R (Faizi) v Brent LBC (Admin Court, 17.6.15) is only available as a Lawtel note and all may become clear once a transcript is obtained, but it is a very confusing little case.
At the risk of overly simplifying , in England, homelessness is governed by Pt.7, Housing Act 1996. Where a person applies for assistance under Pt.7, the authority have to assess the application to see what, if any, duty is owed. Ideally, the applicant wants the authority to decide that (what is colloquially known as the) full duty is owed under s.193. This is the duty to secure that accommodation is available to the applicant (s.193(2)). That duty comes to an end, however, if inter alia, the applicant rejects an offer of suitable accommodation (s.193(5)).
Now, an applicant has a right to challenge a decision that the duty has come to an end. That can be done first by way of an internal review of the decision by the authority (s.202) and then by way of appeal to the county court (s.204).
During this process the applicant has a range of different accommodation possibilities. During enquiries, s.188(1) provides a duty to provide interim accommodation to the applicant if the authority have reason to believe they are eligible for assistance, homeless and in priority need. There is a power to provide accommodation pending a s.202 review (s.188(3)) and a refusal to exercise that power is capable of challenge by judicial review. Finally, there is a further power to provide accommodation pending the s.204 appeal (s.204(4)) and any failure to do so can be challenged in the county court (s.204A).
Which brings me to the present case. Ms Faizi applied for assistance under Pt.7, 1996 Act. It appears that Brent accepted that the full duty was owed and provided temporary accommodation pending a final offer. When an offer was finally made, it appears that she rejected it because, in the time between application and offer, her children had joined her and, presumably, she did not consider it suitable.
She exercised her right to a review (s.202) and it seems accommodation was provided pending review. That review went against her and she appealed to the county court. At that stage, Brent declined to provide further accommodation.
Now, as I understand the statutory scheme, she should have utilised s.204A and gone to the county court. But instead she issued JR proceedings, contending that once an authority had accepted a duty under s.193(2), it could not cease providing accommodation until the conclusion of any appeal rights. She obtained an interim order and the note appears to be the hearing of the return date.
Hadon-Cave J refused permission for JR and interim relief. It was clear that the duty in s.193(2) ended immediately upon refusal of a suitable offer (s.193(5)). There were powers, not duties, to provide accommodation pending review or appeal. The applicant’s case required re-writing the 1996 Act.
Now, that’s fine as far as it goes. But why didn’t he just say “look, you’re in the wrong court – s.204A tells you that this issue goes to the county court”? Perhaps he did. Perhaps there is a greater subtlety to the application than the note suggests. I await the transcript with interest.