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Supreme Court to rule this week on Article 6 and housing decisions

The Supreme Court will this week hand down a key ruling on whether Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair hearing, applies to decisions on entitlement under Part V of the Housing Act 1996.

In Poshteh v Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – UKSC 2015/0219 the appellant, Vida Poshteh, is an Iranian citizen who arrived in the UK in 2003 and was granted asylum following her imprisonment and torture in Iran which left her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She applied to the Royal Borough for homelessness assistance in 2009 and has been provided with temporary accommodation for her and her son since January 2010.

In November 2012 she was offered permanent accommodation in a housing association flat. She declined the offer on the ground that the round window in the living room reminded her of her prison cell in Iran and caused her to have a panic attack. The appellant asked for the decision to be reviewed.

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The reviewing officer concluded on 17 October 2013 that the accommodation was suitable and reasonable for a person with the appellant's characteristics to accept. Accordingly the duty to house the appellant was satisfied.

A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Poshteh’s appeal.

The legal issues raised in the appeal to the Supreme Court are:

(a) the extent to which Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights is engaged by housing decisions such as this (in case law terms, Ali v Birmingham City Council [2010] 2 AC 39 should be departed from in the light of Ali v United Kingdom (2016) 63 EHRR 20); and

(b) the proper test that reviewing officers (and thereafter, courts) should apply when assessing such cases.

A five-judge panel comprising Lord Neuberger, Lord Clarke, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath and Lord Hughes heard the case on 14 Feb 2017. Judgment will be handed down on Wednesday, 10 May.

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