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Council wins Court of Appeal battle over moving homeless applicant

Someone who does not appeal against a local authority review decision that it has discharged its duty towards them as being homeless cannot later challenge that decision in a subsequent application, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In Godson v London Borough of Enfield [2019] EWCA Civ 486 Lewison LJ said Mr Godson was intentionally homeless and he should have challenged the council decision at the outset if he wished to.

The case concerned Enfield deciding it had discharged its duty to Mr Godson, and him then not appealing against an unsuccessful review of that decision.

This led the court to decide whether he was entitled to challenge the lawfulness of that review decision on a subsequent application for assistance as a homeless person.

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Mr Godson applied to Enfield as homeless in 2012 and was provided with emergency accommodation at in Bury Street.

Enfield accepted that it owed Mr Godson the full housing duty in section 193 of the Housing Act 1996 and offered him the tenancy of a property in Church Street, warning that if he refused it Enfield’s duty to him would end.

He refused, unsuccessfully sought a review, did not appeal that decision and was evicted with his family from Bury Road.

Mr Godson found bed and breakfast accommodation for himself and his family until 2016 when he made another application to Enfield for assistance and was given emergency accommodation.

In 2017 Enfield decided he was intentionally homeless, a decision upheld at another review, which he appealed against that unsuccessfully to the county court.

Lewison LJ said: “At the root of the argument is whether a housing authority, in performing its duty under section 193 (2), is entitled to choose how to perform it. In particular whether it is entitled to require an applicant to move from one set of temporary accommodation to another, even if the applicant would prefer to stay where they are.

“The answer to this question has a number of strands. First, where a person is placed under a duty that can be performed in several different ways, as a matter of principle it is up to them to choose how to perform it. Second, I do not consider that it is correct to regard an applicant as having a right to be housed in any particular accommodation, provided that the accommodation is suitable; and it is reasonable for them to occupy it.”

He said Mr Godson was homeless only because he was evicted from Bury Street as a consequence of his refusal of Church Street.

The judge said: “I do not consider that the reviewing officer can be faulted in concluding that the operative reason why Mr Godson was living in bed and breakfast accommodation…was the result of his refusal of the tenancy at 28B Church Street.

“The reviewing officer was, in my judgment, entitled to conclude that that refusal was the effective cause of Mr Godson's homelessness. Since the refusal was a deliberate act, he was intentionally homeless.”

Mark Smulian

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