|Homelessness – bed and breakfast accommodation – conditions – human rights
The claimant, O, had lived at hotel accommodation paid for in part by the local authority and was required to sign an agreement that if he was not going to stay at the hotel he would contact the respondent in advance to explain his absence otherwise the booking would be cancelled. It was also a condition that O sign a register each day. Following warning from the local authority, O’s booking at the hotel was cancelled on the basis that he had been absent from the accommodation ten times and had only explained three of those absences. The local authority then decided that O had made himself intentionally homeless and that it had discharged its obligations under s193 Housing Act 1996, and, following a review, confirmed that decision by letter.
O argued that the condition that the conditions imposed violated his art 8 right to private life, which included his right to live as an ordinary citizen; and that the violation was not justified under art 8(2). He further argued that even if her were not physically present at the hotel, he would still be using the accommodation as his possessions would be there and he would regard it as his home; and that neither s193 or s206 of the 1996 Act permitted the imposition of non landlord and tenant type conditions.
Rejecting O’s appeal, the Court held that although a person who was homeless was entitled to protection of his private space as much as anyone else, when a homeless person was taking accommodation, the public authority had an interest in the terms on which he was taking that accommodation. The condition imposed in the present case, which was not that O should sleep in the room but that he should provide a satisfactory reason if he decided not to do so, meant that the freedom to sleep elsewhere was not removed, only qualified. The reasons for the imposition of conditions were clear. The respondent paid for the accommodation on a daily basis and needed to know whether a room was being occupied so that it could control costs. The condition was the type of condition that could lawfully be imposed, and arose out of the relationship between the respondent and O.
Although the point was not directly in issue, the Court said that, in any event, the reasons given by the local authority for the condition – ie that it did not wish to pay for accommodation that was not used, that it needed to monitor use of accommodation and that inquiry into where O was staying if not at the hotel was necessary to the housing function – were proportionate in relation to the aim of discharging the statutory obligation of providing accommodation to h