This is a brief note on a recent High Court appeal dealing with the issue of costs on withdrawn s.204 appeals (Unichi v LB Southwark 16/10/13-from a Lawtel summary, not on Bailii).
The Local Authority discharged its duty towards Ms U under s.193(6)(b) of the Housing Act 1996 after she had been evicted from her temporary accommodation for rent arrears. The finding of intentional homelessness was reviewed and during the review process, Ms U’s solicitors alerted the Council to the fact that Ms U had learning difficulties and that a psychologist’s report would be obtained. The review was completed before the report was issued and Ms U appealed to the County Court. The Council offered to carry out a fresh review, the appeal was withdrawn but there was no agreement about costs. The County Court judge made no order because the Council had put forward a number of cogent reasons why the appeal might have failed.
Andrews J allowed an appeal on the costs issue. Following M v Croydon, the starting point where the applicant had obtained the relief she was seeking was that she was entitled to her costs. It was not appropriate for the judge to enquire into the reasons for compromise or the merits of the appeal. There were no special circumstances justifying a departure from the general rule. It might have been otherwise if the Authority had been taken by surprise by the report but that was not the case here as the Authority had been placed on notice of it and it was relevant to the issues raised on review.
Comment: this case follows on neatly from the case of Emezie which we reported a few months ago (our note here). The Emezie judgement followed a similar course in the context of judicial review and it is helpful to see the same principles derived from M v Croydon being applied to s.204 appeals.