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Hazard assessments of accommodation: a matter of judgement for Local Authorities according to Court of Appeal

The appellant, an individual with mental health issues, appealed against the earlier decision in January 2015 of a reviewing officer of Lambeth London Borough Council who found that the accommodation provided by Lambeth London Borough Council was suitable under the Housing Act 1996 s.210. The appellant argued that Authority had failed to conduct an inspection of the property following a noise complaint, a requirement under s.210 of the 1996 Act, before deciding that the accommodation was acceptable.

The case referred to the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities issued by the Secretary which states:

"The Secretary of State recommends that when determining the suitability of accommodation secured under the homelessness legislation, local authorities should, as a minimum, ensure that all accommodation is free of category 1 hazards. In the case of an out of district placement it is the responsibility of the placing authority to ensure that accommodation is free of category 1 hazards."

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, judging that:

  • While Local Authorities need to have regard to the Code and ensure that the accommodation they provide is free of category 1 hazards, they operate on tight budgets and have to exercise judgment when deciding whether it is necessary to conduct a full scale inspection and assessment of accommodation.
  • The housing officers involved were experienced in homelessness applications and the proper inference was that none of the officers judged that the scale of the problem could be classed as a hazard warranting a full hazard assessment.
  • The accommodation was only temporary and the Authority had made efforts to address the complaint by moving the appellant to the top floor of the building to minimise exposure to nois

The decision of the Court of Appeal is welcome news for Local Authorities reaffirming that the duty to make inquiries in relation to hazards will be the normal standard applying to inquiries under Part VII of the Housing Act (as established in Bayani).

Wayne Beglan was instructed on behalf of Lambeth London Borough Council. The judgement can be read here.