Violent Conduct and Homelessness

A brief note on Hussain v LB Waltham Forest [2015] EWCA Civ 14, which concerns the definition of ‘other violence’ in s.177(1) of the Housing Act 1996.

In Yemshaw v LB Hounslow [2011] UKSC 3, the Supreme Court held that ‘violence’ under s.177(1) included behaviour which fell short of actual physical contact with the victim. The question in Hussain was whether there was any difference between ‘domestic’ and ‘other’ violence under that sub-section and whether the judgement in RB Kensington & Chelsea v Danesh [2006] EWCA Civ 1404 , where the Court of Appeal held that non-domestic violence required physical contact, was still good law.

Ms H was a single parent who lived with her daughter in a housing association property. Over a period of time, Mrs H was subjected to anti-social behaviour and harassment from the son of a neighbour,  ranging from racial abuse to threatening gestures and criminal damage. Ms H suffered from depression and the neighbour’s behaviour left her distressed and anxious. She made an application to LBWF as homeless on 12/9/2012 but the council found that it was reasonable for her to continue to occupy her accommodation in Bounds Green. The reviewing officer accepted that Ms H was suffering emotional upset and distress but concluded that the neighbour’s conduct fell short of actual violence or threats of violence that were likely to be carried out.

Underhill LJ, giving the lead judgement, held that there was a single concept of ‘violence’, of which DV was a sub-category. It would be wrong to deprive victims of neighbour harassment of the same protection that has been extended to DV victims and threatening or intimidatory behaviour may come within s.177(1) if it is of such seriousness to cause psychological harm (i.e. harm that is more than passing upset or distress-see paragraph 32). Psychological harm may therefore include a range of conditions and it is effectively a measure of the seriousness of the violence perpetrated against the victim.

The Council’s appeal was therefore dismissed and given the lapse of time since the date of the review decision, the matter was remitted to the Council for a further review to be carried out.

About SJM

SJM is partner and head of the housing and public law department at Miles and Partners LLP, based in London E1.
Posted in Homeless, Housing law - All.

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