legal issues arising from the use of hotel accommodation

legal issues arising from the use of hotel accommodation

The Home Office’s policy of housing asylum seekers in hotels and hostels has created a number of legal problems for local authorities. Dean Underwood and Jack Barber detail the problem areas.

The current Home Secretary recently told the House of Commons that the asylum system was “broken”. The number of open asylum applications has risen sharply in the past year. There has been a sustained increase in the number of people crossing the English Channel by boat.

This predicament has led to widespread use of short-term accommodation, such as hotels and hostels, to accommodate asylum seekers, often for longer periods. It has been reported that more than 37,000 asylum seekers are being housed in hotels, costing UK taxpayers around £5.6million a day.

It is important to remember that asylum is primarily a humanitarian issue. Many of those currently staying in hotels and hostels in the UK have experienced, and continue to experience, significant adversity. Around three quarters of those who applied for asylum in the past year had their application approved.

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However, the current approach to housing asylum seekers also raises several important legal issues for local authorities, particularly in relation to overseeing planning enforcement and regulating housing standards:

  • Planning Enforcement: The use of hotels and hostels to accommodate asylum seekers can amount to a significant change in use and breach of planning control, requiring local planning authorities to assess whether enforcement action is required. Several local authorities have already acted by issuing temporary hotel closure notices or seeking injunctions under Section 187B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to prevent certain uses. Mr Justice Holgate’s high-profile decision in claims brought by Ipswich Borough Council and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council has recently examined and rejected applications for the continuation of injunctions preventing such use of two hotels (see [2022] EWHC 2868 (KB)).
  • Housing approval, administration and regulation: Local housing authorities tasked with regulating housing standards in their area also face challenges in assessing whether the hotels and hostels housing asylum seekers are multi-occupancy houses (HMOs) in the The terms of the Housing Act are 2004, and if so, whether they require a Part 2 or 3 license or are subject to other regulatory oversight. The long-term nature of many hotel stays increases health and safety concerns and underscores the need for effective regulation.
  • Public Justice Challenges: Various councils have reportedly considered or are considering filing suits for judicial review of Home Office decisions to house asylum seekers in certain locations. Similarly, local residents have previously made public law claims against the Secretary of State in relation to the accommodation of asylum seekers in temporary accommodation at military barracks.

The legal issues in connection with the accommodation of asylum seekers are not only of concern to the municipalities, but also to accommodation providers, residents and residents.

As 2023 begins, and with the number of pending asylum applications, local authorities should expect to continually review their approach to planning and housing. Likewise, both local authorities and hotel owners need to keep abreast of current legal issues and seek relevant advice where necessary.

Dean Underwood and Jack Barber are attorneys at Cornerstone Barristers.

Cornerstone will host an online webinar on January 19, 2023 on this topic. Learn more here.

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