The Court of Appeal recently considered whether a local authority needed to give reasons for its accommodation offer. Catherine Rowlands explains the case.
In a decision handed down by the Court of Appeal (Rafferty LJ, Beatson LJ and Sir Robin Jacob), Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has won an appeal against a decision of a Recorder sitting in Birmingham County Court overturning its decision that it had discharged its duty to the respondent by offering accommodation which the local authority considered was suitable for her – but which the homeless applicant believed had been offered to her by mistake.
Ms Khan applied as homeless and the full housing duty was accepted. As a result she was offered accommodation in Chelmsley Wood, an area which she had previously indicated she felt was unsafe for her due to her ex-husband’s connections with a gang.
The local authority had investigated this alleged gang and found no evidence that it existed in fact. When offering the accommodation the local authority sent a proforma letter which explained that this was the final offer and should she have any queries about it she should speak to a housing officer.
The applicant argued successfully before the Recorder that the local authority should have explained to her why it considered that the property was suitable for her and taken into consideration the fact that they had not done this when deciding whether the accommodation was not only suitable but reasonable for her to accept.
In Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council v Shamina Khan the local authority’s appeal against this decision was successful. The Recorder’s decision was inconsistent with earlier decisions of the Court of Appeal that there is no obligation on hard-pressed local authorities to give reasons for the offer.
The onus was on the applicant, if she thought that there had been an error, to raise her issues with the housing officer rather than simply refuse the accommodation.
Beatson LJ who gave the lead judgment confirmed that “it was implicit in any offer of accommodation that the housing authority did consider the questions of suitability and that it was reasonable for the homeless person to accept the offer.”