threatened with homelessness intentionally".

3

If the appellants also had reason to believe that the respondent might have a priority need it became their further duty by s.3(5) to secure that accommodation was made available to her pending any decision which they might make as a result of their inquiries.

4

The appellants did have reason to believe both that the respondent might be homeless and that she might have a priority need. Pursuant to their duties they accordingly instituted inquiries and provided her with accommodation pending their decision.

5

That decision was communicated by letter dated 30th September 1981. Although the letter does not in terms say so, the appellants were satisfied that the respondent was homeless and that she had a priority need. These matters are indeed common ground.

6

The appellants were, however also satisfied, and this was expressly stated in the letter, that she became homeless intentionally

"due to you having abandoned a Housing Association dwelling knowing you have no other permanent accommodation to go to and without adequate and due cause".

7

The result of this last decision, if valid, was that the appellants' duty was merely to furnish the respondent with appropriate advice and assistance (S.4(2)), and temporary accommodation (S.4(3)). Had they not been satisfied that the respondent became homeless intentionally it would have been their duty to secure that accommodation became available for the occupation of the respondent and her children indefinitely (S.4(5)).

8

The principal question arising on this appeal is whether the appellants' decision that they were satisfied that the respondent became intentionally homeless can stand. Mr. Justice Mann, in the judgment appealed from, held that it could not do so and ordered that it be removed into the High Court and quashed. He did so on the narrow ground that the appellants had, in reaching their decision, failed to consider a particular matter. In this court, despite the lack of a respondent's notice, Mr. Gordon for the respondent has, with the leave of the court, sought to support the order on the further ground that the decision was bad in law.

9

A secondary question is whether, having regard to the delays, which I shall set out later, the respondent should in any event have been granted relief.

10

"Homeless" is defined by S.1 which provides:

"(1) A person is homeless for the purposes of this Act if he has no accommodation, and a person is to be treated as having no accommodation for those purposes if there is no accommodation—

  • (a) which he, together with any other person who normally resides with him as a member of his family or in circumstances in which the housing authority consider it reasonable for that person to reside with him—

    • (i) is entitled to occupy by virtue of an interest in it or of an order of a court, or

    • (ii) has, in England or Wales, an express or implied licence to occupy, or

    • (iii) has, in Scotland, a right or permission, or an implied right or permission to occupy, or

    (b) which he (together with any such persons) is occupyingas a residence by virtue of any enactment or rule of law giving him the right to remain in occupation or restricting the right of any other person to recover possession of it.

  • (2) A person is also homeless for the purposes of this Act if he has accommodation but—

    • (a) he cannot secure entry to it,".

11

It is therefore clear that a person who has accommodation which he is entitled to occupy by virtue of an interest or order of a court (for simplicity I omit the other alternatives) is not homeless and that in such a case questions of ascertaining priority need or intentional homelessness do not arise.

12

If however, a person is homeless, intentional homelessness falls to be considered and this is dealt with by S.17(l) which provides:

"Subject to subsection (3) below, for the purposes of this Act a person becomes homeless intentionally if he deliberately does or fails to do anything in consequence of which he ceases to occupy accommodation which is available for his occupation and which it would have been resonable for him to continue to occupy.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, for the purposes of this Act a person becomes threatened with homelessness intentionally if he deliberately does or fails to do anything the likely result of which is that he will be forced to leave accommodation which is available for his occupation and which it would have been reasonable for him to continue to occupy".

13

S.17 has already given rise to considerable conflict of judicial opinion and to majority decisions both in this court and in the House of Lords. This appeal concerns the application of the section to a factual situation which is not covered by any previous decision.

14

The facts fall within a narrow compass and save for one matter are not in dispute. In August 1980 the appellant and her husband became joint tenants of premises known as 10b Albert Road, Montpelier, Bristol. They occupied such premises with their children until the events shortly to be narrated. They fell into arrears with their rent but at some date the arrears were paid off by the Department of Health and Social Security and that Department thereafter paid the rent as it fell due directly to the landlords. In March 1981 the appellant's husband left her. He returned for a short time thereafter but finally left in June 1981. On 11th July 1981 the appellant left the premises vacant and went to Gloucester with her children to stay with friends. She took the keys with her. She did not tell either her landlords or the Department that she had left and the Department continued to pay the rent until 27th July. It is not known why they then ceased to do so. On 28th July the appellant applied to the respondents for accommodation for herself and her children. Prior to that time, unknown to her, the appellant's husband had returned to the premises and vandalised them to such an extent as to make them uninhabitable. The landlords had, on learning of the condition of the premises, changed the locks so that had she tried she would have been unable to gain entry. The only matter of primary fact which is or ever was in issue is whether the appellant had, prior to the vandalisation of the premises, formed an intention not to return to them. That that intention existed from 28th July onwards is not disputed.

15

The appellant's contention is that the respondent became intentionally homeless on the grounds that she left the Bristol premises, that this was a deliberate act in consequence of which she ceased to occupy those premises and that it would have been reasonable for her to continue to occupy those premises. Therefore, it is said, she became intentionally homeless. For the respondent it is contended that she became homeless not as a consequence of leaving the Bristol premises in July but in consequence of those premises being made uninhabitable by her husband's action some time between 11th and 28th July. She did not therefore become homeless intentionally.

16

The learned judge took the view that the matter turned upon the question whether the respondent had formed the intention permanently to leave or never go back to Bristol before or after the vandalisation, that the appellants had never considered this when reaching their decision, that the decision must therefore be quashed and that the matter must be reconsidered by the appellants.

17

There are two decisions on the construction of S.17 which principally fall to be considered. The first is Dyson v. Kerrier District Council, [1980] 1 Weekly Law Reports, 1205, a unanimous decision of this court. The second is Din v. Wandsworth London Borough Council, [1983] 1 Appeal Cases 657, a majority decision of the House of Lords. Both cases need to be examined in some detail.

18

In Dyson v. Kerrier Council the plaintiff obtained, on 2nd October 1978, a tenancy of a council flat in Huntingdon of which her sister had previously...

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10 cases
  • William v Wandsworth London Borough Council
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 4 May 2006
    ...of Guidance. The essential requirements, in a homelessness case, were summarised by Lord Justice Parker in City of Gloucester v Miles (1985) 17 HLR 292, 302. The review decision "must state: (a) that the authority is satisfied that the applicant for accommodation became homeless intent......
  • R v London Borough of Lambeth ex parte Walters
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 6 September 1993
    ...with this statutory duty to give reasons has been authoritatively stated in a number of cases, to wit: City of Gloucester v Miles (1985) 17 HLR 292 at 302 (per Parker LJ); R v London Borough of Tower Hamlets, ex parte Monaf (1988) 20 HLR 529 at 543 (per Purchas LJ); R v London Borough of To......
  • R v Islington London Borough Council, ex parte Hassan
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 18 January 1995
    ...ss 58(1), (2)(a), (b), (c), 60(1). Housing and Homeless Persons Act 1977. Cases referred to in judgment:City of Gloucester v Miles (1985) 17 HLR 292. Din (Taj) and Another v Wandsworth London Borough Council [1983] 1 AC 657; [1981] 3 WLR 918; [1981] 3 All ER Lambert v Ealing London Borough ......
  • The London Borough of Hillingdon (Appellants v Ricky Puhlhofer and Angela Puhlhofer (Respondents
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 24 July 1985
    ...of the Editor of the Housing Law Reports, communicated to us through counsel, to the recent case of The City of Gloucester v. Miles 17 HLR 292. In that case premises in which the applicant lived had been vandalised "to such an extent as to make them uninhabitable." This court acco......
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