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Challenging suitability

This content applies to England

The procedure around challenging the suitability of accommodation offered, and the courts' powers where a challenge is successful.

Procedure

Where a local authority makes an offer of accommodation, the applicant can accept the offer and request a review of its suitability.[1] Challenges on the issue of suitability do not often succeed and it is likely to be prudent for the applicant to accept an offer and to request a review.

Whilst a local authority must take into account the needs of the individual applicant in making a decision as to whether accommodation is suitable at the time of the offer, it is not required to set out its reasons in the letter offering accommodation as to why it considered that a property was suitable for the applicant.[2]

In the event of a review, normally the accommodation must be suitable as the facts stand at the date of review.[3] However, in certain circumstances the court may hold that in the interests of fairness the facts are to be considered at the date of the original decision.[4] Local authorities are not obliged to leave accommodation empty until the conclusion of a review. If the review found that the accommodation was not suitable then the duty to the applicant under section 193 would not have been discharged.[5]

Note that there is only a statutory right to one review of suitability and a request for review must be made within 21 days of the decision that the accommodation is suitable.[6] For more detail, see Internal reviews.

Courts' powers

In judicial review proceedings, which must be used for challenging the suitability of interim accommodation, the court may quash a decision for failure to have regard to relevant factors in deciding on suitability, and require a new one. It is not open to the court to vary a decision of suitable to not suitable. However, this option is open to the county court under the appeal procedure laid down by the Housing Act 1996 which applies to offers made after a decision has been reached, including offers made under Part 6.

For further information see Challenging homelessness decisions.

Complaining to the Ombudsman

A person can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) about the suitability of accommodation offered to them in the course of a homelessness application.

In a complaint by two families against a local authority for exceeding the six-week time limit for leaving them in bed and breakfast accommodation pending further inquiries (see Assessing suitability: type, standard and affordability), the Ombudsman awarded financial compensation.[7] An award was also made in another case, in which a local authority placed an applicant in accommodation which was unsuitable because of her child's autism. She made them aware of this at the outset and evidence was provided a short time later. The authority failed to carry out a review of suitability and she remained there for 20 months. [8] See Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for further information on complaining to the Ombudsman.

[1] s.202(1A) Housing Act 1996.

[2] Solihull MBC v Khan [2014] EWCA Civ 41.

[3] Sahardid v Camden LBC [2004] EWCA Civ 1485

[4] Omar v Westminster CC [2008] EWCA Civ 421.

[5] Osseily v Westminster CC [2007] EWCA Civ 1108.

[6] R(B) v Redbridge LBC ex p B [2019] EWHC 250.

[7] LGO complaint numbers 12 009 140 and 12 013 552 against Westminster City Council.

[8] LGSCO complaint number 16 005 834 against Lambeth LBC.

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