Using judicial reviews for housing problems

Law for Life has launched a new video on Using judicial reviews for housing problems, particularly in relation to the homeless application process. The video provides a non-technical overview of judicial reviews for community groups, advisers, and campaigners, and anyone without legal training.

Judicial review (also known as 'JR') is the name of a legal procedure to request a court to review the decision of a public body, for example local authorities or government, and correct that decision if it is found unlawful. The video focuses on the use of judicial review to challenge decisions that local authorities make about the types of help that homeless people are entitled to, for instance whether and for how long they should live in temporary accommodation.

Even though judicial reviews require the help of a lawyer, community groups can play a key role in identifying and documenting unlawful decisions, especially when these take place consistently as a result of a specific policy or practice. The video suggests concrete ways for community groups to use pre-action protocol letters (also known as PAP letters) to challenge housing officers’ decisions or to urge a local authority to act when they are not doing so.

The video covers the following:


Understanding what can be addressed through a judicial review

The process of judicial reviews

The role of judicial reviews in the context of campaigning for policy changes

How community groups can use judicial reviews in their work

Understanding the scope and process around judicial reviews is particularly important in light of the changes that the Government has proposed to introduce. These changes are likely to limit the effectiveness of judicial reviews in very important ways. Currently, once a court finds that a policy is unlawful, it has the power to suspend that policy immediately. If the changes proposed by the Government pass, once a court decides that a policy is unlawful, the policy can remain valid until the government changes it, or it can be suspended immediately but only for those who have brought the legal claim (therefore excluding others who are impacted by the same policy). Another change that the government has proposed is not to allow judicial reviews for decisions of the Upper Tribunal, which usually relate to issues of immigration and social security. To find out more about these issues you can read the materials published by the Public Law Project.

These reforms were debated in the House of Commons at the end of October 2021, where MPs passed the proposals with a majority of 101. The proposals have now been sent to the next stage of the process, where experts and interest groups will continue to debate the changes. Even after this, the proposals will have to go back to the House of Commons for further debate, and through the whole process again in the House of Lords before they become law.

January 2022