Our Head of Department, Claire Wiles, acted for a vulnerable client who, after fleeing domestic violence, was placed in unsuitable emergency accommodation by the London Borough of Sutton. The client first approached Sutton in June 2021. When the client contacted us in September 2021, she had still not been issued any decision regarding her homeless application.
She was placed out of borough, away from her family, who also provide childcare support to her two young children. This significantly impacted her ability to continue her employment. The accommodation itself also consisted of a small room with shared hostel facilities. The door of the bedroom did not lock from the inside, and posed a significant danger to the family at night-times.
We wrote to Sutton, requesting they move the family to suitable emergency accommodation, and to issue a decision on the application. We also considered Sutton’s homelessness strategy, and made representations to the effect that, by placing our client out of borough, this was contrary to their own strategy of wanting to help single parents get into employment.
Our client was moved to self-contained accommodation, and Sutton made a decision stating she was eligible for assistance and in priority need, but that she did not meet the local connection criteria. They referred her to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, on the basis her employment was located in Canary Wharf. Sutton did not consider that our client worked remotely, family support was in Sutton, and that being housed in Tower Hamlets posed a serious threat of harm by the perpetrator.
Under section 202(1)(c) of the Housing Act 1996, an applicant is able to request a review of a housing authority’s decision to notify another housing authority that the conditions for referral are met where the main housing duty is owed. Applicants cannot request a review of the equivalent section 198(A1) decision at the relief stage. Applicants do however have a right to request a review of the decision on whether the conditions for referral are met, at both the stage of the relief duty or main housing duty under section 202(1)(e).
After confirming out client was at the relief stage, Sutton expressed again that our client cannot request a review of their decision under Section on 198(A1) to notify Tower Hamlets. In response, we sent a pre-action letter to Sutton confirming our request for a review was being made under section 202(1)(e), and that we were challenging their decision that the conditions for referral were met. Successfully, Sutton agreed to withdraw their referral to Tower Hamlets.
On reviewing our client’s homeless file, it transpired our client never received a personalised housing plan. In the 5 month period after our client applied as homeless, nearly all of the steps taken by Sutton consisted of referring her to Tower Hamlets. Our client still awaits the decision on her main housing duty, and has now been issued with a personalised housing plan. The steps set out in the plan which they council intend to take is subject to an ongoing review. A formal complaint has also been made to Sutton regarding the maladministration of our client’s homeless application to date and response is pending. .