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London borough discharged homelessness duty with Wolverhampton offer: judge

A court has ruled that the London Borough of Brent discharged its duty when it offered a disabled homeless applicant accommodation in Wolverhampton.

HHJ Luba QC, sitting at Central London County Court, found that the reviewing officer's decision that the applicant did not qualify for an offer in Brent was not irrational and therefore was upheld.

Matt Hutchings QC of Cornerstone Barristers acted for Brent.

The set said the decision might give local authorities “hope that this judgment dampens the enthusiasm for challenges to out-of-area offers following the Supreme Court decision in Nzolameso”.

HHJ Luba said the reviewing officer's finding of fact that the council had been unable to find any suitable accommodation in Brent was "the beginning and the end" of the section 208 argument about whether the council should have found accommodation in its area.

He said there had been nothing unlawful about the statement in Brent's placement policy that attendance of children at a local school was not a reason for refusal.

The judge could “detect nothing unlawful” in the general presumption in the placement policy that accommodation offered would be outside London.

The case arose after Margherita Vukasovic applied as unintentionally homeless and was accepted but offered accommodation in Wolverhampton.

She rejected this, which Brent treated as releasing it from its duty to her.

Ms Vukasovic argued that all her family members were vulnerable in various ways and she needed to stay in Brent, and presented health evidence to this effect.

But the judge said Brent had been unable to offer suitable accommodation any nearer and had acted correctly.

Mark Smulian

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