I am pleased to introduce a review of this classic book from LAG, from Giles Peaker of Anthony Gold.
Homelessness and Allocations. 8th Edition
This may not be a book of much use to private landlords, although a glance between its covers would rapidly disabuse some of their conviction that ‘the Council’ will automatically help tenants that they evict. But for housing lawyers, advisors and indeed some local authority homeless unit officers, the LAG Homelessness book has long been the bible. Even now that there is strong competition in the form of Jan Luba QC and Liz Davies’ ‘Housing Allocations and Homelessness’, a new edition of ‘Homelessness and Allocations’ is a significant publication.
Andrew Arden QC has been joined by a new team of co-authors, Emily Orme and Toby Vanhagan, and they have collectively taken the opportunity to rework the structure of the book as well as add and revise material. This works well. Homeless and allocation law has changed significantly over recent years and there is always a fresh wave of case law, an old structure will end up creaking under the weight of additions and not suited for new issues.
The 8th edition has fused the discussion of public law into the homeless and allocation sections, so that it is no longer a discrete chapter. Public law remedies have a significant track record in this area now, so there is no need for an independent section on the operation of public law. There is a completely revised chapter on immigration and homelessness and on immigration and allocation. The chapter on allocations now also considers allocation by other providers of social housing.
Case law has been updated throughout, including a last minute note on Tomlinson v Birmingham City Council  UKSC 8, a Supreme Court decision on whether the housing duty under the Housing Act 1996 was a civil right for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998, which was only handed down in February 2010. In fact there are more than 80 new decisions of significance added to this edition, affecting both homelessness and allocation law. The supplementary and new statutory guidance on homelessness and allocations respectively has also been addressed and also included in the appendices.
The basic structure remains unchanged however, and rightly so. The chapters on homelessness provide a logical breakdown of the qualification criteria for a full housing duty to be owed by a local authority and do so in a manner that effectively sets out a checklist for anyone dealing with a homelessness application. A chapter on the decision making process and the review process follows, then a chapter on the discharge of duty by the local authority. There is a section on appeals of the review decision to the County Court, contained in a chapter on ‘Enforcement’ generally. This could perhaps have been better signposted as the next step after a review in the chapter on decision making.
The chapter on allocations is relatively brief and has, if anything become even briefer as a result of case law since 2006. But it has been significantly updated and reworked and is as clear a guide to the duties of a housing authority on allocation as could be hoped for.
There have been some very important changes since the 7th edition was published in 2006, in particular in regards to allocations, with the growth of choice based letting schemes and the impact of R (Ahmad) v Newham LBC  UKHL 7. These, together with the opening up of public law challenges to what are now private registered providers of social housing, following R (Weaver) v London & Quadrant, are all addressed in the revised edition and this is done with the clarity and concern over the practical effect of the law that characterises the whole book.
The following chapter on enforcement contains practical and detailed advice on the procedures for challenging decisions, or a failure to make decisions, in homeless and allocation processes. It covers Judicial Review, appeals to the County Court and mentions the alternative of a maladministration claim to the Local Government Ombudsman.
The remaining chapters concern other statutory provisions that may be of use if a homelessness application fails and discuss requirements on the local authority to have a strategy and to provide advice. The appendices include relevant statute and guidance as at January 2010, very helpfully gathered together.
Although perhaps no longer the only bible on this subject, ‘Homelessness and Allocations’ has long been one of the vital books for any housing solicitor or advisor. The updates to the 8th edition ensure that it remains so.
Giles Peaker, our reviewer, is an assistant solicitor in the Housing and Public Law team at solicitors Anthony Gold. Homelessness and Allocations can be purchased online from Amazon (affiliate link).