Diana Villaruel v Richmond-upon-Thames LBC (19 July 2002) (unreported) (County Court)

Housing – homelessness – suitable accommodation – Wednesbury unreasonableness

V was a single black mother who had become homeless when she and her baby daughter moved out of the property she had occupied with her husband before the breakdown of her marriage. She objected to the LA’s offer of a house on the basis that there had been a significant number of racial incidents in the area where it was situated. She argued that, should she move there, she would be vulnerable to racial harassment and the fear of such incidents would increase the feelings of depression and isolation that she already suffered from. In support of her objections, V supplied the LA with crime figures for the area and a report compiled by a monitoring group.

Having made enquiries of the local housing association and the police the LA confirmed its offer of the house, setting out the consequences to V if she did not accept the property offered. A review of the LA’s decision also resulted in the offer being confirmed.

V appealed to the County Court against the review decision, claiming that the LA had failed to take account of: (i) the materials provided by V’s solicitors which indicated that the accommodation offered was in an area with a high incidence of racial harassment; (ii) the fact that V as a single black woman with a child would be vulnerable to racial harassment; and (iii) V’s fear that she would be the victim of racial harassment if she were to accept the LA’s offer. She submitted that the LA’s decision that the offer of accommodation at the house was suitable was Wednesbury unreasonable.

The Court rejected V’s appeal.  It found that whilst the LA’s decision recognised that V had a perception that she could be subject to racially motivated crime, there was nothing before the LA which ought to have led to the conclusion that V was more at risk of racial harassment in the area in question than in other areas where she had in principle agreed to be housed. The review decision stated that all the information submitted by V had been read and that that information had been taken into account by the LA when reaching its decision. Further, the LA had made its own inquiries into the situation, having been alerted to V’s fears and in light of the crime statistics she had supplied.

The judge went on to state that although the decision letter was not a model of its kind, it did sufficiently indicate that all relevant considerations had been taken into account. There was no error in terms of matters included or excluded and the decision was not one which no reasonable decision-maker could have reached in light of the relevant matters.

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