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HOUSING: Muse v Brent London Borough Council [2008] EWCA Civ 1447

Date:19 DEC 2008

(Court of Appeal; Pill, Arden and Aikens LJJ; 19 December 2008)

The mother and her family sought accommodation from the housing authority. The authority secured temporary accommodation for the family, however, as the family grew, that accommodation became overcrowded and therefore unsuitable. The housing authority then offered different, suitable, temporary accommodation, warning the mother that refusal could lead to termination of her status as homeless, but the mother refused to move, preferring to stay in the overcrowded accommodation. The housing authority argued that because of the mother's refusal of a offer of accommodation, its duty to the mother to provide accommodation was now discharged, that they were entitled to terminate her current temporary accommodation and that her homeless application would be closed.

Although a harsh conclusion, the housing authority was correct. Where there was a great shortage of permanent accommodation, an applicant might spend many years in temporary accommodation. Unless Housing Act 1996, s 193, applied, there was no statutory provision for a fresh application to be made if the personal circumstances of the applicant changed. If a change made temporary accommodation unsuitable, the duty of the housing authority was to find fresh accommodation that was suitable. Under s 193(5) if an applicant refused an offer of accommodation believed by the housing authority to be suitable, and the authority had warned the applicant of the possible consequences of refusal, the authority's duty to house the applicant came to an end.