West Law Report

Failure to seek advice is no intentional homelessness

Posted in Times Law Report by mrkooenglish on February 19, 2009

From The TimesFebruary 18, 2009

Failure to seek advice is no intentional homelessness
Court of Appeal
Published February 18, 2009
Ugiagbe v Southwark London Borough Council
Before Lord Justice Sedley, Lord Justice Jacob and Lord Justice Lloyd
Judgment February 10, 2009

Failure to follow informal advice to go to a local housing authority’s homeless persons unit when threatened with eviction, did not make an applicant intentionally homeless.

The Court of Appeal so held in a reserved judgment in allowing an appeal by the claimant, Iyekekpolor Ugiagbe, against the decision of Judge Welchman at Lambeth County Court on July 1, 2008, that the defendant, Southwark London Borough Council had not made any error of law in treating her as intentionally homeless.

Mr Matthew Hutchings for Ms Ugiagbe; Mr Donald Broatch for Southwark.

LORD JUSTICE LLOYD said that when the claimant became homeless, together with her two young children, on November 5, 2007, she was eligible for assistance and was in priority need. The local authority refused to provide more than temporary housing for her on the basis that she had become homeless intentionally.

It was common ground that when her previous landlord asked her to leave, he was not entitled to possession without a court order, so that she need not have left when she did. It was also accepted that, had she gone to the homeless persons unit, they would have told her that.

Had the landlord applied to court for a possession order and she had been ordered to leave, then her giving up possession would not have been voluntary or intentional, and she would have had the benefit of the full duty to be rehoused under the Housing Act 1996.

In his Lordship’s judgment, while the claimant’s failure to go to the homeless persons unit could be said to have been foolish or imprudent, it was not in the category of not being in good faith.

The use of the phrase “good faith” carried a connotation of some kind of impropriety, or some element of misuse or abuse of the legislation. It was aimed at protecting local housing authorities from finding that they owed the full duty under the 1996 Act to a person who, despite some relevant ignorance, ought to be regarded as intentionally homeless.

The local authority was wrong in law when it concluded that the claimant should be treated as intentionally homeless because she was not acting in good faith.

Lord Justice Jacob and Lord Justice Sedley agreed.

Solicitors: Hallam Peel & Co, Southwark; Ms Deborah Collins, Southwark

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