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07/11/2016

New facts, ex-marriages and homeless applications

Abdulrahman, R (on the application of) v The London Borough of Hillingdon [2016] EWHC 2647 (Admin)

This was  judicial review of Hillingdon’s refusal to accept a homeless application from Ms A.

Ms A and her then husband had made a joint homeless application to Hillingdon, at eviction from a private sector tenancy. The household was Mr & Mrs A and their nine children. They were found to be intentionally homeless  because Mr A “had obtained the tenancy by providing false information as to the size of his family, and that he was in breach of the tenancy agreement as the house was not kept in good repair”. A review upheld the decision. During this time, the family were accommodated in bed and breakfast accommodation.

In March 2014, Ms A’s husband left the UK for Somalia and the marriage was ended. The bed and breakfast accommodation was terminated. After moving out

“various members of the Claimant’s family have lived with different friends and relations. The Claimant’s two youngest daughters have stayed with her at various different places. Two of the Claimant’s sons live with a family friend in Harrow. The Claimant’s two older daughters have returned to Somalia to live with the Claimant’s sister. The Claimant’s other three children are not dependent upon her, one has gone to Kenya to live with his uncle.”

In March 2016, Ms A made a homeless application to Hillingdon. Hillingdon refused the application, and then a 5 further approaches in March and April 2016. Ms A instructed solicitors who sent a pre-action letter. Hillingdon replied:

i) “Whilst this authority accepts that your client’s marriage has ended, the Council does not accept that this is an intervening change of circumstances which has caused a new instance of homelessness justifying a new application.”

ii) “…………our client’s decision is compliant with the court’s guidance in Tower Hamlets LBC v Rika Begum EWCA Civ 340. The facts of your client’s case are exactly the same as they were when she made a joint application with her husband in 2013. The reason for homelessness remains the same. We do not accept that a reduction in the family composition merits the acceptance of a new homelessness application.”

iii) “Furthermore, the loss of temporary accommodation is as a result of our finding that your client is homeless intentionally as opposed to the relationship ending. It is not a new instance of homelessness in itself.”

iv) “…we will not be accepting a new application from your client…”

The present claim was issued.

The High Court held:

Hillingdon had applied the correct test – whether the application was based on exactly the same facts – in reaching its decision to refuse the application.

However, the test in Rikha Begum v. Tower Hamlets LBC [2005] 1 WLR 2013 was:

that it is for an applicant making a subsequent application to identify the new facts. If an application purports to reveal new facts, but the local authority, without further investigation, concludes that the facts are not new, or are fanciful or trivial, they can reject the application. Whether facts are fanciful or trivial depends on the facts of the case.

In this case, Ms A had identified the end of her marriage and the change in the make up of her household in her application. The previous application had been joint with her ex-husband and this was in her sole name.

The reduction in the total number of people requiring housing, and in particular the number of dependent children, was a new fact which was relevant to an application for assistance under sections 183 and 184 of the Housing Act 1996.

It was for the Defendant to determine whether those facts were fanciful or trivial. In the letters dated 25th April 2016 and 26th April 2016 the Defendant did not conclude that the changes relied upon were, on the facts of the case, fanciful or trivial.

In my judgment it was irrational for the Defendant to conclude that the April 2016 application was based upon exactly the same facts as the October 2013 application. The facts were clearly different. In particular the identity of the applicant changed from a joint application from the Claimant and her husband to the Claimant alone, and the number of people seeking assistance had changed, in that assistance was no longer sought by the Claimant’s husband and three of the Claimant’s nine children. Both those facts are relevant to an application made under section 183 of the 1996 Act.

Judicial review allowed and Hillingdon’s decision quashed.

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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