Trinity Social Housing Law barrister, Parissa Najah has prepared the following summary of the recent case of Ciftci v London Borough of Haringey  EWA Civ 1772 featured in the latest edition of Housing Law Week.
The Court of Appeal considered whether Haringey were entitled to conclude that the appellant’s deliberate decision to give up secure accommodation should not lead to a finding that she was intentionally homeless, on the ground that she was unaware of a relevant fact; and had acted in good faith. The appeal was dismissed on the facts.
Section 191 of the Housing Act 1996 provides that a person is intentionally homeless if by their deliberate act or omission they cease to occupy accommodation that they could reasonably have continued to occupy.
Section 191(2) provides that
“an act or omission in good faith on the part of a person who was unaware of any relevant fact shall not be treated as deliberate.”
Ms Ciftci is a single parent. She is also disabled. She is a double amputee. She has prosthetic legs; and walks with crutches.
Between 2007 and the end of January 2019 Ms Ciftci had accommodation consisting of a 2-bedroomed self-contained ground floor flat in Switzerland. In terms of tenure, affordability, size, location, state of repair and accessibility, it was suitable in every way.
At the end of January 2019, she moved to the UK to work in a job found for her by her sister. She was accommodated with her son and their dog on the sofa of a family friend. She was asked to leave in October 2019 as it was said that the owner’s children were scared by her moving around the property without her prosthetic legs.
The job was short lived as the appellant's disability meant she could not conduct the work. Haringey’s reviewing officer found that it was reckless for the appellant to leave her flat in Switzerland, and that she would have known that this overcrowded accommodation was temporary. This meant that she had been aware of all relevant facts at the time of the act of leaving her tenancy.
The Court of Appeal conducted an extensive review of the case law on Section 191(2).
Najim v Enfield LBC  EWCA Civ 319 confirms that the relevant fact must exist at the time of the act or omission, the purpose of s.191(2) being to protect from genuine mistakes and misapprehension.
In Afonso-da-Trindade v Hackney LBC  EWCA Civ 942, the appellant had moved from Africa to stay with her sister without investigating the nature and extent of this accommodation. Her sister’s landlord subsequently terminated her tenancy. The case confirmed that the current prospects of an expectation working out as anticipated is relevant. It must be shown that there was genuine investigation into prospects beyond mere aspiration.
In O’Connor v Kensington & Chelsea RLBC  EWCA Civ, 394 Sedley LJ said at :
“any relevant fact” must include, if it is not confined to, facts which in the event have brought about the applicant's homelessness.”
The Court of Appeal here also confirmed that an appreciation of future job prospects is only relevant in so far as it explains why an applicant is homeless. This had been in the case in R v Exeter City Council ex p Tranckle (1993) 26 HLR 244 where the applicants had moved to a pub that they intended to run as a business on mistaken information that it could be profitable, but the business failed.
The Court also looked at the duty upon the local authority to investigate the circumstances of housing applicants. It noted the decision in R (Balajigari) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 673 which confirmed that the duty upon public bodies is not a duty to make all reasonable inquiries, and that the court should not intervene because it considers further inquiries would have been sensible or desirable.
The appellant sought to argue that her misapprehension of the nature of the job was the relevant fact of which she was unaware, and that it had been her plan to work to save money before securing her own accommodation in the UK.
Housing officers had made at least 10 phone calls investigating Ms Ciftci’s situation; interviewed her and engaged in correspondence with her. She had an opportunity to make further representations after the finding she was intentionally homeless.
It was found that Ms Ciftci never made a link between the job for which she came to England and the prospect of future accommodation as, prior to her appeal to the County Court, it had not been her case that her expectation was that the income from that job would enable her to find other accommodation. The facts could not be distinguished from those in Alfonso. The appeal was dismissed.