20 May 2015

This appeal raised the basic question of whether an applicant can say: “What I did in the past to cause me to become homeless back then is not the reason why I am homeless today. I would be homeless now anyway. So I am not now intentionally homeless”

Ms Haile was the assured shorthold tenant of a room in a hostel for single people.

The tenancy terms prohibited occupation of a room by more than one person.

In June 2011 Ms Haile became pregnant.

In October 2011 she moved out, gave up her tenancy and went to live with a friend.

When the friend later asked her to leave, she applied as homeless.

She was provided with interim accommodation under Housing Act 1996 section 188 and in February 2012 gave birth to her daughter.

In August 2012 the council decided that she had become homeless intentionally by giving up her tenancy: Housing Act 1996 section 191(1).

That decision was upheld on review. A judge dismissed an appeal.

On a second appeal, Ms Haile said that the correct date to be used to assess intentional homelessness was the date of the council’s decision and not the earlier date of departure from the last settled accommodation. By the later date the claimant could not reasonably have occupied her former room because she had a child.

She tried to distinguish the old House of Lords decision to the contrary - Din v Wandsworth LBC [1983] AC 657 - because it had been decided before any question of 'reasonable continued occupation' had been included in the definition of homelessness (now section 175(3)).

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. It said that the decision in Din was still binding and that:

“Section 190(1) of the 1996 Act uses the phrases "is homeless", "is eligible for assistance" and "became homeless intentionally".

Sections 192(1) and 193(1) use similar phrases.

The deliberate switch from the present to the past tense indicated that the Council must investigate the historic cause of the applicant's homelessness, but consider all other issues by reference to the present state of affairs.

On a further appeal to the Supreme Court, Ms Haile also argued that the birth of her baby broke the chain of causation between her deliberately leaving the hostel, and her state of homelessness when her application was considered. She again invited the court, if necessary, to depart from the House of Lords’ decision in Din v Wandsworth LBC [1983] 1 AC 657.

The Supreme Court held that Din had been correctly decided and remained good law.

But it also decided that there must be a continuing causal connection between the deliberate act satisfying the statutory definition of “intentional” homelessness, and the homelessness existing at the date of the council’s decision.

In this case, the appeal was allowed by a majority (4:1) because the reviewing officer did not consider whether the cause of Ms Haile’s current state of homelessness was her surrender of her tenancy.

The birth of the baby had meant that she would have been homeless, at the time her application was considered, whether or not she had surrendered the tenancy.

It was actual events which had materialised post-dating the departure from the last accommodation that were important.


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