Oday Yabari, R (on the application of) v The Lord Mayor and Citizens of the City of Westminster (2023) EWHC 185 (Admin)
A judicial review of what was alleged to be Westminster’s failure to meet its s.188(1) duty to secure suitable accommodation and breach of Public Sector Equality Duty. It is something of a car crash, with a long background history. The key issue turns on a) the Claimant’s refusal to provide medical evidence or contact details for treating doctors, and b) the claimant’s refusal of an offer of temporary accommodation made by Westminster. The court’s findings of fact give some indication of the history and issues.
The Admin Court held that:
i) The ‘reason to believe’ threshold in s.188(1) was not necessarily cleared by simple assertion, particularly where the local authority had pre-existing information and decisions as to medical conditions and need in a ‘not reasonable to remain’ application.
I consider that the Housing Act 1996 permits housing authorities to seek to understand if there is any reason to believe that there is any real potential substance in the demands and assertions made when such are in conflict with their historic files and previous decisions. Whilst the clarifications the Defendants may seek cannot be anything like as long or detailed as the full investigation (the statutory enquiries) I do not accept that a housing authority has no power to seek clarification where assertions founding a “homeless at home” application based on medical conditions contradict the authority’s previous evidence and decisions on those same conditions.
The authority was entitled to make enquiries to establish of the s.188(1) threshold was met, and to seek provision of information by the claimant.
ii) While Westminster should have informed the claimant of its decision that he was ‘homeless at home’, it was the authority’s decision, not one that required the claimant’s consent.
iii) However, the claimant’s flat was not suitable due to the fire risk
On the facts of this case in my judgment the Claimant could not be determined as safe in his flat by any reasonable housing authority due to the fire safety risk. This risk was or should have been apparent to the Defendants’ because they had accepted that the Claimant did have a level disability requiring equipment and wheelchair use and day care on their own files. No one appears to have doubted the accepted level of disability would have prevented him descending 7 flights of stairs fast, if a fire arose and the lift was not to be used. This Court was provided with no evidence to show that the Defendants had considered whether the Claimant was suitably housed at home at his 7th floor flat taking into account the fire risk. I find that the Defendants, on the balance of probabilities, failed to take into account this crucial factor.
But this had no effect in law or in fact, because the claimant had rejected the offer of suitable temporary accommodation made by Westminster on the same day of Westminster’s apparent assumption of the s.188(1) duty.
In circumstances where the Claimant was refusing to move into suitable interim accommodation it cannot be said that the Defendants were in breach of their duty to provide accommodation thereafter whatever their subsequent decision was.
iv) A duty to decide on a s.188(1) duty was not required to be on the same day as the application. However, there had been about a month delay in Westminster offering temporary accommodation after receiving the claimant’s further details (though not medical contacts), which was when the decision should have been made. That delay was unlawful.
v) Was the s.188(1) duty subsequently re-activated by the claimant requesting temporary accommodation? No – the claimant had continued to maintain that only a two bedroom groud floor property would be accepted, not the one bed ground floor that Westminster considered to be suitable on the medical evidence that they had.
in this case if the Defendants consider that one bed (ground floor or fire safe) accommodation which is wheelchair accessible and to which his carers can reasonably be expected to travel would be suitable then that would be within the range of their discretion in my judgment. The Claimant does not agree. But the choice of number of rooms is not the Claimant’s in the circumstances of this case where he has failed to evidence reason to believe his need may be for more when the Defendants have a medical assessment to the contrary.
vi) There was no breach of PSED. Westminster had indeed focussed intensely on the claimant’s disabilities and needs, but had been blocked and frustrated by the claimant’s refusal to provide access to his treating doctors.
A declaration a to unlawfulness could have been made, but was no longer necessary. There was no basis for an injunction. The claim for both was dismissed.