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Is a woman's refuge accommodation?

R Richards v Ipswich BC & SoS for Communities and Local Government [2008] EWCA Civ 378

A recent decision has sought to clarify this difficult issue and develop a realistic set of criteria for housing officers to apply in determining the reasonable continuance of occupation.

James Findlay QC and Wayne Beglan acted successfully for Ipswich BC in this joined hearing of two appeals regarding whether a women's refuge constituted "accommodation" for the purposes of the Housing Act 1996 Pt VII, and, if it was "accommodation", whether, it could be reasonable, for the purposes of the Act, for a woman to continue to occupy a refuge; and if it was, whether it was reasonable for the housing authorities in the instant cases to conclude that it would have been reasonable for a woman to continue to occupy the refuges.

The Court answered "yes" to the first two questions. As to the third, in determining whether it would be reasonable for a woman to continue to occupy a refuge as opposed to other accommodation, particular criteria fell to be considered in addition to the general matters that fell to be considered in any enquiry under s.175(3) or s.191(1) of the Housing Act 1996. Even though the officers had not reviewed the cases in specific relation to these criteria they could not reasonably have reached any different conclusion.