An inquiry into local authority duties to the homeless : Dafaalla v City of Edinburgh Council

Combe, Malcolm M (2022) An inquiry into local authority duties to the homeless : Dafaalla v City of Edinburgh Council. Juridical Review, 3. pp. 167-173. ISSN 0022-6785

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On 5 July 2022, the Inner House of the Court of Session refused a reclaiming motion by a local authority, and in so doing approved an earlier Outer House interlocutor which held that that local authority had not fulfilled the statutory duties it owed to a homeless person (and his family). The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 puts a duty on all local authorities to investigate the circumstances of someone who applies to them for accommodation or assistance to obtain accommodation where they have reason to believe they are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Further, they must offer temporary accommodation and, if eligible, permanent accommodation to applicants. In Dafaalla v City of Edinburgh Council the applicant was seemingly eligible for accommodation, but had refused previous offers of permanent accommodation from the relevant local authority and had in fact been removed from temporary accommodation in January 2020. He then applied again at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, noting his medical conditions put him at increased risk of severe illness should he contract coronavirus and making his current arrangement where he and his family resided where they could from night to night untenable. The local authority did not entertain this fresh application, being of the view that its duties under the homelessness legislation were spent. As shall be discussed below, the Outer House and then the Inner House disagreed, ruling that the local authority remained bound by the statute and as such just because someone had refused accommodation in the past that did not mean they would never be able to get accommodation ever again in the future.