Despite the fact that some Local Authority decisions can be challenging to comprehend at the best of times, following the commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 bringing a challenge against a homeless decision is mostly unchanged. There are some new duties as we have discussed previously but breach of these new duties can still be challenged under section 202 of the Housing Act 1996, in the same way as before.
One new preliminary consideration to bear in mind when dealing with every new homeless case is that since a new Act has come in to force which imposes different duties that will apply to new applicants. There is a fork in the road from the date of its commencement on 3rd April 2018. All applications submitted prior to that date are subject to the old law and new applications are subject to the new law. Therefore, if you find that a Local Authority decision in relation to an application submitted prior to 3rd April 2018 has had the new law applied, or vice versa, that decision can be challenged on the basis of the Authority having applied the wrong law. This might seem unlikely but we have already had a client come through our doors with this very issue, the decision in question was withdrawn and the client was provided interim accommodation.
Breach of Duty
Under the old scheme of legislation, certain decisions from a Local Authority that could be a breach of duty (or duties) owed to homeless applicants by a Local Authority would be challenged under section 202 of the Housing Act 1996. Such a challenge could arise from a negative decision against an applicant or a failure to act in accordance with a duty. Examples of this include:
- a discharge of duty decision, or
- failure to accept an application from an eligible applicant.
Section 202 of the Housing Act 1996 still applies following the commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 so the situation here is much the same as before. However, the introduction of new duties owed to homeless applicants mean that there are new ways that a Local Authority can be in breach of duties they are under. Examples of these new grounds for a section 202 review include, but are not limited to:
- Failure to provide an applicant with a written Personalised Housing Plan (PHP);
- Failure to comply with an action under the PHP that the council agreed they would carry out;
- Failure to apply the new prevention or relief duties; and
- Offers of unsuitable accommodation (which are subject to provisions other than just section 202 Housing Act 1996).
This blog has been prepared on 13th June 2018 by Sayim Rezvi, a Paralegal at MTG Solicitors.