In September 2017, the claimant was living in private rented accommodation with her husband and children. She applied to join Lambeth Council’s housing register after her third child was born, creating an account in her ex-husband’s name.

The couple separated and after a section 21 notice was served in October 2022, the claimant made a homelessness application to Lambeth. Lambeth accepted they owed her the main duty and she was given ‘Band C, Level 1’ – Medium Priority. She was also given a new housing register account in her own name – however, the account registration date was recorded as 8 February 2023. This is despite the claimant previously registering for an account in September 2017.

The claimant brought a judicial review claim against Lambeth on the basis that Lambeth’s Housing Scheme contained powers to backdate the registration date, but alternatively, if not then the Scheme was unlawful, on the basis that it was discriminatory (under both the Equality Act 2010 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights), irrational, and that the Scheme unlawfully fettered Lambeth’s discretion in such circumstances.

The claimant relied on case studies of past instances where Lambeth had in fact backdated applicants’ registration dates, arguing that this demonstrated that despite the denial Lambeth did in fact have such a discretion.

In the judgment, Deputy High Court Judge Glasson stated “Lambeth’s Housing Scheme makes clear that the date of registration adds priority to an applicant for housing which reinforces the interpretation I have given to how the discretion to award additional priority to homeless persons” may be exercised.

Secondly, it makes plain that [Lambeth Council] has a discretion as to whether submitting a new application results in the “loss of priority based on registration date”. The Scheme says that such action “may” (rather than “shall”) result in “loss of priority based on registration date.”.”

Lambeth was also criticised for not meeting its duty of candour to the court which is the duty to disclose all material facts known to a party in judicial review proceedings. In its Summary Grounds, Lambeth had categorically asserted that it was a “hard fact” that there was no discretion to change the date of registration. It made no mention of cases where the date of registration had in fact been backdated despite evidence filed by the claimant demonstrating a number of cases where it had.

The claim was successful on ground that Lambeth did in fact have a discretion to backdate applications and made a declaration accordingly

You can read the full judgment for Montano, R (On the Application of) v London Borough of Lambeth (2024) on the BAILII website.