Supreme Court win for homeless mother

Posted: 28th April 2015

FlatsThe Supreme Court has ruled that a London council failed to meet its legal duty when it offered a homeless mother and her five children temporary accommodation outside the capital, a long way from their roots.

The mother was evicted from her central London home after housing benefit cuts left her unable to pay her rent. Westminster Council accepted that she was unintentionally homeless but cited the acute scarcity of suitable properties in its area and offered to accommodate the family temporarily in a house near Milton Keynes.

When the mother turned down that offer, the council asserted that it had discharged the duty which it owed to the family under the Housing Act 1996. No further offers were forthcoming and the mother’s judicial review challenge to the council’s decision was subsequently rejected.

In allowing the mother’s appeal, the Court noted that local authorities are required to make offers of accommodation in their own areas ‘so far as reasonably practicable’. In the particular case, Westminster Council had failed to consider the social consequences of moving the family far from its established links, including schools, doctors, social workers and other key services and support.

The Court acknowledged that the intense pressure on social housing in urban areas meant that difficult decisions often had to be made but in giving guidance for the future, it emphasised the duty on local authorities to consider each case on its own facts, to explain such decisions clearly and to publish coherent and up-to-date housing allocation policies.