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Court of Appeal rejects council bid to retake homelessness decision

A local authority cannot take a decision a second time other than in exceptional cases, the Court of Appeal has ruled in a homelessness case.

Giving judgment in Sambotin v the London Borough Of Brent [2018] EWCA Civ 1826, Peter Jackson LJ - with whom Lord Justice Longmore and Lord Justice Henderson agreed - said the principle that when an authority took a decision it was final was there to give the public certainty.

Only cases such as fraud or fundamental errors of fact would justify a revised decision being taken without a legal appeal, he said.

Romeo Sambotin moved to Brent and in December 2016 made a homelessness application during which he told officers he had been turned down by Waltham Forest Council, where he previously lived.

Brent told Waltham Forest that it had concluded that Mr Sambotin was homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need and not intentionally homeless but he had no local connection with Brent, only with Waltham Forest.

But in February 2017, Brent told Mr Sambotin's lawyer it would withdraw the s.198 referral while it made enquiries into his eligibility.

Later that month it decided he was not eligible for homelessness assistance.

When Mr Sambotin took the matter to judicial review Brent argued “there has been a fundamental mistake of fact”, that it was entitled to revisit.

Peter Jackson LJ said: “It is true that the receiving authority is bound by the eligibility decision of the referring authority, subject only to the local connection criteria being met, and to the decision of an appointed person in the event of disagreement.

“No doubt there are situations where one authority has to house an applicant on the back of an eligibility decision that it would not itself have made, but the purpose of the legislation is to achieve clarity in the division of statutory responsibilities.”

He said Brent could have insisted upon its eligibility decision and Waltham Forest could have brought judicial review proceedings if it chose to.

Mark Smulian

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