Haile v Waltham Forest London Borough

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeLord Neuberger,Lord Carnwath,Lord Reed,Lady Hale,Lord Clarke
Judgment Date20 May 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] UKSC 34

[2015] UKSC 34

THE SUPREME COURT

Easter Term

On appeal from: [2014] EWCA Civ 792

before

Lord Neuberger, President

Lady Hale, Deputy President

Lord Clarke

Lord Reed

Lord Carnwath

Haile
(Appellant)
and
London Borough of Waltham Forest
(Respondent)

Appellant

Kerry Bretherton Laura Tweedy

(Instructed by Hackney Community Law Centre)

Respondent

Andrew Arden QC Robert Brown

(Instructed by London Borough of Waltham Forest Legal and Democratic Services)

Heard on 29 January 2015

Lord Reed

(with whom Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale and Lord Clarke agree)

1

The question in this case is whether the appellant falls within the scope of section 193 of the Housing Act 1996 as amended, which applies, by virtue of subsection (1), where the local housing authority are satisfied that "an applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, and are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally". In such a case, section 193(2) requires the authority to secure that accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant. In the present case, there is no doubt that the appellant is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need. The question is whether the authority were entitled to be satisfied that she became homeless intentionally.

2

The appellant surrendered her tenancy of a bedsitting room in a hostel in Leyton on 25 October 2011, as she was unhappy about smells in the hostel. She moved into temporary accommodation in King's Cross. That arrangement came to an end during November 2011, when she was asked to leave because the house was over-crowded. On 24 November 2011 she applied to the respondent authority for accommodation as a homeless person under the 1996 Act. She was provided with interim accommodation in Ilford, where she remained until 23 December 2011. She was then moved to interim accommodation in Leytonstone, where she still remains until after the decisions which are challenged. On 15 February 2012 she had a baby daughter. If she had still been living in the hostel in Leyton, she would then have had to leave it, as only single persons were permitted to reside there. On 1 August 2012 the authority decided that they were satisfied that she was homeless, eligible for assistance and had a priority need, but were also satisfied that she became homeless intentionally. On 31 January 2013, a decision to the same effect was made by a review officer on a review under section 202 of the 1996 Act. The basis of the decision was that the applicant had surrendered her tenancy of the room in the hostel in October 2011 and in consequence had ceased to occupy accommodation which was available for her occupation, and which it would have been reasonable for her to continue to occupy until she gave birth. Her contention that it would not have been reasonable for her to continue to occupy the accommodation because of an unpleasant smell was rejected. Her contention that she would have had to leave the hostel in any event when she gave birth was regarded as irrelevant. There was no finding as to the date on which the appellant became homeless.

3

The issue raised in the appeal is, in substance, whether the review officer was entitled to be satisfied that the appellant became homeless intentionally, on the basis that she deliberately gave up the accommodation in the hostel, given that she would have been homeless in any event by the time her application was considered. In that regard, it is contended that the birth of the baby broke the chain of causation between the appellant's leaving the hostel and her state of homelessness when the application was considered. In relation to that issue, the court is invited to depart, if necessary, from the decision of the House of Lords in Din v Wandsworth London Borough Council [1983] 1 AC 657 under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977.

The homelessness legislation and its construction
4

It may be helpful to begin by summarising how the legislation in relation to homelessness, and its construction by the courts, have evolved, so that the decision in Din can be placed in its historical context. The following summary, so far as concerned with the legislation, is largely borrowed from the speech of Baroness Hale of Richmond in Birmingham City Council v Ali [2009] UKHL 36; [2009] 1 WLR 1506 and the judgment of Lord Hodge in R (N) v Lewisham London Borough Council [2014] UKSC 62; [2014] 3 WLR 1548.

