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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Homeless man failed by London council

Homeless man failed by London council


A homeless man denied accommodation by his local authority has won a judicial review against the London Borough of Islington after it failed to follow due process

A homeless man denied accommodation by his local authority has won his case against the London Borough of Islington after it failed to follow due process.

The High Court ruled that the council failed to comply with its statutory duty to notify Christopher Mitchell, who is 30 and has medical issues, when it terminated his temporary accommodation

Toby Vanhegan of 4-5 Grays Inn Square commented: “Finally, some good news for homeless persons, which is especially welcome at this time when the homeless are particularly at risk because of the covid-19 pandemic.”

Mitchell brought a judicial review challenging the council’s decision not to accommodate him under section 188 (1) of the Housing Act 1996 pending a full decision on a homeless application.

The 1996 Act requires a local authority to take reasonable steps to help a homeless applicant secure that suitable accommodation becomes available for occupation for at least six months.

This duty lasts for at least 56 days and ends automatically after 56 days from when it was accepted, or when the local authority serves a notice to end it.

In Mitchell’s case, he was provided with accommodation under the council’s statutory duty to provide interim accommodation to a homeless person.

However, before the 56-day period expired, the council wrote to him stating its reasons for finding he was not in priority need of accommodation.

The court ruled that while the borough did notify him that he was not in priority need and told him of his right to request a review; it failed to inform him that the local authority would not owe him a duty to provide him with accommodation after the 56 days.

The letter satisfied some but not all of the statutory requirements for notification.

Vanhegan, who represented Mitchell, said the case has confirmed that a council’s duty to accommodate a homeless applicant under section 188(1) no longer ends when the authority make a decision on a homelessness application but continues until the applicant is fully informed about the duties owed by the authority under section 188.

Shabnam Shekarian, solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said an authority has a duty of care to its community.

She commented: “This case is really important, as it shines a light on the importance of the legislation we have in place to protect our community, and how we communicate that to people, particularly when making decisions that will have a huge impact on that person’s quality of life.”