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Councils may have to change residency requirements for social housing following a landmark legal judgment

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There are some councils which have certain residency requirements before they will provide people which accommodation. Ealing Council in London have this requirement. They do not allow people to join its housing register unless they have lived in the borough for five years.

A recent High Court judgment could stop Local Authorities from finding ways to reduce their waiting lists to the detriment of people who are in need of social housing:

In 2014 a homeless mother of five was barred from joining Ealing Council’s housing waiting list because she had not lived in the borough for a long enough period of time. The mother had moved to Ealing after leaving her previous area to get away from a violent relationship.

In the judgment the court found that Ealing Council's policy breached the Housing Act 1996 which requires local authorities to give ‘reasonable preference’ to homeless people. This requirement cannot be seen to be giving ‘reasonable preference’ to a person when they have not lived in a particular area for a specific amount of time. The person who is asking the council for housing help may have come to the new area due to personal problems, such as the one above.

Councils are trying to find new ways to reduce their housing waiting lists, however, if they continue to do so in this way then there is a possibility that they may be challenged by the court by way of this decision.

If you need any housing advice please contact our specialist housing law team on 0175 321 6399.

By Katherine McEvoy, graduate paralegal in dispute resolution