Sinead Bond v Leicester City Council (The Times, 23 November 2001) (CA)

Homelessness – intentionality – reasonable to occupy – duty to provide accommodation – domestic violence

The local housing authority was wrong to decide that B had made herself intentionally homeless by leaving her accommodation after suffering violence and intimidation at the hands of the father of her two young children.

Section 175(3) Housing Act 1996 provides that a person is not to be treated as having accommodation unless it is accommodation which it is reasonable to expect him to continue to occupy, and s177(1) states that it is unreasonable to expect someone to continue to occupy accommodation where it is probable that this will lead to domestic violence against him or her from a person with whom s/he is associated.

The LA, however, took account of fact that despite a long history of fleeing harassment from the children’s father, B had continually failed to take any preventative measures to address the matter (eg informing her landlord or the police, taking criminal or civil action).

The Court of Appeal held that s177(1) did not allow for wider considerations of reasonableness: the simple question to be addressed was whether it was probable that B’s continued occupation of the property would lead to actual domestic violence or the serious threat of such violence against her. In reaching it’s decision, the LA had not made any finding as to whether B was at risk of domestic violence had she continued to occupy the property – it had instead concentrated principally on what steps she might have taken other than moving out.

The LA had erred in law; it was more than likely that the LA’s decision would have been different had it asked the right question and accordingly it’s decision was varied to one that B was not intentionally homeless.

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