This item is Part 6 (the final part) of our free training material for homelessness officers.
In this free series of useful cases on homelessness prevention we invite you to look afresh at the possibilities for prevention outside of the normal tick-box of finding an applicant somewhere else to live or topping up their rent shortfall with DHP.
These are some of the legal routes available to you if you can ask the right questions.
S 175 (3)Housing Act 1996:
“A person shall not be treated as having accommodation unless it is accommodation which it would be reasonable for him to continue to occupy.”
The spiralling cost of housing is widely reported across the UK, although in many areas it isn’t as bad as reported. there are still huge swathes of the UK, particularly around cities where uncontrolled rents clash with benefit caps.
Working out whether accommodation is unreasonable to remain in because of housing costs is a difficult job not helped by the fact that there isn’t a nationally agreed formula to work to, although several people have tried to come up with one.
There are however some good bits of case law which can help highlight some principles.
Regina v. Hillingdon BC ex parte Tinn (1988) QBD – couple split up and she wasn’t left with enough to pay rent and feed the kids
In many ways this is the defining case on affordability.
Mr and Mrs Tinn bought their council flat on a long lease. The pair split up, leaving Mrs Tinn in occupation but without sufficient funds to pay the mortgage. Council held not homeless as she still had right to remain through mortgage.
The court decided that the council were wrong to decide not homeless. Judge said
“It cannot be reasonable for a person to continue to occupy accommodation when they can no longer pay the rent and make mortgage payments without so straining their resources as to deprive themselves of the ordinary necessities of life, such as food, clothing heat, transport etc.”
Moral of the tale: It’s the judge’s comments which set a handy benchmark. He isn’t saying that the property simply needs to be expensive, just that in meeting the rent or mortgage they have to go without basic necessities of life. Look for the………….bare necessities!!!!!
Farah v. Hillingdon LBC (2014) – council failed to explain what reasons it had for deciding a property was affordable.
This is one of those ‘Reasonable to remain’ cases that cropped up at intentionality time, where the same test is applied for homelessness.
Ms Farah was a disabled mum with three kids struggling on her own. She was evicted from her PRS accommodation for rent arrears.
The council decided she was IH on the basis that at the time she lost the home it was reasonable for her to continue to occupy because, in tallying up an income and expenditure form for the time she was in occupation it looked as if she could have afforded to have fed her kids, paid her bills and the rent. The s202 reviewing officer agreed.
The court of appeal firstly criticised the council’s reviewing officer for doing no more than upholding the decision.
Also, although the decision referred to items of expenditure which were non-essential no mention was made as to why they considered them non-essential when Ms Farah insisted they were.
Council’s decision overturned.
Moral of the tale: As tedious to fill in as they are, I&E forms are essential in ascertaining whether or not it is “reasonable for him to continue to occupy”. If you are discounting an item of essential expenditure say why.
This ends this 6 part series on an alternative approach to homelessness prevention using case law and an understanding of legislation outside of homelessness alone.
We hope you have understood that there is a wealth of lost opportunity to save people’s homes through accumulating wider knowledge.
It is rarely too late to prevent homelessness, even when the locks are due to be changed in a couple of hours, or even after the locks have been changed.
All it takes is a more savvy approach to the subject.
Easy Law Training Ltd run many courses on all of the different facets covered in this series.
If you want to defeat an application for a possession order then you might be best placed to book our Course on ‘Defending Possession Proceedings’ or even ‘Possession Proceedings for Housing Officers’, which covers the paperwork and court rules in detail but from the claimant’s perspective.
If you are looking to make a decision that a property is reasonable to continue to occupy then maybe ‘Homelessness for the working officer’ is the course for you or the ‘Harassment and Illegal Eviction Toolkit’.
Alternatively you might want to roll a lot of it together and book the ‘Homelessness prevention toolkit’.
All Easy Law Training Ltd courses come with a three month post-course online support package, where delegates can access:
- Links to relevant articles elsewhere on the web.
- Links to free resources.
- Our growing online database of case law, like the series you have just finished.
- Sample court forms
- Template letters.
- A discussion forum for course delegates.
- A post course test to ensure that the requisite knowledge level has been achieved.
We proud ourselves that our courses are all designed and delivered by housing people, for housing people.