Birmingham system for accommodation for homeless persons declared unlawful

The High Court has ruled that Birmingham City Council has been operating an unlawful system for the performance of its main housing duty under the Housing Act 1996.

The Claimants, represented by CLP solicitors, argued that their families had been left in unsuitable accommodation in breach of the Council’s obligation to them under s193(2) of the Housing Act 1996. Two of the claimants, Mr Elkundi and Mr Ahmed had children with severe disabilities. The Council placed applicants on a ‘Planned Move List’. The system operated on the basis that an applicant who is owed the main housing duty may be left in unsuitable accommodation while the Council takes a reasonable time to secure suitable accommodation.

Steyn J held that this system was unlawful. Confirming M v. Newham London Borough Council, she held that the main housing duty is an immediate, unqualified and non-deferrable duty to secure suitable accommodation, and not a duty to secure the availability of suitable accommodation within a reasonable period of time. She further held that the system irrationally failed to distinguish between persons in suitable and unsuitable accommodation, as well as failing to meet the local authority’s public sector obligations under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

Statement from CLP:

These families and many others in a similar position have suffered as a result of the unlawful practice of the council, the effect of which is that many homeless applicants are left in unsuitable accommodation, sometimes in appalling conditions, for considerable periods of time, despite an acknowledgment on the part of the Council that they are owed the main housing duty under the homeless legislation. This judgment is a welcome relief to those affected. The Claimants were represented at court by barristers Zia Nabi of Doughty Street Chambers and Joseph Markus of Garden Court North.

Contact: Mike McIlvaney 01216858595