European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

United Kingdom: Homeless Birmingham mum loses council housing human rights complaint

Judges today rejected a complaint against the United Kingdom, from a Birmingham mum, who twice turned down council housing and then claimed her human rights were breached.

The applicant, Fazia Ali, is a British national who was born in 1980, applied for housing assistance to Birmingham City Council in October 2006.

She is a homeless person, and as the mother of two young children, in priority need of accommodation within the meaning of Part VII of the Housing Act 1996.

In March 2007, after Ali’s rejection of a second offer of accommodation, the local council notified her that – because of her refusal – it had discharged its duty to her under the 1996 Housing Act and that she was no longer entitled to accommodation. She requested that the council review its decision, alleging that she had not received a formal letter in writing with regard to the second offer of accommodation.

As a result a Homelessness Review Officer employed by the local council conducted an enquiry. In May 2007 the Officer upheld the decision that Ms Ali’s refusal of the offer of accommodation had discharged the council’s main housing duty to her.

The officer concluded in particular that there was no reason to believe Ali had not received the second offer of housing by letter and that, in any case, even if she hadn’t received the letter, she had been well aware of the offer of accommodation, had viewed the property, and had turned it down.

On an appeal to the county court, Ali sought to challenge the Officer’s finding that she had received the second offer of housing in writing. However, the judge declined to deal with the question because it considered it to be a “purely factual issue” and appeal lay only on “a point of law.”

That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court notably held that Ali’s right to accommodation was not a “civil right” for the purpose of Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In today’s European Court of Human Rights judgment in the case of Fazia Ali v. the United Kingdom (application no. 40378/10) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

No violation of Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights

The court found, in particular, that Ali’s right to accommodation was a “civil right” for the purpose of Article 6 § 1 and as such, she was entitled to a fair hearing before an “independent and impartial” tribunal.

In this case, the appeal to the court open to Ali did provide her with adequate protection in the determination of her civil right.

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