O’Rourke v Mayor etc of the London Borough of Camden: HL 12 Jun 1997

The claimant had been released from prison and sought to be housed as a homeless person. He said that his imprisonment brought him within the category of having special need. He also claimed damages for the breach.
Held: The Act was intended to confer a general social benefit of reducing homelessness, not a right in individuals for damages, nor to ensure that all homeless people are accommodated. The Act created no such right explicitly, and a public law means of enforcing the Act was in place. No private action for damages for breach lay against the council.
Lord Hoffmann said: ‘the [Housing] Act [1985] is a scheme of social welfare, intended to confer benefits at the public expense on grounds of public policy. Public money is spent on housing the homeless not merely for the private benefit of people who find themselves homeless but on grounds of general public interest: because, for example, proper housing means that people will be less likely to suffer illness, turn to crime or require the attention of other social services. The expenditure interacts with expenditure on other public services such as education, the National Health Service and even the police. It is not simply a private matter between the claimant and the housing authority. Accordingly, the fact that Parliament has provided for the expenditure of public money on benefits in kind such as housing the homeless does not necessarily mean that it intended cash payments to be made by way of damages to persons who, in breach of the housing authority’s statutory duty, have unfortunately not received the benefits which they should have done.’


Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Mustill, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Steyn, Lord Hoffmann


[1997] UKHL 24, [1997] 3 WLR 86, [1998] AC 188, [1997] 3 All ER 23


House of Lords, Bailii


Housing Act 1985 62


England and Wales


CitedX (Minors) v Bedfordshire County Council; M (A Minor) and Another v Newham London Borough Council; Etc HL 29-Jun-1995
Liability in Damages on Statute Breach to be Clear
Damages were to be awarded against a Local Authority for breach of statutory duty in a care case only if the statute was clear that damages were capable of being awarded. in the ordinary case a breach of statutory duty does not, by itself, give rise . .
CitedWyatt v Hillingdon London Borough Council CA 1978
A local authority was sued by a disabled person for breach of the duty imposed by s.2 of CSDPA.
Held: The case was struck out on the basis that her proper remedy was to persuade the Minister to use his default powers under s. 36 of the 1948 . .
AppliedCocks v Thanet District Council HL 25-Nov-1981
The applicant had been given temporary accomodation under the Act. He sought to enforce the obligation on the respondent to house him permanently by an action in the county court. The authority said the action should have been by judicial review. . .

Cited by:

CitedGorringe v Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council HL 1-Apr-2004
Statutory Duty Not Extended by Common Law
The claimant sought damages after a road accident. The driver came over the crest of a hill and hit a bus. The road was not marked with any warning as to the need to slow down.
Held: The claim failed. The duty could not be extended to include . .
CitedRegina v London Borough of Camden ex parte Pereira CA 20-May-1998
When considering whether a person was vulnerable so as to be treated more favourably in applying for rehousing: ‘The Council should consider such application afresh applying the statutory criterion: The Ortiz test should not be used; the dictum of . .
CitedDesnousse v London Borough of Newham and others CA 17-May-2006
The occupier had been granted a temporary licence by the authority under the homelessness provisions whilst it made its assessment. The assessment concluded that she had become homeless intentionally, and therefore terminated the licence and set out . .
CitedHotak and Others v London Borough of Southwark and Another SC 13-May-2015
The court was asked as to the duty of local housing authorities towards homeless people who claim to be ‘vulnerable’, and therefore to have ‘a priority need’ for the provision of housing accommodation under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. Those . .
CitedPoole Borough Council v GN and Another SC 6-Jun-2019
This appeal is concerned with the liability of a local authority for what is alleged to have been a negligent failure to exercise its social services functions so as to protect children from harm caused by third parties. The principal question of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Housing, Local Government, Administrative

Updated: 11 February 2022; Ref: scu.158899