Law Report: Housing authority's legal duty to homeless was discharged: Regina v Northavon District Council, Ex parte Smith. House of Lords (Lord Templeman, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Mustill, Lord Slynn of Hadley and Lord Nolan). 14 July 1994.

A housing authority, which had decided in accordance with its duties under the Housing Act 1985 that an applicant, who resided with his children, was intentionally homeless and therefore not entitled to permanent accommodation, could not be required to provide accommodation to prevent the children from becoming homeless pursuant to a request from the social services authority under section 27 of the Children Act 1989, if to do so would prejudice the housing authority's discharge of its functions, since section 27 did not enlarge or amend the housing authority's powers or duties under the Housing Act.

The House of Lords allowed the district council's appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision ((1994) QB 248) and restored Mr Anthony Lester QC's dismissal of the application for judicial review.

In October 1992 the district council, a housing authority, decided that the applicant, who resided with his wife and five children, had become intentionally homeless. It provided temporary accommodation under the Housing Act 1985 until January 1993. Although the applicant was to be given a reasonable preference under section 22, he could not be given priority without destroying the fairness of the allocation of accommodation, and he was entered on the waiting list.

The applicant applied under section 17(1) of the Children Act 1989 to the social services authority, Avon County Council, for assistance in cash for a deposit on private rental accommodation. The social services authority declined to exercise its powers under section 17 but instead, invoking its powers under section 27 of the Children Act, requested the district council to provide assistance in housing.

The district council replied in January 1993 that it could not comply with the request for help because to do so would 'unduly prejudice', within section 27, the discharge of its functions as a housing authority. The applicant applied for judicial review of the decision letter.

Anthony Scrivener QC and Timothy Straker (Sharpe Pritchard for District Council Solicitor) for the district council; Derek Wood QC, Jan Luba and David Watkinson (Bobbetts MacKan, Bristol) for the applicant.

LORD TEMPLEMAN said that the social services authority would have been aware that the district council could not provide permanent accommodation for the applicant without breach of the rules which had been devised to allocate accommodation fairly to people on the waiting list.

In the present case, the authorities had entered into a sensible arrangement. The social services authority put down cash as a deposit for rent and the current rent was paid by the district council who recovered 90 per cent from central government because the applicant was entitled to housing benefit. The present case turned on the interaction between two statutory codes. Where one and the same authority was both housing and social services authority, the same problems of intercation would arise.

Nothing in section 27 enlarged or otherwise amended the powers or duties of the requested authorities under other statutes.

Section 27(2) expressly provided that the request must be compatible with the requested authority's own statutory duties and obligations and must not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of its functions.

In considering an application for accommodation for the applicant and his family, the housing authority must judge the application in accordance with its duties under the Housing Act 1985. The district council's letter was a lawful response to the request made by the social services authority.

Section 27 imposed on the district council a duty to ascertain whether it could, without unduly prejudicing the discharge of its functions, provide a solution or co-operate in a securing a solution to prevent the children from suffering from lack of accommodation. Failing any acceptable solution it would have been the duty of the social services authority to protect the children by providing assistance towards the accommodation.

In the event the district council was able to co-operate.

LORD JAUNCEY, LORD MUSTILL and LORD SLYNN agreed and LORD NOLAN concurred.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A long-established, technology rich ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing digital marketing ...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Quality Supervisor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Midland's leading Solar Panels provi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable