Updated: Feb 11, 2021
On the 8 February 2021, the High Court handed down its judgment in the case of R(Minott) v Cambridge City Council  EWHC 211. This was one of our reviews, conducted by Alexandra Maniatis, and centred around local connection referrals.
The applicant made a homeless application to Cambridge City Council on the 26 March 2019 following their arrival in the district on the same day. Whilst the Council assessed what duties they owed to him, Cambridge City Council placed the applicant in interim accommodation within their district. This was on the 27 March 2019.
The Council concluded that the applicant was homeless and eligible and, therefore, owed the relief duty but decided to exercise its discretion and referred the case to Sandwell Council. This was due to the fact the applicant had no local connection with Cambridge City Council and had a local connection with Sandwell Council due to residency (3 out of the last 5 years).
Following the acceptance of the referral by Sandwell Council, Cambridge City Council wrote to the applicant on the 19 August 2019 to advise him that the conditions for referral were met and that Sandwell Council had accepted the referral. They also advised the applicant that they owed him no further housing duties.
On 22 August 2019, the applicant requested a review and this was concluded on the 25 September 2019. The review concluded that the applicant did not have a local connection with Cambridge City Council as they were one day short of acquiring residency through 6 out of last 12 months.
The applicant did not appeal the review decision, but on 17 October 2019 he made a fresh homelessness application on the basis that he had established a local connection through residence. Cambridge City Council refused the accept a fresh homeless application and the applicant appealed to the High Court.
The High Court held the following:
At the time of the new application on 17 October 2019 the only alleged new fact was that the claimant by then had resided in the temporary accommodation for more than 6 months and thereby for that reason had a local connection to Cambridge.
From the 23 August 2019 when the Claimant was served with notice requiring him to vacate on the 2 September 2019 and from 28 August 2019 when he was refused accommodation pending review, Cambridge City Council withdrew permission to occupy the temporary accommodation provided by them. From the 2 September 2019 the Claimant had been in occupation unlawfully and had made a decision to remain to gain 6 months occupation. Cambridge City Council owed him no housing duty from the time Sandwell accepted the referral.
Other than the passing of time nothing had changed. The Claimant did not have a local connection with Cambridge indeed his local connection for the purposes of the HA 96 was with Sandwell who had accepted the referral.
In the circumstances of this case the simple passing of time and the unlawful occupation of the accommodation cannot amount to a new fact for the purposes of a new application under the HA 96.
The new application was also in my judgement, wholly fanciful i.e. unrealistic given the circumstances. The actions of the Claimant to frustrate Cambridge City Council in not leaving the accommodation as he was required to, in preventing Cambridge City Council from changing the locks and thereby preventing others from using the much-needed temporary accommodation and failing to engage with Sandwell is tantamount to a manipulation of the homeless statutory regime.
If such conduct were permissible any person in similar circumstances without a local connection who was dissatisfied with a referral decision, as an example, would be able to frustrate the referral system by refusing to leave until such time as he had resided for 6 months in one area.
Local authorities will be pleased with this decision. We know that when considering local connection this needs to be assessed at the time of the respective S184 and S202 decisions. This potential loophole has now been closed. However, local authorities should consider carefully before placing an applicant with no local connection in interim accommodation within their district.