Family fleeing domestic violence win judicial review over Ealing Council on five-year residency rule

Ref. HA, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Ealing [2015] EWHC 2375

Fleeing domestic abuse, a woman took her five children away from the London Borough of Hounslow where they had been resident and sought a new life in Ealing, the next-door borough. On 9th June 2014, Ealing Council accepted a full housing duty to her under S. 193 Housing Act 1996 on account of her unintentional homelessness. She was offered accommodation, which was unsuitable for a family of that size.

Though she applied online to join Ealing’s Housing register, she received a pro-forma letter on 08 December 2014 – which forms the subject of the judicial review.

The letter stated that, following changes to Council policy subsequent to the Localism Act 2011, she did not appear to be eligible to join the register at that time. She did not fulfil the 5-year residency requirement, which dictates that no person shall be permitted to join the register if they have not been in residency in the borough for at least a five year period.

However, S. 166A(3) of the Housing Act 1996 specifies a number of ‘reasonable preference categories’, which were not incorporated into the council’s policy. The Judge, Mr Justice Foss, stated that:

“The defendant’s policy did not provide for the giving of reasonable preference to prescribed categories of persons as required by section 166A(3) of the Act”

In this respect, he went on to say, the policy was unlawful. Not only this, but a number of other grounds of unlawfulness were established, including:

  • Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (anti-discrimination) had been contravened
  • 29 of the Equality Act 2010 had been breached by indirect discrimination
  • 11 of the Children Act 2004 had not been adhered to (safeguard and promote the welfare of children)
  • There was no indication that any consideration at all had been given to the particular facts of her case and whether she was ‘exceptional’ to the policy. A failure to apply their own policy was therefore unlawful.

As such, the decision of the Local Authority was, somewhat comprehensively, quashed.

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SRJ
04.09.15

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