Kyle v Coventry City Council (2023) EWCA Civ 1360
Yes, I am very late with this one. I’ve found a browser tab group I must have accidentally closed at some point….
Mr K was homeless and addicted to class A drugs. During the relevant period for this second appeal, he was on a methadone treatment prescription. He had applied to Coventry as homeless. He had been given s.188 Housing Act 1996 accommodation in hostel supported accommodation (a ‘halfway house’)..
Initially, he was found a room at 18 Wren Street in Coventry, but on 19 May 2021 he was instead provided with a room at 133 Terry Road, Coventry. At that stage, the Council wrote to Mr Kyle saying that it had been told that his behaviour at 18 Wren Street had not been in line with the rules and warning him that, if he did not follow the rules of the accommodation, the duty to provide him with accommodation would end. In August 2021, Mr Kyle relocated again, to a room at 79 St Margaret Road, Coventry, after other residents at 133 Terry Road had complained about his conduct. On this occasion, the Council informed him that it had been agreed that it would move him to alternative accommodation with a final warning. The Council also said, in a letter dated 20 August 2021, that “any placement given is done so on an emergency basis so you may be asked to move to more suitable accommodation during this stay” and that its duty to Mr Kyle would be discharged if, among other things, he was “evicted from the accommodation for such things as anti-social behaviour, smoking in the property, having guests and not abiding to the establishment rules”.
In March 2022, Coventry accepted that it owed the full s.193 duty. Mr K remained in the St Margaret Road accommodation.
Later in March 2022, the accommodation provider “made a request to the Council for Mr Kyle’s eviction on the basis that he had broken into, and stolen from, other rooms there. Having referred to the fact that another resident was highly vulnerable, the author said, “I do not want to keep [Mr Kyle] in that house with him.”
Coventry wrote to Mr K with the heading “Re: End of main housing duty because you have become intentionally homeless from accommodation made available for your occupation”. Mr K requested a review. On reasonableness to remain, he argued that the relationship with the housing provider had broken down, and that the warnings he had received from Coventry were for s.188 accommodation, not s.193 accommodation, so that he was entitled to further warnings. In further submissions, Mr K argued that the restrictions imposed on the accommodation, such as no smoking and no visitors, might be suitable for s.188 accommodation, but should have meant further warnings for s.193 accommodation.
The review rejected this and found the accommodation was reasonable for Mr K to remain in. A s.204 appeal by Mr K was dismissed. Mr K brought a second appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Mr K argued that the accommodation was analogous to the womens’ refuge accommodation in R (Aweys) v Birmingham City Council; Moran v Manchester City Council (2009) UKHL 36, (2009) 1 WLR 1506. Alternatively, the review officer should not have found the accommodation was reasonable for Mr K to remain in due to the restrictive policies and temporary nature as a half way house.
The Court of Appeal considered Aweys and R v Brent London Borough Council, ex p. Awua (1996) AC 55 to arrive at some general propositions.
i) There is no need for accommodation to be so bad that a person could not be expected to stay there another night for there to be homelessness for the purposes of the 1996 Act. On the other hand, a person does not have to be entitled to remain in accommodation indefinitely, or for any particular period of time, for it to be “reasonable for him to continue to occupy” it, and neither need he have accommodation which it would be “reasonable … to continue to occupy” for ever. In general at least, section 175(3) of the 1996 Act will be satisfied, and a person will not be “homeless”, if there is accommodation which it would be “reasonable for him to continue to occupy” over the period which would elapse before the local housing authority re-housed him;
ii) The physical characteristics of accommodation will often be of central importance in determining whether it is “reasonable … to continue to occupy” it. Restrictions affecting the person’s life in, and use of, the accommodation may also be relevant. Possibly, the length of time that a person has the right to remain in accommodation may sometimes be of significance, but that is much less likely to matter. Without attempting to be exhaustive, other factors that might be material, depending on the particular facts, include affordability, violence, abuse and threats.
Applied to the present case, the Court of Appeal considered that the accommodation was significantly different to that in Aweys.
Refuges such as that to which Ms Moran had resort have a particular character as “temporary” “safe haven[s]” and are not “place[s] to live”. Not only did Ms Moran have no right to any specific room, but, for very understandable reasons, the refuge had “special rules” which had no parallel at 79 St Margaret Road. The refuge forbade visitors, and 79 St Margaret Road had a prohibition on at least overnight guests. Ms Moran was, though, also barred from bringing any men into “the surrounding area”, from giving the address to anyone, from having any contact with the neighbours and from disclosing the nature of the building. There was nothing comparable at 79 St Margaret Road.
It was accommodation that would be reasonable to remain in for Mr K.
On the alternative submission that the restrictions placed on the accommodation (no smoking, no overnight visitors, etc), this had not been raised with the review officer, which it would have to be to be considered on appeal – Cramp v Hastings Borough Council (2005) HLR 48. The Court of Appeal declined to address Mr K’s argument on the restrictions for that reason.