Our client had been registered on Lambeth council’s housing waiting list with her husband. When our client separated from her husband, the council gave her a new housing waiting list account which meant she lost over 5 years waiting time. In Lambeth Council, waiting time is very important in determining your position on the housing waiting list.
We asked the council to backdate her waiting list account start date to when she first got an account with her former husband, but the council did not reply. After repeated follow up and no response, we proceeded to issue judicial review proceedings. Lambeth council then responded claiming they have no powers to backdate waiting list accounts. We responded with 8 examples of when they had backdated other applicants’ accounts, two of those in almost identical situations of relationship breakdown (and one had a very similarly worded initial request to the Claimant’s). Half of this evidence was kindly provided by Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, who are a community group who support local homeless and badly housed families. The council never properly responded to this evidence, and the case progressed to a final hearing.
Giving judgement Deputy High Court Judge Glasson found that Lambeth Council did have discretion to backdate the start dates of housing waiting list accounts, and that they had acted unlawfully by not considering their discretion. Lambeth Council were also strongly warned regarding the duty of candour, as they had failed to provide important evidence as part of their response.
There were also other grounds, including discrimination arguments, in the instance that the council were found to have given themselves no powers to backdate the start date of accounts. However, it was not necessary for the court to consider these grounds.
The case was conducted by Luke Sheldon. Many thanks to counsel instructed on this case Matthew Ahluwalia. Further details and a link to Matthew’s write up for the case can be found here.