The housing team at Osbornes have won a landmark appeal which has the potential to impact individuals living in cramped and overcrowded conditions.
Favio Flores, 46, and his partner Elba Velasquez, from Peckham, took Southwark council to judicial review at the High Court after officials claimed the family deliberately moved into their home to push themselves to the top of the housing waiting list.
The High Court held that the council was allowed to find that Mr Flores acted deliberately in accordance with their housing allocation policy when he occupied a one bedroom property for him and his household. Even though he had lived in the property for many years before he approached the council for housing assistance under its housing allocation scheme.
In fact, in this case Mr Flores only became overcrowded many years later and as a result of his children growing older, importantly he was not overcrowded when he was granted the tenancy.
However, the High Court determined that the council could decide under its housing allocation scheme that Mr Flores should not be given priority over families who moved into appropriately-sized accommodation which later became overcrowded because the family had increased in size. The council argued that the property in question was never going to be suitable for Mr Flores family as the children would naturally get older.
In this case Mr Flores moved into a one bedroom flat because this is all he was able to afford at the time and it was not until many years later that he was even aware that he was eligible to apply to the council for housing assistance under its allocation scheme.
The approach taken by the High Court was controversial as it means that when looked at in a wider context, where there is a lack of affordable accommodation and when taking into factors such as the cost of renting larger properties and the local housing allowances, applicants who find the best accommodation they can afford to rent will find that as their children grow older they will be excluded from this important priority banding.
This case had huge significance for all those tenants who may need to rent smaller properties due to affordability reasons and benefit caps who unknowingly at the time may find that years later they are penalised for doing so if they apply to a local authority for housing assistance under council allocation schemes.
The Court allowed the appeal and in the judgment stated that the “the council’s approach leads to some odd, or even perverse, consequences. It means that an applicant who acts reasonably in taking the most suitable accommodation for his family that he can afford disqualifies himself from priority once his children grow to an age which renders that accommodation statutorily overcrowded.”
Manjit Mandair, a specialist housing litigation lawyer from Osbornes Law, which represents the family, said: “Most people like Favio and his family move into properties that they can afford out of necessity rather than have an involved agenda for getting up the housing ladder. It is deeply unfair that Mr Flores and his family were accused of this and we hope this judgment will help others in a similar situation.”
If you have a housing issue and would like to discuss the matter with Manjit or another member of the housing and social care team, call 020 7854 8811 or complete an online enquiry form.
Read the article published in the London News Online here