Trindade v Hackney London Borough Council  

[2017] EWCA Civ 942, 6 July 2017

Sales, Irwin and Moylan LJJ

The Court of Appeal has held that an act or omission which led to a person’s homelessness will only have been in good faith for the purpose of Housing Act 1996, s.191(2), where the applicant can show that at the time of the act or omission he had an active belief that a specific state of affairs would arise or continue in the future based on a genuine investigation about those prospects and not on mere aspiration. The court also held that the issue of whether an act or omission is in good faith within the meaning of Housing Act 1996, s.191, must be judged by reference to the applicant’s housing position and requirements for accommodation.

Toby Vanhegan and Riccardo Calzavara of Arden Chambers appeared for the appellant.

Ms Trindade previously lived with her partner and disabled daughter in an apartment on an island off the west coast of central Africa. On 2 February 2013, she left that accommodation and moved in with her sister in the UK, in part to secure medical treatment for her daughter. Ms Trindade’s partner then gave up the tenancy of the apartment in which they had previously resided.

In September 2013, Ms Trindade and her sister were evicted from the sister’s property. They applied separately to Hackney LBC for homelessness assistance.

On 14 April 2014, the authority decided that they owed no duty to accommodate Ms Trindade because her sister’s property was not her last settled address and she had made herself intentionally homeless by leaving the apartment in Africa because the decision to come to the UK and live with her sister “had the seeds of its own destruction” and because Ms Trindade left her African apartment “on a wing and a prayer”.

On 22 December 2014, the authority upheld that decision on review, concluding that the when Ms Trindade left her African apartment she had not been unaware of any relevant fact and that the act of leaving it had not been taken in good faith.

On 29 July 2015, HHJ Wulwik dismissed Ms Trindade’s appeal. The judge held that the review decision identified the relevant act with sufficient clarity and upheld the review decision on the issue whether Ms Trindade had acted in ignorance of a relevant fact. He held that it was unnecessary to consider the question of good faith.

Before the Court of Appeal, Ms Trindade argued that she had been unaware of a relevant fact (namely that her sister could be evicted) when she had left the apartment in Africa, and that she had acted in good faith because she had come to the UK to secure medical assistance for her daughter.

In relation to the first ground, the Court of Appeal, upholding the decision in Najim v Enfield LBC [2015] EWCA Civ 319; [2015] HLR 19, held that the question of ignorance of a relevant fact is directed to ignorance of a fact existing at the time of the deliberate act/omission, and does not cover mistakes about future events which may or may not occur. An applicant whose future has not worked out as she expected has to show that at the time of her action/omission, she had an active belief that a specific state of affairs would arise or continue in the future based on a genuine investigation about those prospects.

In relation to the second ground, the Court of Appeal held obiter that the question of good faith has to be judged by reference to an applicant’s housing position and requirements for accommodation. Good faith does not turn on whether the applicant has acted/omitted to act with a laudable motive insofar as that motive has nothing to do with her housing requirements.

The appeal was dismissed. The authority had been entitled to conclude that Ms Trindade’s ignorance of the fact that her sister could be evicted was not ignorance of a relevant fact currently existing, and the fact that she had come to the UK without any intention to exploit the homelessness legislation was not the relevant question in considering good faith.