Westminster City Council v Clarke

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Bridge of Harwich,Lord Templeman,Lord Griffiths,Lord Ackner,Lord Lowry
Judgment Date06 February 1992
Judgment citation (vLex)[1992] UKHL J0206-2
Date06 February 1992
CourtHouse of Lords

[1992] UKHL J0206-2

House of Lords

Lord Bridge of Harwich

Lord Templeman

Lord Griffiths

Lord Ackner

Lord Lowry

Lord Mayor Etc. of the City of Westminster
Clarke (A.P.)
Lord Bridge of Harwich

My Lords,


I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech of my noble and learned friend, Lord Templeman and, for the reasons which he gives, I would allow the appeal and restore the trial judge's order.

Lord Templeman

My Lords,


The appellants Westminster City Council, have provided accommodation for the respondent, Mr. Clarke, and the question is whether Mr. Clarke is a licensee or a secure tenant.


Part III of the Housing Act 1985 which begins at section 58 and ends with section 78 requires a local housing authority to provide accommodation to certain persons who are homeless and in need.


By section 58:

"(1) A person is homeless if he has no accommodation in England, Wales or Scotland.

(2) A person shall be treated as having no accommodation if there is no accommodation which he, together with any other person who normally resides with him as a member of his family …

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

( b) has an express or implied licence to occupy, … or

( c) occupies as a residence by virtue of any enactment or rule of law giving him the right to remain in occupation or restricting the right of another person to recover possession."


By section 59(1) certain homeless persons are classified as having:

"… a priority need for accommodation —

( a) a pregnant woman …;

( b) a person with whom dependent children reside …;

( c) a person who is vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness or handicap or physical disability or other special reason, …;

( d) a person who is homeless or threatened with homelessness as a result of an emergency such as flood, fire or other disaster."


By section 62:

"(1) If a person (an 'applicant') applies to a local housing authority for accommodation, … and the authority have reason to believe that he may be homeless or threatened with homelessness, they shall make such inquiries as are necessary to satisfy themselves as to whether he is homeless or threatened with homelessness.

(2) If they are so satisfied, they shall make any further inquiries necessary to satisfy themselves as to —

( a) whether he has a priority need, and

( b) whether he became homeless or threatened with homelessness intentionally;

and if they think fit they may also make inquiries as to whether he has a local connection with the district of another local housing authority … ."


Section 63 makes provision for the temporary accommodation of some applicants where the local authority is making the necessary inquiries:

"(1) If the local housing authority have reason to believe that an applicant may be homeless and have a priority need, they shall secure that accommodation is made available for his occupation pending a decision as a result of their inquiries under section 62."


On completing their inquiries under section 62 the local housing authority must decide whether the applicant is homeless, if so, whether he has a priority need, and if so, whether he became homeless intentionally and whether they propose to refer him to another local authority on grounds of local connection. By section 64 these decisions must be notified to the applicant supported by reasons. By section 65 where a local authority are satisfied that the applicant is homeless and:

"(2) … they are satisfied that he has a priority need and are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally, they shall, unless they notify another local housing authority in accordance with section 67 (referral of application on grounds of local connection), secure that accommodation becomes available for his occupation."


Section 65(3) imposes on a local housing authority a duty to house temporarily an applicant found to have a priority need but to have become homeless intentionally and also a duty to house an applicant pending a determination as to whether the conditions for the referral of the application to another local housing authority are satisfied.


The appellant Council are a local housing authority. The respondent, Ur. Clarke, satisfied the council that he was homeless, and that he had a priority need as a vulnerable person under Section 59 (1) (c) of the Act. The council were not satisfied that Mr. Clarke had become homeless intentionally and they did not refer Mr. Clarke's application for accommodation to another local housing authority. The council accepted towards Mr. Clarke the duty imposed on them by section 65(2) to "secure that accommodation becomes available for his occupation."


