Our client was statutorily overcrowded in a small one bedroom flat with her husband and two teenage children. Our client and her husband had to sleep in the kitchen and pull out a sofa bed each night due to the lack of space. She had been on the housing register for 6 years but had been unsuccessful in moving to suitable accommodation. Although our client’s priority and waiting time should have placed her in a position where she would have obtained social housing by now, this had not happened due to a hidden policy operated by the council.
The allocations scheme very clearly stated that the general rule was that properties were listed on the bidding website and were awarded to the bidder with the highest priority band and longest waiting time. Although, there was a limited exception where properties could be reserved for certain categories of applicant, such as older people or those with disabilities. However, a freedom of information request found that the Council reserved the majority of the properties it placed on the bidding website for certain groups. The way the Council prioritised the properties was also biased, with over 500 properties reserved for homeless families in one year, but only 1 property reserved for households in our client’s overcrowding priority group.
We sent a pre-action letter to the Council raising, amongst other things, how the Council had not followed its own policy and this was in breach of S166A(14) Housing Act 1996. In response the Council ceased the property reservation, which meant housing was allocated purely on the basis of priority band and waiting time. This meant our client was finally able to bid successfully on a suitable council property.
The issues did not stop there and our client was “skipped” in the nomination process for the property she had bid successfully on. She was not formally told why this happened or given the opportunity to correct this before being skipped. Again a pre-action letter was sent to the council for this further failure to not allocate housing in accordance with their own scheme. The issue was subsequently resolved and our client was eventually nominated for the property.