In a case of significance to social landlords and local authority housing departments, lawyers representing a gravely disabled woman are arguing that she should be viewed as homeless on the basis that the care home where she lives is not ‘accommodation’ within the meaning of section 175 of the Housing Act 1996.
The woman, who suffers from a number of ailments and is confined to a wheelchair, had to be moved as an emergency from her home in 2010 after she was subjected to domestic violence. She has been living in a care home ever since but is adamant that she does not need the high level of care that she is afforded there.
She wished to move back into a home of her own, with an appropriate care package to support her, and applied for housing to Bath and North East Somerset Council. However, the council rejected her application on the basis that her residence in the care home meant that she was neither homeless nor threatened with homelessness.
The council’s decision was subsequently upheld at the county court. However, she has now been granted permission to challenge that decision in the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Lewison acknowledged that the case raised an ‘important point of principle’ as to the correct interpretation of section 175.
The woman viewed the care home only as a temporary shelter to escape domestic violence and her lawyers argue that the issue of whether it is ‘accommodation’ within the meaning of the Act turns on the purpose for which she was placed there. The woman was said to have been marooned in the care home in that she would be at risk of being declared ‘intentionally homeless’ if she moved out. Her case will return to the Court of Appeal at a later date for a full hearing before three judges.