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Simple passing of time and unlawful occupation of accommodation could not amount to new fact for the purposes of new homelessness application, judge finds

A Deputy High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge to a council’s decision to refuse to accept a fresh homelessness application from the claimant following an alleged change in his circumstances.

His Honour Judge Lickley QC said the short point in Minott, R (On the Application Of) v Cambridge City Council [2021] EWHC 211 (Admin) was whether the claimant had acquired a local connection for the purposes of establishing that he was 'normally resident' having occupied temporary accommodation provided by the defendant in discharge of an interim duty under the Housing Act 1996 for more than six months when that continued occupation was after any housing duty owed to him had expired, a referral to another housing authority (Sandwell) had been made and accepted, and after the right of occupation had been terminated and he occupied the accommodation without permission.

HHJ Lickley QC found:

(i) At the time of the new application on 17 October 2019 the only alleged new fact was that the claimant by then had resided in the temporary accommodation for more than 6 months and thereby for that reason had a local connection to Cambridge.

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(ii) From the 23 August 2019 when the claimant was served with notice requiring him to vacate on the 2 September 2019 and from 28 October 2019 when he was refused accommodation pending review CCC [Cambridge City Council] withdrew permission to occupy the temporary accommodation provided by them. From the 2 September 2019 the claimant had been in occupation unlawfully and had made a decision to remain to gain 6 months occupation. CCC owed him no housing duty from the time Sandwell accepted the referral.

(iii) Other than the passing of time nothing had changed. The claimant did not have a local connection with Cambridge “indeed his local connection for the purposes of the HA 96 was with Sandwell who had accepted the referral”.

(iv) In the judge's judgement, “in the circumstances of this case the simple passing of time and the unlawful occupation of the accommodation could not amount to a new fact for the purposes of a new application under the HA 96”.

(v) The new application was also in Judge Lickley’s judgement, "wholly fanciful i.e. unrealistic given the circumstances. The actions of the claimant to frustrate CCC in not leaving the accommodation as he was required to, in preventing CCC from changing the locks and thereby preventing others from using the much needed temporary accommodation and failing to engage with Sandwell is tantamount to a manipulation of the homeless statutory regime.”

(vi) If such conduct were permissible any person in similar circumstances without a local connection who was dissatisfied with a referral decision, as an example, would be able to frustrate the referral system by refusing to leave until such time as he had resided for 6 months in one area.

Judge Lickley found, accordingly, that the decision rejecting the new homelessness application was not unlawful. “It was not irrational in a public law sense namely that no reasonable authority could have made that decision and there was no error of law.”

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