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Housing Law Practitioners Association surveys members ahead of judicial review challenge over Brent allocations scheme

The Housing Law Practitioners Association has asked members for information about the experiences of clients who have approached the London Borough of Brent for housing assistance.

This came ahead of a further legal case arising out of a challenge to Brent’s 2013 allocations scheme.

The answers to the questionnaire would inform a judicial review of Brent’s scheme. A permission hearing is due to be listed at the end of October or in November 2021.

It said it was accepted by both Brent and the unnamed claimant that the 2013 allocations scheme failed to give reasonable preference to homeless applicants who have not had a main s193(2) homelessness duty accepted, contrary to s166A(3)(a)-(b) of the Housing Act 1996.

Brent’s scheme places them in Band D where they are prohibited from bidding for homes, and only afforded reasonable preference to those homeless applicants who have had a s193(2) accepted, by placing them in Band C.

The HLPA said 847 applicants since 2013 had presented as homeless but the main duty was not accepted and they were either placed in Band D or had their applications refused.

There were at present 638 applicants in Band D who presented as homeless but had not had a main duty accepted.

Brent is amending the scheme to rectify this fault and had agreed to take steps to identify affected applicants and offer them reasonable preference.

The HLPA explained: “There is a dispute about whether the proposed steps are adequate and whether the timeframe for amending the scheme is justified (by January/February 2022), following consultation and approval.”

It said there was also a dispute about whether the claimant still has standing, as their main duty has since been accepted and they are now in Band C. A permission hearing is due to be listed in the autumn.

Representatives of both parties are HLPA members; Sam O’Flaherty of Osbornes Law and Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers for the Claimant and Justin Bates of Landmark Chambers for the Defendant.

A Brent Council spokesperson said: "We recently conducted a review of our housing allocation scheme and became aware of a technical error within it. We would like to apologise for this oversight on our part. 

"We are moving those who are currently homeless or threatened with homelessness into a category where they can bid for properties on the housing register. We have also identified the people who have made historical homeless applications and may still be homeless. We are contacting these people directly to review their current circumstances. We are currently consulting on proposed revisions to our housing allocation scheme over the coming months.

"London is in the grip of a severe housing crisis, and Brent is no exception. Therefore, the change to this policy will not necessarily reduce the amount of time those affected will spend waiting for a suitable home to become available. Our housing allocation scheme as always, will continue to prioritise those with the highest need."

Mark Smulian

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