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Court orders council to rehouse family

Jayesh Kunwardia, 41, social housing and property litigation partner at London firm Hodge Jones & Allen.

Why is he in the news? He acted for a mother of five children, including twins, in her Supreme Court appeal against a local authority’s decision to make her homeless.

Westminster Council made Titina Nzolameso homeless after she declined to move with her family from London to Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. The council put her children in care homes.

Nzolameso argued that the council had not examined all the available housing in the borough or nearby, and so had acted unlawfully under the Housing Act 1996.

Lady Hale, giving the court’s decision, said: ‘There is little to suggest that serious consideration was given to the authority’s obligations before the decision was taken to offer the property in Bletchley.’ She listed the council’s failure to find out whether school places and suitable medical care were available in Bletchley and also to identify what housing was available in Westminster or elsewhere in Greater London.

The court ordered the council to offer Nzolameso more suitable accommodation.

Thoughts on the case: ‘This was a ground-breaking case that will have a significant impact on how homeless people across the country are rehoused. There is a growing trend to move them out of the borough, which simply poses problems for the borough that receives them. Local authorities have a statutory duty to take account of applicants’ education, health and family needs.’

Dealing with the media: ‘The press was very supportive and couldn’t believe that a council would not only separate a mother from her five children, but also defend its decision all the way to the Supreme Court.’

Why become a lawyer? ‘I have always been passionate about the rights of ordinary people and access to justice.’

Career high: ‘This case, my third in the Supreme Court.’

Career low: ‘The rapid erosion of legal aid.’

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