Bristol Corporation, ex parte Hendy [1974] 1 All ER 1047 (CA)

Statutory duty – scope of duty – compliance – delay

“If there is evidence that a local authority is doing all it can to comply with its statutory obligation but has failed to do so because of circumstances over which it has no control, it would be improper for the court to make an order of mandamus compelling it to do that which it cannot do, or which it can only do at the expense of other persons not before the court.”

In this case, the court ruled that the duty imposed on the local authority (under s39 Land Compensation Act 1973) to provide suitable alternative accommodation on reasonable terms, for a person whose accommodation has been declared unfit for human habitation, did not require it to give priority to that person over other persons on the housing list. The authority’s duty was to act reasonably and do its best, as soon as practicable, to provide him with other accommodation. By providing the applicant with temporary accommodation until a council house was available and then offering the house to him on the terms normally offered to prospective tenants, the local authority was doing all that was required of it by s39.

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