Tower Hamlets, ex p Ferdous Begum [1993] 2 All ER 65 (HL)

Capacity – housing – homelessness – duty to make offer of accommodation

A 24 yr old Bangladeshi woman who lacked hearing, speech and education communicated within her family through a unique sign language. She applied through her father, for housing under s62 of the 1985 Housing Act. The housing authority concluded that the applicant did not have sufficient capacity to make an application or to consent to its being made on her behalf. She failed in a legal challenge to that stance.

Lord Griffiths held that there would be no purpose served in making an offer of accommodation to a disabled person who was unable to comprehend or evaluate the offer or contract; and since the authority not unreasonably regarded the applicant as so disabled as to lack the capacity to be regarded as an applicant, they owed her no duty under the Act. The duty to make an offer is only owed to those who have the capacity to understand and respond to such an offer and if they accept it to undertake the responsibilities that will be involved.

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