The Council own a terrace of houses 131-137 Cambridge Street. The premises are used by the Council as a hostel. There are 31 single rooms each with a bed and limited cooking facilities. There was originally a common room which has since been vandalised. The occupiers of the hostel are homeless single men, including men with personality disorders or physical disabilities, sometimes eccentric, sometimes frail, sometimes evicted from domestic accommodation or discharged from hospital or from prison. Experience has shown the possibility that the hostel may have to cope with an occupier who is suicidal or alcoholic or addicted to drugs. There is a warden supported by a resettlement team of social workers. The hope is that after a period of rehabilitation and supervision in the hostel, each occupier will be able to move on to permanent accommodation where he will be independent and look after himself. In the case of Mr. Clarke, the hostel was designed to be a halfway house for rehabilitation and treatment en route to an independent home. In these circumstances Mr. Clarke was provided with accommodation at the hostel pursuant to an agreement entitled "Licence to Occupy" dated 5 February 1987, addressed to Mr. Clarke and, so far as material, in the following terms:-

"Westminster City Council by this licence which is personal to you will allow you to occupy in common with the council and any other persons to whom the same right is granted accommodation at the single persons hostel at 131-137, Cambridge Street SW1 in the City of Westminster. The terms of the licence under which you agree to occupy the accommodation are set out below and the current conditions of occupation are set out hereafter …

1. This licence does not give you and is not intended to give you any of the rights or to impose upon you any of the obligations of a tenant nor does it give you the right of exclusive occupation of any particular accommodation or room which may be allotted to you or which you may be allowed to use nor does it create the relationship of landlord and tenant. The accommodation allotted to you may be changed from time to time without notice as the council directs and you may be required to share such accommodation with any other person as required by the council. Any furniture provided or services of whatever nature may be changed or withdrawn at any time.

2. The licence permits you only and not any person invited by you to occupy accommodation in common with the council whose representative may enter the accommodation at any time. You may use the accommodation as living accommodation only and not for any other purpose.

3. The council may terminate the licence at any time by giving you not less than 7 days notice in writing and you must leave at the end of that time except that if you fail to pay the charges hereinafter provided or if you break the terms of the licence or the conditions of occupation in any other way the licence may be terminated forthwith ….

Undertaking by licensees

I have read and I agree to observe the above licence and the conditions of occupation set out overleaf.

I agree to pay regularly in advance on Monday of each week the charge of £16.79 for the accommodation and for the services provided. I understand that this charge is assessed on my present financial circumstances and that the charge will be amended if the council's scale of charges is amended or if my circumstances alter.

I understand that failure to pay the weekly charge or to observe the terms of the licence or the conditions of occupation may result in the council requiring me to leave the accommodation.

Conditions of occupation

In the interest of the council and of other residents certain conditions have to be made and these conditions may be changed from time to time as the council considers necessary. You are asked to co-operate with the council's staff and in particular you are required:

(1) Not to invite any person to share the accommodation with you nor allow any person to stay overnight.

(2) To keep the accommodation allocated to you in a clean condition and to take care of all furniture, bed linen or other articles provided.

(3) To clean and leave tidy on each occasion after use by you the bathroom and toilet accommodation.

(4) To pay for any damage caused ….

(5) To be in your accommodation by not later than 11 p.m. and to ensure that visitors leave by not later than this time ….

(6) To do nothing which may cause nuisance, annoyance or discomfort to other residents and to be responsible for the behaviour of your visitors …

(10) To comply with the directions of the council's warden or other staff in charge of the hostel."


Mr. Clarke was allocated Room E on the first floor of 131 Cambridge Street. On 13 April 1988 the Council gave Mr. Clarke notice terminating his licence. The notice was issued because of complaints by residents and others that Mr. Clarke had caused nuisance and annoyance and noise. On 13 November 1988 the Council issued the summons in these proceedings for possession. Mr. Clarke, by his defence, claimed to be a "secure tenant" entitled to the protection of...

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    ...41 The surrounding circumstances include the reason why the occupier has been let into occupation. In Westminster CC v Clarke [1992] 2 AC 288 the House of Lords considered a hostel for the homeless. Mr Clarke had the sole occupation of a room in the hostel and claimed to be a secure tenant ......
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