Sharif v Camden London Borough Council
 CA Civ 463, April 20, 2011
Court of Appeal, Jacob, Wilson and Etherton LJJ
The Court of Appeal has held that s.176, Housing Act 1996, requires that accommodation secured by an authority in discharge of their duty under s.193(2) must be a single unit of accommodation. It was not sufficient for the authority to offer accommodation to a family in two adjacent flats.
Iain Colville of Arden Chambers appeared on behalf of the authority.
Housing Act 1996
Part 7, Housing Act 1996, governs the provision by local housing authorities of assistance to homeless persons. If the authority decide that an applicant is eligible for assistance, homeless, in priority need and not homeless intentionally, they have a duty to secure that accommodation is made available for his occupation: s.193(2). Accommodation shall be regarded as available for a person’s occupation only if it is available for occupation by him together with (a) any other person who normally resides with him as a member of his family, or (b) any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him: s.176, 1996 Act.
The authority ceases to be subject to the duty under s.193(2) if, inter alia, the applicant, having been informed of the possible consequence of refusal and of his right to request a review of the suitability of the accommodation, refuses an offer of accommodation which they are satisfied is suitable for him and they notify him that they regard themselves as having discharged their duty under that section: s.193(5).
The appellant applied to the respondent authority for assistance under Pt 7, 1996 Act. The authority accepted that they owed her a duty under s.193(2). In 2004, they secured accommodation for appellant in a three-bedroom house in the private sector. The appellant lived there with her father, for whom she acted as a carer, and her younger sister.
In November 2009, the authority offered the appellant accommodation in two separate flats in a building. The two flats were on the same floor and were separated by a few yards. It was envisaged that the appellant and her sister would live in one and her father in the other. The appellant refused the offer and the authority notified her that they considered that they had discharge their duty. On appeal to the county court, she argued that, by virtue of s.176, 1996 Act, the authority could not discharge their duty by offering two flats instead of a single unit. The appeal was dismissed.
Court of Appeal
The authority argued that, as the term “accommodation” is not defined in Pt 7, “accommodation” in s.176 is not restricted to a single dwelling. It was a matter for the authority, subject to usual Wednesbury principles, to decide if split accommodation was suitable for an applicant and his household.
In allowing the appeal, the Court held that the expression “together with” in s.176 is to be given its ordinary meaning. The residents of two self-contained flats, however close they may be, do not share any communal living areas and cannot be said to be residing “with” each other or in occupation of one or other or both of the flats “together with” each other. It makes no difference how often the residents may visit each other and share each other’s company.