Local authorities and social housing providers should take careful note of a guideline High Court ruling that accommodation provided to a homeless single mother became her home, notwithstanding its temporary nature, and that she was thus entitled to the full benefit of safeguards contained within the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
After accepting that it owed a duty to house the mother under the Housing Act 1996, the local authority placed her in temporary accommodation pending an offer of a permanent home. When such an offer was made, she refused it and the council took the view that it had discharged its duty. In those circumstances, it sought her eviction from the temporary accommodation and was granted a possession order by a judge.
In challenging that decision, the mother’s lawyers argued that she occupied the property as a dwelling and that the procedural protections required by the Protection from Eviction Act thus had to be complied with. It was not disputed that the notice to quit that had been served upon her did not contain advice as to her rights and the steps that she should take and was thus non-compliant with the Act.
In allowing her appeal, the Court noted that the mother had been granted a non-secure licence to occupy the temporary accommodation indefinitely. Given the scarcity of social housing in the area, her occupation was always likely to be lengthy and she had been living there for over four months before the offer of permanent housing was made.
In making the temporary accommodation available for her, the council was performing its full housing duty and, given the length of her occupation, she could reasonably have described the property as her home. In the circumstances, the property was occupied by her as a dwelling and the Act applied. The possession order was quashed.