LAW REPORT: Impecuniosity irrelevant to rent benefit

LAW REPORT 28 February 1996

Regina v Waltham Forest London Borough Council, ex parte Holder and another; Queen's Bench Division (Mr Justice Brooke); 9 February 1996

A housing authority, when fixing a claimant's eligible housing benefit by reference to suitable alternative accommodation, was entitled to ignore the fact that such accommodation was not financially available to a claimant who was unable to pay the deposit which was usually required.

Mr Justice Brooke dismissed applications by Michelle Holder and Novia Samuels for judicial review of the decision of the council's housing benefit review board that their housing benefit entitlement was half the rent payable at their accommodation.

The applicants, who had no jobs and claimed income support, looked for accommodation but found that most landlords required a deposit and/or rent in advance which they were unable to pay. Eventually they found bed-and-breakfast accommodation sharing a double room for pounds 84 each per week. They applied to the council for housing benefit. Their housing benefit was assessed as pounds 42 each per week following the rent officer's valuation.

They applied to a housing benefit review board, contending that the rent of pounds 84 was not unreasonably high because there was no other suitable alternative accommodation as they were unable to pay deposits and many landlords were reluctant to let to people on income support.

The housing benefit review board declined to take into account considerations relating to the applicants' impecuniosity, decided there was available cheaper suitable alternative accommodation and that the council's decision was in accordance with regulation 11(2)(c) of the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987, which allows the housing authority who considers that the rent is unreasonably high in comparison with the rent payable in suitable alternative accommodation elsewhere to reduce the claimant's eligible rent by such amount as it considers appropriate.

Richard Drabble QC and Nathalie Lieven (T.V. Edwards) for the applicants; Noah Weiniger (Borough Solicitor) for the council.

Mr Justice Brooke said that regulation 11(3) which dealt with vulnerable persons introduced the concept that suitable cheaper alternative accommodation must be "available", so that accommodation was not regarded as available if there was little or no possiblity of the claimant being able to obtain it, for example if it could only be obtained on payment of a large deposit which the claimant did not possess.

That concept of availability was not present in regulation 11(2). The authority's attention was focused primarily on a comparison between the accommodation occupied by the claimant and the relevant features of "suitable alternative accommodation". It was to have regard to the size and rent of suitable alternative accommodation.

Paragraph 11(6)(a) identified two matters of which the authority must take account in deciding what was suitable alternative accommodation. The first was the nature of the accommodation and facilities having regard to the age and state of health of the claimant and any members of his fam-ily. Nothing was said about the claimant's pecuniosity or impecuniosity.

The second focused on the terms of the letting. The authority must be satisfied that accommodation with a comparable level of security of tenure did exist.

There was nothing in regulation 11(2) or 11(6)(a) to suggest that, in the ordinary case to which regulation 11(3) did not apply, the authority must go further and consider whether the alternative accommodation was financially available before it could be regarded as suitable.

It would have been only too easy for the Secretary of State to introduce a test that alternative accommodation must be financially available to any applicant. The Secretary of State had chosen, however, not to go down that route in the present context.

An authority, when making the necessary comparison with suitable alternative accommodation, need not concern itself with any financial consideration, other than the question of rent, which might make parts of the relevant property market wholly or relatively inaccessible to applicants. If satisfied that there was an ascertainable market rent and an active market, then the authority was entitled to leave the applicants to take their chance of finding accommodation in that market. The applications were dismissed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent