Facing Homelessness? A Solicitor’s Office Should be Your First Port of Call

FlatsLocal authorities are under a legal duty to provide suitable accommodation for the homeless, but the rules are complex and – as one case showed – a solicitor’s office should be your first port of call if you risk losing the roof over your head.

A mother of three was, through no fault of her own, facing eviction from her family home. The local authority accepted that she was in priority need of re-housing and offered her a new home in a block of flats. She rejected the offer on the basis that the flat was too far away from her family and friends and her children’s school, where they were well settled. She worked as a self-employed beautician and was also anxious not to move away from her client base. The council, however, took the view that it had discharged its statutory duty to make her an offer of suitable housing and refused to make another.

In upholding her judicial review challenge to that decision, a judge found that the council had failed to adequately consider her plea that the flat was unsuitable in that it could only be accessed by climbing two flights of steps. She said that it would be almost impossible to manoeuvre a heavy pushchair up 14 steps and that the safety of her children might be jeopardised.

The judge noted that a council reviewing officer had made a factual error in stating that there was one flight of steps, rather than two. There was nothing manifestly insupportable or implausible about the mother’s concerns. In the circumstances, the decision was quashed and the council was directed to reconsider.

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