Paul Fuller discusses the recent Court of Appeal decision in Norton v LB Haringey  EWCA Civ 1340
Check, check… and check again!
What was the case about?
This was an appeal by Mr Norton against the decision of HHJ Hellman, upholding Haringey's decision that - by making Mr Norton a private rented sector offer of accommodation ('PRSO') - Haringey had discharged its “main housing duty” under §.193(2), Housing Act 1996.
What did the Court decide?
Mr Norton’s appeal was advanced on 3 grounds: that Haringey had not satisfied 2 requirements in §.193, and a further requirement in Art 3(a), Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012 (‘HSAO’).
The court allowed Mr Norton’s appeal on all 3 grounds.
‘the [local] authority shall… cease to be subject to the duty under this section if the applicant [accepts a private rented sector offer, or refuses such an offer] having been informed in writing of… the effect under section 195A of a further application to a local housing authority within two years of acceptance of the offer…”
In an apparent effort to discharge this requirement, Haringey’s PRSO to Mr Norton contained the following provision:
'If you become homeless within two years of the date, you accepted our offer, and you then re-apply to us for housing… [and] we find that you have become homeless or threatened with homelessness because of something you did or failed to do, (that is, you have made yourself homeless intentionally) we [will] consider all aspects of your situation, including whether you still have a priority need and will take a fresh decision on the basis of our then findings.'
That effectively put Mr Norton on notice of the effect of §.195A, sub-section (1).
Sub-section (2) of §.195A continues, however:
“For the purpose of subsection (1), an applicant in respect of whom a valid notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (orders for possession on expiry or termination of assured shorthold tenancy) has been given is to be treated as homeless from the date on which that notice expires…”
It was common ground that the PRSO did not inform Mr Norton of the effect of §.195A(2). The court held that:
- Haringey had not satisfied the requirement in §.193(7AB)(c); and
- the duty imposed by §.193(2) had not been brought to an end.
Grounds B and C
The court also found that, on the facts, Haringey had not satisfied itself that:
- Mr Norton was able to end any contractual obligations he was under in respect of his existing accommodation, prior to being required to take up the PRSO (as required under §.193(7F)); or
- the accommodation being offered to Mr Norton was in a ‘reasonable physical condition’, as required under Art 3(a), HSAO.
Haringey had clearly had regard to the effect of §.193 when drafting the PRSO. The statutory provisions are however various and complex; key considerations were missed.
This case serves as a reminder that local authorities should take extra care when engaging with the legislation. The rules are strict; innocent and apparently minor oversights can prove costly.
The full judgment can be found here.
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