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(Queens Bench Division (Administrative Court); Collins J; 26 January 2007)
In a number of cases involving families with large numbers of children living in severely crowded conditions, the court found there had been consistent failures by the local authority to deal with applications in accordance with the law. It was impermissible to advise a person threatened with homelessness by reason of overcrowding to wait until a court order was made or eviction occurred. While families might sometimes prefer to remain in unsuitable accommodation for a short time rather than move to temporary accommodation, councils must recognise that it was a breach of their duty to require them to do so. Equally it must be clear that the length of time before proper accommodation was found should be short. A period longer than 6 weeks would need clear justification. People who were homeless because their current home provided unsuitable accommodation were clearly in temporary accommodation, and should not be given a lesser priority by the council than people who were in the council's designated temporary accommodation. A claim that the local authority had breached the families rights under Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 was arguable, although the families would have to show exceptional circumstances; much would depend on the court's view of the effect of the failure to provide suitable accommodation on the families, but the issue of damages remained open.
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