We acted for Lemari Minott in his appeal from a judicial review, which upheld Cambridge City Council’s decision not to accept his fresh homeless application.
Mr M applied as homeless to Cambridge with his family in 2019 and was given interim accommodation. Cambridge later decided Mr M did not meet the local connection criteria of 6 months and referred the family to Sandwell MBC, where he did have a local connection. Mr M requested a review of Cambridge’s decision, which was unsuccessful.
Mr M received a notice to quit the interim accommodation, and stayed on after it expired. He approached this firm and we advised that, as he had now been living in the interim accommodation for more than 6 months, he should make a fresh homeless application to Cambridge.
Cambridge refused to accept the fresh application, stating that there were ‘no new facts’ (the requirement to accept a fresh homeless application) and, besides, continuing to stay in the interim accommodation unlawfully could not count towards a local connection. We issued a judicial review which was dismissed at trial, for reasons strongly focused on Mr M’s unlawful occupation of the accommodation. The judge held that 'other than the passage of time, nothing had changed'. We appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal has now allowed the appeal, reaching a unanimous decision. Cambridge continued to argue that the status of the terminated accommodation, and unlawful occupation, meant that it could not count for local connection as 'normal residence’.
The Court agreed with our argument that crossing that 6 month threshold was a ‘new fact’ for the purpose of accepting the fresh homeless application. This new fact was not ‘fanciful or trivial’. As Lord Justice Underhill stated:
“It is not merely a lapse of time..: it is a lapse of time which may have legal consequences”.
Those legal consequences being the difference between Cambridge agreeing to make enquiries into what duty they might owe someone, and no local authority owing any duty to Mr M.
Cambridge’s summary rejection of this ‘new fact’ was considered irrational, especially as they had stated the threshold as the reason for Mr M lacking local connection at the review stage.
The Judges did suggest that staying in interim accommodation beyond 6 months, by defending possession proceedings, could count towards a local connection. However, no decision was made about this point.
This is a brilliant outcome for the client, and demonstrates again to local authorities the importance of accepting fresh applications. It will be rare that a client presents to a local authority with no new fact, and summary decisions on the merits of a new fact, should not be the basis of refusing an application.
Barristers Toby Vanhegan and Stephanie Lovegrove, from 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, represented Mr M at the appeal.