24/11/2013

Expensive choices

One of a couple of cases on intentional homelessness and affordability of accommodation.

Noel & Anor v London Borough of Hillingdon (2103) CA (Civ Div) 21 November 2013 [Lawtel note, not on Bailii yet]

[Update 11/12/13, now on bailii]

N had applied to Hillingdon as homeless, following eviction from an assured short hold tenancy. Hillingdon found him intentionally homeless and this was upheld on review and by the County Court on a s.204 appeal. Mr N sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Mr N had been living at the house of his partner’s mother. He had then taken an assured shorthold tenancy at a rent of some £1350 per month. His total income was about £1000 per month, from benefits.  N only made small and sporadic payments of rent, and failed to keep to an agreed payment plan. N had not applied for an increase in his benefits when his partner and her child had moved in with him, and his partner had not applied for benefits. When N was evicted, arrears of rent were £14,000.

Hillingdon had found intentional homelessness on the basis that N had deliberately selected a property that was too large and too expensive for his needs, failed to apply for an extension of housing benefit and his partner had failed to apply for benefits. These acts led to his eviction for rent arrears.

N’s argument on appeal was that the Council should have considered the period when N was living at his partner’s mothers home and whether it was reasonable for him to remain there. As N could never have afforded the rent at the subsequent property, it should not have been treated as accommodation available to N at all.

The Court of Appeal were not persuaded.

Where there were multiple causes of homelessness, it was sufficient that an act or omission of N was one of them, Chishimba v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC [2013] EWCA Civ 786. An objective assessment of the likelihood that homelessness would result from N acts or omissions was required, as a question of fact for the decision maker.

The Council had determined that N’s acts and omissions, as above, had caused his eviction through rent arrears. On the failure to claim an extension of housing benefit, it was likely that this would have been awarded and would have covered the ongoing rent, avoiding eviction. N had not only failed to pay the rent, he had not even paid the amount of the housing benefit he had received, which may have avoided or delayed eviction.

The property was accommodation, as it had been open to N to either seek employment and/or increase his benefit such that the property would be affordable and thus accommodation for N.

Appeal dismissed.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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