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Intentionally homeless: Haile v London Borough of Waltham Forest [2015] UKSC 34

In October 2011, H, a pregnant woman, surrendered the tenancy of her bedsit in a hostel, which only accommodated single people.

H subsequently moved into temporary accommodation, but shortly thereafter vacated the premises due to overcrowding. Now homeless, H applied to the local authority (“LBWF”) for accommodation pursuant to the homelessness provisions under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (“the Act”). H was housed in temporary accommodation pending consideration of her application.In February 2012, H gave birth to a baby girl. In August 2012, LBWF decided that although satisfied that H was homeless, eligible for assistance and in priority need, she had nevertheless become homeless intentionally pursuant to s.191 of the Act. In précis, H had become intentionally homeless on deliberately surrendering possession of her bedsit, which was available for her occupation, and which it would have been reasonable for her to continue to occupy until she gave birth.

In January 2013, LBWF upheld its decision following a review under s.202 of the Act. H’s appeal to the County Court and Court of Appeal were both dismissed.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the birth of H’s baby broke the causal link between H deliberately leaving the bedsit and her state of homelessness when her application was considered by LBWF.

In finding that H had not become intentionally homeless, the Supreme Court distinguished the decision of the House of Lords in Din v Wandsworth London Borough Council [1983] 1 AC 657. The Supreme Court was keen to stress that the principles set out in Din for determining when an individual had become “homeless intentionally” remained good law. In particular the principle that there must be a continuing causal connection between the deliberate act satisfying the definition of “intentional” homelessness, and the homelessness existing at the date of the local authority’s enquiry. 

The review officer had not taken into consideration the fact that the birth of H’s baby broke the causal link between the deliberate act of H surrendering her tenancy of the bedsit and her state of homelessness when her application was considered. The birth of H’s baby would have rendered H homeless whether or not she had surrendered her tenancy.

Elizabeth Dwomoh / 1st Jun 2015


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