Changes In Circumstances Can Make Decisions On Priority Needs Deficient


08 January, 2009

The case of Geoffrey Banks v Kingston-Upon-Thames RBC [2008] EWCA Civ 1443 has ruled that the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999 can be used in situations where, although the local authority's original decision had been fair and reasonable, a change in the facts of a case by the time the review decision was made can mean the original verdict is to be viewed as defective.

The Facts

Banks (B) suffered from a number of health-related problems and his local authority (LA) had previously refused his application for assistance as a homeless person as he was not homeless; B had been living in shared accommodation at the time. B sought a review of this decision, but a few days later, he received notice from his landlord to quit the property.

On review, the LA decided that B was now to be seen as homeless because of the notice, but it did not have a duty to house him due to a lack of any priority need. An appeal was made by B to the County Court on the grounds that the LA was bound, but had failed, to implement the requirements of the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Review Procedures) Regulations 1999 (the Regulations) as the review had upheld the original decision, but on completely different grounds. The Judge ruled that the Regulations only became applicable when the first result could be considered as defective and that in situations where the finding could not be criticised as in B's case, they did not apply.

The Appeal

B appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing a number of different points. Firstly, he argued that the LA had acted unlawfully in not applying the Regulations to his case and that the Judge had erred in finding that they were not applicable. He said that the original decision had been made on the grounds that he was not homeless at that time whereas the review's conclusion was that he was not in priority need, which meant they were both materially different and amounted to a deficiency in the original verdict. Finally, he submitted that had he been made aware of the Regulation's requirements, he would have known about the issue of what constituted a priority need and could have made representations at the review about his medical condition.

The Court of Appeal allowed B's appeal. They firstly considered the Regulation's procedure of the reviewing officer notifying the individual that, although a deficiency or flaw had been made in the original decision, they were still of the mind not to decide in favour of the individual. The Court considered that this warning would give the person the opportunity to, at the very least, attempt to persuade the reviewing officer to find that the first ruling was mistaken. This was said by the Court to be a great potential benefit and to be deprived of this could be seriously prejudicial to the person concerned. They were of the opinion that B should have been given the chance to inform the officer about his medical conditions, in the hope that it would assist his application.

Applying this to B's case, they held that once B had become homeless, the original decision of the LA became deficient as it did not specifically address the issue of priority need. This factor only arose at a later date. Therefore, despite the original decision being faultless, it had a serious deficiency within it which was of such importance to justify the additional procedural step of permitting B to make additional submissions to the reviewing officer.

The appeal was therefore allowed.


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