PLT Masthead 430

Masthead Housing - Litigation

Supreme Court to hear case on intentional homelessness and rent shortfalls

The Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal in a key case on intentional homelessness, housing benefit and subsistence benefits.

The Court of Appeal in Samuels v Birmingham City Council [2015] EWCA Civ 1051, [2015] HLR 47 dismissed Ms Samuels’ appeal against the decision of HHJ Worcester, dismissing her section 204 homeless appeal against the decision of the council that she was intentionally homeless because she could have made up the shortfall between her rent and her housing benefit from her subsistence benefits, but failed to do so.

The background to the case was that Ms Samuels had been an assured shorthold tenant of a property in West Bromwich. Her contractual rent was £700 a month, towards which she received housing benefit of £548.51 a month, leaving a shortfall of £151.49 payable by her. She fell into arrears and was given notice by her landlord to leave the property in July 2011.

Ms Samuels subsequently made two applications to the city council for assistance under the homelessness provisions of the Housing Act 1996. In each case the council decided that she was intentionally homeless, on the ground that the accommodation had been reasonable for her to continue to occupy and had, in particular, been affordable, and that the loss of the accommodation was the result of her deliberate act in failing to pay the rent.

According to Garden Court North Chambers, whose James Stark has appeared for Ms Samuels throughout, instructed by the Community Law Partnership, the appeal to the Supreme Court concerns two important issues:

  • Whether a local authority can decide that an individual is intentionally homeless when to have been able to pay the rent they would have had to divert considerable sums from their subsistence benefits to do so due to a substantial shortfall in housing benefit caused by the local housing allowance cap; and
  • The sufficiency of reasons in a case concerning an assessment of the affordability of accommodation.

Garden Court North Chambers said that the reason for the delay between the Court of Appeal ruling and the granting of permission to appeal by the Supreme Court was that “in summary the Legal Aid Agency repeatedly refused to fund an application for permission to appeal because it believed there was little prospect of such permission being granted”.

The Community Law Partnership said Ms Samuels' legal team decided they had "no option but to seek permission to appeal from the Supreme Court, without the benefit of Public Funding".

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