Friday Law Report

2 July 1999 Warsame and another v Hounslow London Borough Council Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Chadwick and Mr Justice Rattee) 25 June 1999
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The Independent Online
THE COUNTY court had jurisdiction under section 204 of the Housing Act 1996 to entertain an appeal against a decision of a local housing authority made on a review under section 202 of the Act of its decision that, by reason of an applicant's refusal of an offer of permanent accommodation under Pt VI of the Act, its duty to provide the applicant with temporary accommodation as a homeless person under Pt VII of the Act had ceased.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appellants' appeal against the dismissal by the county court, on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction, of their appeal against a decision of the respondent council that it no longer owed them a duty to provide temporary accommodation.

The appellants were offered and accepted temporary housing accommodation as being unintentionally homeless with a priority need by the respondent local housing authority under section 193(2) of Pt VII of the Housing Act 1996. They were also placed on the housing register set up under Pt VI of the Act to provide permanent accommodation from the authority's housing stock.

On 27 January 1998 the authority allocated permanent accommodation to the appellants and offered them a secure tenancy under Pt VI of the Act. The appellants did not find the accommodation acceptable and refused the offer. The authority concluded that the accommodation was suitable and that it would have been reasonable for the appellants to accept it.

They notified the appellants of that decision on 5 February 1998, making it clear that they intended to treat the refusal of accommodation offered under Pt VI as a ground on which their Pt VII duty to provide temporary accomodation under section 193(2) had been brought to an end. The appellants requested a review of that decision under section 202(1). The authority accepted the request and carried out the review. On 26 February the authority notified the appellants that the decision of 5 February had been confirmed, and of their right under section 204(2) to appeal against the review decision to the county court.

The appellants lodged an appeal in the county court, but the judge dismissed the appeal on the ground that section 204, under which an appeal only lay against a decision taken under section 202, conferred no jurisdiction to entertain an appeal against a decision by a local housing authority that an applicant had acted unreasonably in refusing suitable accommodation. He held that such a decision was not reviewable under section 202(1)(b), which was only concerned with decisions about what, if any, duties were owed to a person under Pt VII.

Jan Luba and Liz Davies (Menon, Southall) for the appellants; James Findlay (Solicitor to Hounslow London Borough Council) for the authority.

Lord Justice Chadwick said that the right to request a review under section 202(1)(b) of the Housing Act 1996 arose in respect of any decision of a local housing authority as to what duty, if any, it owed to an applicant under sections 190-193 and 195-197 of the Act.

It was plain from the language used in section 202(1)(b) that a decision that an authority no longer owed such a duty because of the occurrence of some event was a decision as to what duty, if any, was owed. Although para (b) plainly applied to the question whether or not such a duty arose, the language was wholly apt to apply also to a decision that a duty once owed was owed no longer.

"Any decision" within para (b) included a decision relating to any of the factual situations which had to exist before a duty under section 193(2) could arise, and there was no reason why it should not also include a decision as to the existence of events or factual situations which would have the effect that the duty ceased to exist.

The judge's approach had failed to give due weight to the width of section 202(1)(b), and accordingly he had been wrong to decline jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The appropriate course would be to remit the matter to the county court.