Homeless Mum Offered Accommodation 160 Miles from London Wins Appeal


Faced with an extreme shortage of social housing, London boroughs frequently place homeless people to whom they owe a duty in accommodation many miles from the capital. In an important decision, the Court of Appeal considered the lawfulness of such arrangements.

A borough owed a duty to rehouse a homeless mother of three. It offered to accommodate her in a three-bedroom house in Stoke-on-Trent, more than 160 miles from London. In declining that offer, she pointed out, amongst other things, that her family roots and responsibilities were in London and that her children were well settled at a local primary school.

The borough, however, took the view that the offer was a reasonable one and that, by making it, it had discharged the duty it owed her under Section 193(2) of the Housing Act 1996. On that basis, she was entitled to receive no further offer. Her challenge to that decision was later rejected by a judge.

Appealing against that outcome, she argued that it simply defied logic that the borough could not secure accommodation for the family closer than about three hours away from its area. Over a period of two years, the borough was alleged to have rehoused 121 homeless households in Stoke-on-Trent. That, it was contended, was evidence of an unlawful policy being operated.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that one would need to be a hermit to be unaware of the acute shortage of housing, particularly affordable housing, in the capital. In line with its own policy, however, it was incumbent on the borough to accommodate homeless households to whom it owed a duty as close as is reasonably practicable to its administrative area.

There was nothing wrong with that policy. However, in upholding the appeal, the Court noted that there was a dearth of evidence to show that it had been followed in the mother’s case and common sense rather suggested that it had not been. The borough had provided no sufficient explanation as to why no suitable property was available any closer to its area than Stoke-on-Trent.

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