The appellant appealed against a refusal to extend time to allow him to appeal against the respondent local authority’s decision that it had discharged its duty to house him.
The appellant had made an application for interim accommodation and the local authority had accepted that it had a duty to house him and his family. The family moved into temporary leasehold accommodation. The landlord later sought possession and the local authority offered the family alternative accommodation which the appellant rejected as unsuitable. The local authority stated in a letter to the appellant that it had discharged its duty to house him. He sought a review of that decision and was notified by letter on 30 January 2015 that the decision had been upheld. The letter informed him that he had a right of appeal and that the time limit to lodge an appeal was 21 days from notification of the decision. On 14 February 2015 the appellant instructed solicitors to act for him. The possession hearing took place the following week, but was adjourned to allow the appellant to appeal against the local authority’s decision. The appellant was at that stage out of time to appeal and the judge dealing with the possession issue did not extend time, nor was it likely that he would have had jurisdiction to do so. The appeal was issued on 4 March 2015, which was 33 days out of time. The judge who then dealt with whether to extend time said that there was no evidence of a good reason for the delay and therefore refused to extend time.
The appellant submitted that he had given the review decision letter to his solicitor and that, by implication, any delay thereafter was the fault of the solicitor.
HELD: There was doubt about the extent of the appellant’s instructions to his solicitor. It was not clear whether he had instructed the solicitor to focus on lodging an appeal against the review decision or on dealing with the pressing possession proceedings. The court would not draw adverse inferences against the solicitor without further information and was not in a position to infer any incompetence. The critical question was whether the appellant had discharged his burden to establish that there was a reason for the delay and that it was a good reason. The judge had decided that there was no evidence before him on that issue which would enable him to reach a conclusion. A previous order to produce evidence by a particular date had long passed and he considered it inappropriate to allow the appellant to introduce evidence at a late stage. That decision was within his discretion, he had been entitled to make it and to conclude that there was no evidence of a good reason for delay.