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Westminster Council loses Supreme Court case after trying to rehouse homeless mum in Milton Keynes

Supreme Court released its decision early [Photo: Shark Attacks]

Published: 20 March, 2015 
by CAROLINE MORTIMER 

WESTMINSTER Council has lost a supreme court battle against a homeless mother they tried to rehouse in Milton Keynes.

Titina Nzolameso, who was made homeless in November 2012, was originally offered a house in Milton Keynes for her and her five children. When she refused the home because she did not want to make her children move schools, the council said she had now made herself “intentionally homeless” and refused to help any further.

But she instead took the council to court saying they had not made enough effort to find her accommodation nearer to the borough where the cost of renting from the private sector would be much higher.

At the hearing on Tuesday, barrister Martin Westgate QC who was representing Ms Nzolameso said the council had moved them more than 50 miles away from home because it was “easier” than carrying out a proper assessment.

He said: “At the time the offer was made the council had little information about the children and there was no information about the facilities in Milton Keynes”.

Now, the country's highest court have “unanimously allowed the appeal, and quashed the local authority’s decision that it had properly discharged its duty to secure accommodation available for occupation” for Ms Nzolameso, striking down a decision in favour of the council by the Court of Appeal in October last year.

The full judgement laying out the reasons for the judges' findings will not be published until Easter but in a statement the Supreme Court said they had released their decision early “given the need for arrangements to be made for the family involved.”

The decision means cases involving out of area housing placements at other local authorities in the UK will be stayed- held- until the full judgement is published.

The chief executive of Z2K, the charity which first referred Ms Nzolameso to the lawyers who launched her legal challenge, Joanna Kennedy said: “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has found in favour of our former client Ms Nzolameso. This demonstrates that Westminster can’t just ship homeless families out of London without first looking for suitable accommodation closer to home. “We hope that that Westminster will now work to find Ms Nzolameso appropriate accommodation in the borough and return her children to their mother"

Cllr Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council's housing chief said: “We are extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case, the full implications of which will not be clear until the Court hands down its detailed decision.

“We will continue to take into account the full range of considerations when finding suitable and affordable accommodation for those in housing need, whether within Westminster or out of borough. In the case of this family, we will continue to house them together in a suitable location.”

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