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Dafaalla v City of Edinburgh Council

This case relates to the duty of local authorities to make enquiries to establish whether a person who has applied for accommodation is homeless or threatened with homelessness in relation to repeat applications. B+M represent the petitioner under the instruction of Shelter Scotland. Morag Ross QC and Megan Dewart appeared in the Inner House on behalf of the petitioner.

The B+M and Shelter team, which includes leading public law expert Sindi Mules, were initially successful before the Outer House. Following a reclaiming motion by the respondents, the Inner House found in favour of the petitioner on Tuesday. The Court held that the duty to make inquiries under section 28(1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 must not be construed in an overly narrow or constrained way, but rather in light of the definition of homelessness contained in section 24 of the Act.

The Court noted that where a local authority has fulfilled its duty by making an offer of accommodation to an applicant, but where this offer is rejected, the applicant’s personal circumstances will be relevant to whether a subsequent application is validly made. The Court stated that, “it is necessary to construe section 28 in light of the core aim of the legislation, which is the provision of accommodation to those who are homeless.”

This decision reaffirms the fundamental role of local authorities in the provision of accommodation to homeless people, and provides guidance in relation to the test to be applied in repeat applications.