Social Housing Speed Read – A decision review
25th November, 2019
The recent case of Waltham Forest London Borough Council v Saleh (2019) heard the local authority's (Waltham) appeal against the judgement that one of its officers had incorrectly conducted a review of a decision relating to the suitability of accommodation provided to a family. It focused on how reviews should be conducted and what factors are to be considered.
Waltham had provided Mr Saleh and his family with temporary accommodation after accepting a full duty to do so. Whilst initially dealing with Mr Saleh’s housing request, no suitable properties were available within the authority’s immediate district and so the family were housed just outside of this area. Despite accepting the offer, Mr Saleh later submitted a rehousing request on the basis that the location of the property was not suitable because of his daughter’s medical condition – type 1 diabetes – which on occasion required hospital treatment.
Each day, it took the family up to one hour to reach the children’s school. On several occasions during this journey, Mr Saleh’s daughter suffered episodes of incontinence.
Mr Saleh made his request for alternative housing due to unsuitability as he wished to be located in Waltham’s immediate district, meaning that the family had more convenient access to the school, hospital, family and friends. Waltham did not agree that the family’s home was unsuitable and so Mr Saleh subsequently requested a review under S202 of the Act.
Waltham conducted a review of the decision but in doing so, did not consider whether or not any suitable accommodation within its district was now available. It simply reviewed the previous decision on the original facts rather than considering those available at the time of review. The judge therefore held that Waltham had made an error of law.
On appeal, it was held that Waltham acted appropriately in housing the family outside of its district as was practicable at the time, but highlighted its obligation to ensure suitability in all cases. Particularly, regard should have been had to the following:
- The accommodation had to be suitable in relation to the applicant and all household members normally residing with them. That required an assessment of the needs and reasonable requirements of the applicant and their family. The location of the proposed accommodation might also be relevant;
- There might be degrees of suitability depending on the particular housing duty which fell to be performed; and
- Accommodation which was suitable when provided might cease to be suitable depending on the changing needs and circumstances of the household and the duration of their intended period of occupation.
Mr Saleh’s family had been entitled to seek a review that should have been sufficiently considered by Waltham on the ground of suitability. It was considered that it would not have been unreasonable or impracticable for the review officer to investigate more suitable available housing at the time of review and ultimately, they should have done so. The appeal was dismissed.
All providers of social housing should act prudently when reviewing decisions and contemplating rehousing requests on the ground of suitability. They should consider all material circumstances and facts available when reviewing such requests, paying close attention to the three points outlined above.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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