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Public law and Regulation

Case reports and guidance on public law and professional regulation issues

29 MAY 2013

Obiorah v London Borough of Lewisham [2013] EWCA Civ 325; (2013) PLLR 067

Local government - housing - Housing Act 1996 - statutory allocation policy - offer of housing  - legitimate expectation - withdrawal of offer of unsuitable permanent accommodation and replacement with offer of temporary accommodation - review - fairness - Regulation 8 Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999

The policy of a local authority in relation to its statutory duty to provide housing had not given rise to a legitimate expectation that the applicant would only be made offers of permanent accommodation and that if an offer did not meet her requirements it would be withdrawn but another would be made when a suitable property became available.

12 April 2013

Court of Appeal

Kitchin, Lloyd Jones and McCombe LJJ

(1)        The Respondent (L) accepted that it owed the Appellant (O) a duty under section 193 of the Hosing Act 1996 (the 1996 Act) to secure her accommodation, as someone who had become unintentionally homeless. Although permanent accommodation was initially made available, it became clear that O had particular needs with regards to housing, and L accepted this. L continued to offer various accommodation options, each of which was subsequently withdrawn when it became clear that they were not suitable. In April 2011 L made a final offer of temporary accommodation. O rejected it, believing she was entitled to be offered permanent accommodation. As a result, L informed her that its duty to provide O with accommodation had ended and eviction proceedings would follow. This offer was upheld on review, as well as by the Independent Adjudicator. O appealed to the County Court under section 204 of the 1996 Act, which found in favour of L.

(2)        O argued that the County Court had erred in finding that that L had not acted unfairly by failing to correct O's mistaken belief as to her entitlement; that the court had erred in finding that O did not have a legitimate expectation that she would provided by permanent accommodation; and that the court erred in finding that the review had been conducted fairly.

(3)        Kitchin LJ held: That the statutory allocation scheme put in place by L did no more than state that if the offer of permanent accommodation did not meet O's needs it would be withdrawn and another one made if a suitable property arose. Nothing in the policy suggested that any further offer would have to be in relation to permanent, rather than temporary accommodation. L had not made representations in these terms so as to restrict their ability to make offers. Nothing in its communication with O, its policy or otherwise could have properly given rise to a legitimate expectation of O that permanent accommodation would be offered within a specific timescale, or that it would not make offers of temporary accommodation although it was entitled to do so. Any belief held by O as to this position had not been caused or encouraged by O. Consequently there was no breach of legitimate expectation [27] - [32].

(4)        That where an obligation arises, under Regulation 8 of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999, to notify the Applicant that the reviewer is minded to make a decision against their interests, it is not within the reviewer's discretion not to notify on the basis that they believe representations will make no difference. However, the obligation only arises where the reviewer is of the view that there is a deficiency or irregularity in the original decision. This was not the case here, nor was it the case taking an objective view. Thus no obligation under Regulation 8 arose. There was no requirement that the offer letter must set out reasons as to why the accommodation offered was suitable (Mitu v Camden LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 1249 and Lambeth LBC v Johnston [2008] EWCA Civ 690 considered) [35] - [36].

(5)        Fairness did not require L to notify O that the temporary accommodation offered to her could in time become permanent. Nothing in the 1996 Act required this of L. The offer was made clearly and stated the consequences of O's refusing the offer. The decision that the accommodation was suitable for O could not be said to have been incorrect. L had not acted in such a way as to render the original decision or the review decision incorrect in law [38].

Appeal dismissed

Key Paragraphs

[1] - [2] - Introduction.

[3] - [17] - Background facts.

[18] - [19] - The decision in the County Court.

[20] - [22] - Grounds of appeal.

[24] - [32] - Legitimate expectation.

[33] - [36] - Regulation 8.

[37] - [38] - Fairness.

[39] - Conclusions.

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