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Decisions, decisions (and not automatic ones) – Ending the main housing duty


Bano, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Waltham Forest (2024) EWHC 654 (Admin)

Waltham Forest owed Ms Bano the full housing duty.  In June 2020, WF made an offer of a private sector tenancy in Derby. Ms Bano refused the offer as unsuitable. In disputed evidence, it was said that Ms Bano’s daughter made a review request by WhatsApp on 14 June 2020. WF sent a cancellation of temporary accommodation letter on 19 August 2020. Solicitors for Ms Bano made a request for a review in September 2020, which WF refused as out of time.

Ms B remained in temporary accommodation. In November 2022, possession proceedings were brought for the temporary accommodation on the basis that WF’s housing duty had ended with the refusal of the offer of accommodation in Derby. This led to Ms B seeing new solicitors, who in May 2023 wrote to WF stating that the housing duty had not been ended. WF purported to treat this as an out of time review request and refused it.

The present judicial review proceedings were then issued in September 2023.

Ms B’s argument was that WF had failed to comply with the notification requirements under s.193A Housing Act 1996, as the Court of Appeal had  held was required in Norton v Haringey LBC (2022) EWCA Civ 1340. (Our note) The original offer letter did not set out the S.195A consequences.

Ms B further argued that WF had not made a  subsequent decision to terminate the duty.

WF argued variously that

The judicial review was out of time as the relevant decision was in June 2020.

That duty ended automatically on refusal of the private sector accommodation offer.

That Norton didn’t have retrospective effect.

That a fresh homeless application was the appropriate remedy.

That there were many prospectively non-compliant offers, so any decision that their duty continued would open flood gates.

The Admin Court held:

The judicial review claim was not out of time. As WF accepted that the offer letter did not comply with Norton, it was not a valid offer under s.193 Housing Act 1996. The offer therefore did not end the main duty. WF were unable to point to any subsequent decision that the duty had been ended.

While there was no need for a decision for discharge of duty under the section 193(7AA) route (private sector offer) to be notified to the applicant, there was still a requirement for the decision to end the duty to be made. Warsame v Hounslow LBC (2000) WLR 696 on s.193(7) considered.

The structure of the pathway to the duty ceasing to be owed under s.193(7) is materially the same as that under s.193(7AA) and (7AB). A comparison of the provisions makes this clear. Both use identical language (“shall also cease to be subject to the duty under this section”); both require notification of consequences of refusal/acceptance; both require notification of the right to review of suitability. A statutory provision must be interpreted in the context of the section, Part and statute as a whole. It makes no sense for there to be a post-election decision under s.193(7) but a species of “automatic” ending under s.193(7AA).

So, there was no ‘automatic’ ending of the duty, and couldn’t be in any event as the offer was not a valid S.193(7AA) offer.

Subsequent letters to Ms B from WF were not ‘ending duty’ decisions.

The net effect of this analysis is that neither the 11 June nor 7 October 2020 letters are decisions by the defendant ending the main duty. I judge that what the defendant has sought to do is promote the original offer letter into an ending decision. It was not. It has then attempted to convert a letter by a review officer refusing a requested suitability review into an ending decision. Once more, it was not. This is why the defendant has sought to argue that its official had cited the wrong statutory provision, when in actuality, she cited the correct provision. What is lacking in this case is precisely what existed in Norton and Warsame: a decision to end the main duty following PRSO and refusal/acceptance, as occurred in both cases before the Court of Appeal.

Norton was a statement of the statutory requirements. It did not change them, so WF’s suggestion it was not retrospective had no basis.

Here the defendant purported to end the duty through the ss.7AA PRSO route. The process it adopted was defective. The defendant accepts that the offer it made to Ms Bano was not a valid offer. It was not in conformity with Norton and the main duty continued to be owed after it. More importantly, and this is the effect of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Norton, it was not in compliance with the statute. Parliament has prescribed what an LHA must do to cease to be subject to the main duty through a PRSO. This LHA did not do that. This is significant. It is not a mere legal nothing, arcana of interest to legal specialists. It is about the rights of people who are not intentionally homeless, a frequently highly vulnerable group of people.

WF continued to owe the main housing duty and a declaration to that effect made. A fresh application under Part VII was not an alternative remedy to the recognition that the main duty was still owed.

On ‘floodgates’

there was no decision made by the LHA that the main duty had ended. What is fundamental – and distinctive – here is that the LHA, having chosen the ss.7AA ending route, and following Ms Bano’s offer refusal, in fact made no ending decision to the effect that the LHA ceased to owe the main duty. In both Warsame and Norton, as has been seen, there were letters post-election (refusal in Warsame; acceptance in Norton) from the LHA stating that the main duty had come to an end and explaining the basis. This must make evident good administrative sense. I cannot accept that the issuing of a decision letter as happened in Warsame and Norton creates an “onerous burden” on LHAs, as D here contends. In fact, it acts to do the opposite: provide structure, transparency and order. Nevertheless, the critical thing is for the LHA to reflect on the actions of the applicant/offeree and decide in light of her/his election whether the conditions stipulated in the statutory ending pathway chosen by the LHA have been met and the main duty under s.192(3) has therefore come to an end.


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.


  1. MM

    Hi NL – long time listener first time caller (and big fan of the blog)

    I was counsel for the LHA on this one. Just to clarify the JR was not defended on the grounds that Norton did not have retrospective effect or that a fresh application was a suitable alternative remedy. These arguments were mentioned in a responce to a pre-action protocol letter (prior to me being instructed (!)), but were not the basis of the defence to the JR.

    The JR was defended on the basis that: a. The Claim has been brought out of time and there is no good reason to extend time. b. The Court should exercise its discretion to refuse to grant any relief as there hadbeen undue delay/ to do so would offend the principle of finality/ would be detrimental to good administration. c. The Claimant had an alternative remedy in that she had the right to seek a statutory review and appeal but did not exercise that right.

    Also by way of update, permission has been granted to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

    • Giles Peaker

      Thanks MM – apologies on the retrospective point. I was scanning the protocol response. On fresh application, this was addressed at (85) so I presumed it was argued.

      Noted on permission. That will be interesting.


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