5

Following the Second World War, Part III of the National Assistance Act 1948 placed local authorities under a duty to provide temporary accommodation to persons who were in urgent need of it. The 1977 Act replaced the provisions of the 1948 Act with a regime which also provided longer term accommodation for the homeless. Important aspects of that regime survive in the 1996 Act. In particular, the 1977 Act introduced the concept of priority need (section 2), the obligation of the authority to provide temporary accommodation while they make inquiries as to whether the applicant is homeless and in priority need and whether he or she became homeless intentionally (section 3), and the duties, depending on the results of that investigation, to provide advice and appropriate assistance, to provide temporary accommodation for a period to give a reasonable opportunity to secure other accommodation, or to secure that accommodation becomes available for occupation (section 4).

6

The 1977 Act was consolidated into wider housing legislation in Part III of the Housing Act 1985. As I shall explain, that in turn was amended by the Housing and Planning Act 1986, so as to harmonise the definitions of homelessness and intentional homelessness. The 1985 Act, as amended, was repealed by the 1996 Act, which in Part VII provides the current statutory regime for dealing with homelessness. In particular, when an applicant applies for accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation (section 183), the local housing authority carry out inquiries to satisfy themselves whether he or she is eligible for assistance and, if so, what if any duty is owed (section 184). There is an interim duty to accommodate under section 188.

7

If, following the section 184 inquiry, the local housing authority are satisfied that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance but homeless intentionally, section 190 applies: see section 190(1). The authority's duty, if the applicant has a priority need, is to secure that accommodation is available for a period to give a reasonable opportunity of securing accommodation for occupation, and to provide advice and assistance in attempts to secure accommodation: section 190(2). If not satisfied that the applicant has a priority need, the authority's duty is confined to the provision of advice and assistance: section 190(3). If the authority are satisfied that the applicant is homeless and eligible for assistance, not satisfied that he or she is intentionally homeless, but also not satisfied that he or she has a priority need, the duty is again to provide advice and assistance: section 192. If, on the other hand, the authority are satisfied that the applicant is homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need and are not satisfied that he or she became homeless intentionally, section 193 applies: see section 193(1). The authority are then under a duty to secure that accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant: section 193(2.). The question in the present case is whether the appellant falls within the scope of section 190(1) or section 193(1).

8

The 1977 Act, Part III of the 1985 Act, and Part VII of the 1996 Act, have all given rise to numerous difficulties of interpretation. In particular, the meaning attributed to some of the fundamental concepts employed, such as "homeless" and "accommodation", has evolved over time as the result of judicial decisions and legislative amendment.

9

To summarise matters which I shall later discuss in greater detail, the case of Din, in 1981, concerned the definition of "becoming homeless intentionally", in section 17(1) of the 1977 Act. That definition required the authority to consider whether an applicant for assistance under the Act had ceased to occupy accommodation which was available for his occupation, and which it would have been reasonable for him to continue to occupy, in consequence of his own deliberate act or failure to act. The House of Lords decided by a majority that the questions whether the accommodation was available, and whether it would have been reasonable to continue to occupy it, were to be considered as at the time when the applicant ceased to occupy it. It followed that, if the definition was satisfied as at that time, it was irrelevant to that question to consider whether, if the applicant had not ceased to occupy the accommodation, it would have ceased to be available for his occupation by the time of the authority's inquiry. I can say at once that, in relation to those matters, the decision appears to me to have been correct and to remain good law. That does not however resolve the issue in the present case, as I shall explain.

10

Importantly for present purposes, all the members of the House also considered that there must be a continuing causal connection between the deliberate conduct referred to in section 17(1) and the applicant's homelessness at the time of the inquiry. It will be necessary to return to the relevant passages in the speeches.

11

In relation to the nature of the causal link, Lord Lowry described the connection in terms of continuing homelessness. On his approach, homelessness was a condition which necessarily continued unless and until non-temporary or "settled" accommodation was obtained. That approach was however disapproved by the House of Lords in the case of R v Brent London Borough Council, Ex p Awua [1996] AC 55, decided under the 1985 Act. Applying the...

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