Emma Godfrey reviews the decision of the Court of Appeal in Alibkhiet v London Borough of Brent; Adam v City of Westminster  EWCA Civ 2742 which considers the use of out-of-borough placements in discharge of the main housing duty under s.193 Housing Act 1996.
In both cases the local authority had accepted a s.193 duty towards the applicant and sought to discharge that duty by making an offer of private sector rented accommodation outside its area. Following the decision of the Supreme Court in Nzolameso v Westminster City Council  UKSC 22, both authorities had adopted policies governing the allocation of temporary accommodation under Part VII Housing Act 1996 and the use of private rented sector accommodation.
Mr. Alibkhiet and Ms. Adam each challenged the authority’s decision on a s.202 review that the accommodation offered to them was suitable . The Court of Appeal held that:
- If there is accommodation available in borough, it does not necessarily follow that the authority must offer it to a particular applicant; the decision in any particular case may depend on the policy the authority has adopted for the procurement and allocation of accommodation
- In principle, if the local housing authority has lawful policies in place then, provided it applies those policies correctly in any given case, its decision will be lawful
- The policies should be publicly available and should explain the factors that would be taken into account in offering accommodation in borough and the factors that would be considered to make it suitable to accommodate further away if there were a shortage of in-borough accommodation
- There was no requirement for the authority to give reasons for offering accommodation out of borough at the time of making the offer
- In general, the duty under s.208 HA 1996 (to secure accommodation in borough so far as reasonably practicable) does not require the authority to make repeated searches for in-borough accommodation over a period of time before making an out-of-borough offer; it is for the authority to decide for how long it should continue to make those enquiries.
The decision serves to demonstrate the importance to local authorities of publishing lawful policies for the procurement and allocation of temporary and private sector accommodation, and applying those policies correctly.