Genevieve Screeche-Powell represents successful local authority in Court of Appeal intentional homelessness case

25 March 2020

Genevieve Screeche-Powell represented the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which successfully defended its decision in a case concerning intentional homelessness and domestic violence.

The case involved the Court of Appeal considering an important point of legal principle about the correct time to assess whether it is ‘reasonable to continue to occupy’ accommodation.

In intentional homeless cases, the question of whether it is reasonable to continue to occupy the accommodation is considered when the applicant leaves their home. This case looked at exactly when the reasonableness of continuing to occupy accommodation should be judged if an applicant alleges a future risk of domestic violence.

The court held that s.191 Housing Act 1996 is directed to the time when:

  • an applicant does/fails to do something which results in him or her no longer occupying accommodation and then
  • to whether it would have been reasonable for him/her to continue in occupation.

This is the same question being answered when considering the deeming provision of s.177 (domestic and other violence).

The Court of Appeal held that the assessment needs to be informed by all relevant matters, including events that occur up to the date of the review decision. But that the assessment is one for the local authority to make. And it is for an authority to assess the case on review that has been presented to it.

Background to the case

The local authority evicted LB because of rent arrears. (LB had been a victim of domestic violence but had non-molestation orders in place that were proving effective. There had been no domestic violence incidents for the 17 months before her eviction). Some months after the eviction, her husband re-appeared and she got another non-molestation order against him.

Despite her eviction being for rent arrears, her case was that it was unreasonable for her to continue to occupy the property from which she was evicted because she was at risk of violence. The local authority had found that it was not probable her continued occupation would lead to violence.