The COVID19 pandemic is particularly relevant to families and individuals who are homeless, living in overcrowded housing or facing eviction. Temporary accommodation, especially hostels, are regularly overcrowded and have shared kitchens and bathrooms which will allow the virus to pass quickly through accommodation. If people are homeless they cannot self-isolate or attempt social distancing to reduce the spread of the disease in society. As we see with our clients, many people who are homeless and facing eviction have a number of serious, underlying health conditions and would suffer significant harm if they were to contract the virus.
Our view is that the COVID19 pandemic will be particularly relevant in relation to:
- Requests for accommodation pending S202 review or pending S204 appeal. The provision of accommodation in these instances is discretionary and provided on the basis of the criteria of R v Camden LBC ex parte Mohammed (1997) 30 HLR 315, QBD. It should be argued that people with underlying health conditions will potentially suffer severe adverse consequences if accommodation is withdrawn during a review or appeal due to the current pandemic.
- Decisions as to whether a homeless person is in priority need. Homeless people without dependent children or any other automatic priority need are only considered in priority need if significantly more vulnerable than an ordinary person in need of accommodation, and likely to suffer greater harm in the same situation (Hotak v Southwark LBC : Kanu v Southwark LBC : Johnson v Solihull MBC  UKSC 30). People with underlying health conditions, will at this time will be more vulnerable than an ordinary person and more likely to suffer greater harm as a result of the pandemic.
- Discretionary grounds of possession and suspension of warrants. Because people with underlying health conditions could suffer significant harm if made homeless as a result of the virus this should be strong grounds that it is not reasonable to grant possession.
- Suitability of temporary accommodation. Temporary accommodation which is particularly overcrowded or with shared kitchens and bathrooms could be argued to be unsuitable for people with underlying health conditions as it puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus and suffering significant harm.