Law Report: Council's housing offer not sufficient: Regina v Wycombe District Council, Ex parte Hazeltine - Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Lloyd, Lord Justice Hirst and Mr Justice Peter Gibson), 3 March 1993

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A council which made an offer of accommodation to a homeless person on the basis of incomplete information had not discharged its duty to offer suitable accommodation to a homeless person under the Housing Act 1985. The homeless person was therefore not required to either accept or reject the offer.

The Court of Appeal declared that the council had not fulfilled its statutory duty to the applicant.

The council, pursuant to its statutory duty under sections 65(2) and 69(i)(b) of the Housing Act 1985 offered the applicant, a homeless person in priority need, a house in a neighbourhood which she thought would aggravate her children's behaviourial problems. The council's officer thought that might be a relevant factor and asked the applicant to obtain medical evidence about her children's problems. However, the applicant was required to either accept or refuse the accommodation offered, and she refused it.

The council subsequently considered the medical evidence and decided that its offer of accommodation was reasonable and therefore it had fulfilled its duty under the Act. Andrew Arden QC and Gordon Wignall (Bruce Lance & Co, High Wycombe) for the applicant; Michael Beloff QC and Jonathan Goulding (Council Solicitor) for the council.

LORD JUSTICE LLOYD said that the council was entitled to adopt the policy of making one reasonable offer of accommodation only to fulfil its statutory duty. The decision whether accommodation was suitable was one for the council alone. If an offer of accommodation was to operate as a discharge of the council's obligation, the offer must be one which, when it fell to be accepted or rejected, was made in the light of all the relevant circumstances.

Despite the council's awareness that the medical evidence could be relevant, the applicant was required to accept or refuse the offer before the potentially relevant factor had been assessed. It could not be fair that the applicant should be required to commit herself before knowing whether a further offer would be made. Since the council's offer was made on incomplete information, it was not a proper offer and not capable of discharging the council's duty under the Act.

Lord Justice Hirst and Mr Justice Peter Gibson agreed.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister