New Judgment: R (ZH and CN) v London Borough of Newham and London Borough of Lewisham  UKSC 62
12 Wednesday Nov 2014
Local housing authorities have statutory obligations under the Housing Act 1996, Pt VII to provide assistance to people who are homeless in certain circumstances. Under s 188 of the 1996 Act, the authority must provide the applicant with interim accommodation during the time it takes to carry out investigations into the assistance. CN and ZH commenced separate judicial review proceedings challenging evictions from s 188 accommodation after their substantive housing applications failed. They argued that even after the s 188 duty ceased, the authorities could not lawfully evict them without first giving notice and obtaining a court order under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, s 3(1), (2B).
The Supreme Court dismisses the appeal by a majority of five to two. It holds that Newham and Lewisham are entitled to evict the appellants from s 188 accommodation without first obtaining a court order. On an assessment of the legal and factual context, a licence to occupy s 188 accommodation is not granted for the purpose of using the premises “as a dwelling” (for the purposes of the 1977 Act). Inter alia, the statutory context was inconsistent with such a purpose; s 188 imposes a low threshold duty on a local housing authority to provide interim accommodation (not a home or fixed abode) for a short and determinate period only.
The interference with the appellants’ ECHR, art 8 rights was objectively justified. The termination of an unsuccessful applicant’s licence to occupy s 188 accommodation is in accordance with the law and pursues the legitimate aim of inter alia accommodating other homeless applicants.