Nick Bano represented the successful appellant in G v Lambeth, a challenge to a local authority’s decision that the applicant was ‘intentionally homeless’.
The applicant, a self-employed painter and decorator with three children, had been evicted from a privately rented home for rent arrears. There was a dispute as to whether the family home had been affordable. G told the local authority that his family had spent £150 per month on a car and £120 per month on public transport and that – when added to the other costs of living – he had been unable to pay the rent. In assessing the family’s finances local authority discounted the cost of the car and reduced the other travel costs to £100 “for argument sake”, noting that the children travelled for free and the applicant’s wife was not in employment. That meant (on the local authority’s calculation) that the family’s expenses were £15 per month less than their income, and the property had therefore been affordable.
G appealed to the County Court. Recorder Cohen allowed the appeal, criticising in particular the decision to reduce the Appellant’s wife’s travel costs which, he said, ‘had no rational basis’ because a parent who is not in paid employment may have higher travel costs than someone who spends the day at work. Reaching the figure of £100, the judge ruled, was arbitrary.
The appeal succeeded (‘rather unusually’, the judge noted) on all six grounds. The other challenges were:
- Failure to take into account the code of guidance (specifically paragraph 11.17, relating to ‘temporary aberrations’);
- Failure to make adequate inquiries into the extent of the Appellant’s substance abuse problem;
- Failure to make adequate inquiries into the family’s travel costs before reaching a decision;
- Failure to make adequate inquiries into the necessity of repaying debts (the council had discounted £150 claimed towards paying off loans and fines); and
- Failure to follow the Regulation 8 ‘minded to’ procedure (the judge ruled that the initial decision contained errors that were deficiencies that par excellence required the Regulation 8 procedure to be followed).