When considering ‘general housing circumstances in the area’ under Housing Act 1996 s.177(2) on a s.202 review, can the review officer conduct a comparative exercise?
A s.204 appeal decision in Chawa v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC (Central WLondon County Court 19 July 2011), suggests that the answer is no.
MS C and her 11 year old son were living in a private rental studio flat. She applied as homeless, but K&C decided that despite the overcrowding it was reasonable for her to continue to occupy the flat. On review, the review officer upheld the decision. The review decision took into account general housing circumstances in the area, and described this as being in particular with regard to the number of households on the Council’s waiting list with even more acute overcrowding.
On s.204 appeal, the CJ held that while it was open to the reviewing officer to draw on their experience of overcrowding in the borough as part of the ‘general housing circumstances’, the officer could not conduct a comparative exercise and decide that the current property was reasonable for the applicant to remain in on the basis that ‘there are others worse off than you’. This was all the more so when the comparison was with those on the housing register, who by definition were in most need of housing.
Hat tip to Legal Action January Housing update for the case.