County court appeal time limits
The time limits for bringing a county court appeal of a negative homelessness decision.
If the local authority has reached a review decision
An applicant must lodge an appeal to the county court 'within 21 days of' the notification of the review decision. Under a general rule of common law this means that the first day of the period (that is the day of the notification) is excluded from the calculation of the time limit for the appeal.
The date of notification is not the same as the date of the decision letter itself. Notification normally means the date of receipt of the review decision. There are specific statutory provisions dealing with deemed receipt. A decision can be deemed to have been notified if it is not received by the applicant but is left for collection in the authority's office. Where the applicant's adviser is notified (say by fax) but the applicant does not personally receive the notification until some time later, the law is silent and there is no case law that decides which of these dates is the date of notification.
If the 21st day of the period is a day when the court office is closed, the 21-day period extends to the day when the court office is next open. Similarly, an appeal will have been brought in time if the papers are posted at the court office on the 21st day after the court has closed for that day.
If the local authority has reached a review decision late
The Court of Appeal has held that a late review decision replaces the original section 184 homelessness decision and becomes the relevant decision for the purposes of the County Court appeal. If the applicant is notified of the review decision late but before the start of the County Court appeal process, the appeal must be brought as a challenge to the review decision, not the original homelessness decision. If the applicant is notified after starting the process of appealing the original homelessness decision, the appeal will become academic, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
If the local authority does not reach a review decision
Where the authority has not reached a decision within the required period, the client should appeal within 21 days of when they should have been notified of the decision. It is important to make a note of the date of the end of the review period as well as the date 21 days thereafter, so that the time limit is not missed. If the time limit has been missed, the applicant should seek a retrospective written agreement to extend time for the review to be carried out.
The county court has discretion, in certain limited circumstances, to allow a late appeal if:
permission is sought before the end of the 21-day time limit and the court is satisfied that there is a good reason for the applicant to be unable to bring the appeal in time, or
permission is sought after the 21 days have expired and the court is satisfied that there was a good reason for the applicant's failure to bring the appeal in time and for any delay in applying for permission.
The most important factor in deciding whether to give permission to appeal out of time is whether the reason given for the delay is a good one. This is a question of fact and the test should be applied to the individual circumstances of each case. The Court of Appeal held that while the discretion whether to allow a late appeal would always remain with the court, difficulties in obtaining timely legal representation or advice may constitute a 'good reason', especially where the applicant acted diligently but was unable to receive specialist advice or support before the 21-day limit was up. In an earlier High Court decision, it was held that where a dyslexic applicant had been able to rely on support from family members and there was no evidence that the applicant’s dyslexia had contributed to her failure to bring the appeal in time, the county court was entitled not to consider it a 'good reason' for the delay.
There is no right of appeal against a decision of an appellate court to give or refuse permission to appeal and the only remedy available in such cases is to apply for judicial review where exceptional circumstances warrant such application.
Last updated: 24 March 2021
s.204(2) Housing Act 1996.
Lester v Garland (1808) 15 Ves Jun 248; Goldsmiths Co v West Metropolitan Railway Co  1 KB 1, CA; Dodds v Walker  1 WLR 1027, HL.
s.203(8) Housing Act 1996.
Aadan v Brent LBC (1999) 32 HLR 848, CA.
Van Aken v Camden LBC  EWCA Civ 1724, CA.
Ngnoguem v Milton Keynes Council  EWCA Civ 396.
s.204(2) Housing Act 1996
reg 9(2) Homelessness (Review Procedure etc.) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/223
s.204(2A) Housing Act 1996, as inserted by para 17 of Sch.1 Homelessness Act 2002.
Gil v London Borough of Camden  EWHC 735 (QB); Al-Ahmed v Tower Hamlets LBC  EWCA Civ 51; Short v Birmingham CC  EWHC 2112 (QBD); R (on the application of Barrett) v Southwark LBC  EWHC 1868 (Comm); Peake v Hackney LBC  EWHC 2528 (QB); Lounis v Newham LBC  EWHC 1857 (QB).
Al-Ahmed v Tower Hamlets LBC  EWCA Civ 51.
Emambee v Islington LBC  EWHC 2835 (QB).
s.54(4) Access to Justice Act 1999; Sivasubramaniam v Wandsworth County Court  EWCA Civ 1738; R (on the application of Tummond) v Reading County Court and another  EWHC 1039 (Admin).