Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Council told to move vertigo sufferer from high rise

A judge has ordered a council to rehouse a tenant with a fear of heights after it offered her a 16th floor flat in a tower block.

The Court of Appeal has ruled Westminster Council must offer Mrs El-Dinnaoui and her family alternative accommodation following a long-running legal battle.

The El-Dinnaoui family had been housed in a Westminster Council two-bedroom flat on the ninth floor since 2002, but applied for a transfer to a larger property following the birth of their third child. They viewed a larger 16th floor property on 4 June 2010.

After the viewing Mrs El-Dinnaoui collapsed in a lift and was taken to hospital. A subsequent hospital report said she had a panic attack and a ‘lifelong fear of high buildings’.

Following the incident Mr El-Dinnaoui refused the accommodation, but the council ruled that since he had turned down the property its duty to house the family was ended.

The housing officer said Mrs El-Dinnaoui could ‘learn to live’ in the 16th floor flat by covering the windows with camouflage, as the ninth floor flat was also high up, but did not have as clear a view of the ground.

The family called for a review of the decision, but this was upheld by the council. Mr El-Dinnaoui then took the case to the county court, which dismissed his appeal in May 2011. However the latest appeal, which was heard in December, was successful. The judge ruled the earlier decision was irrational.

Paul Skinner, the couple’s barrister, from Henderson Chambers, said this case reinforced the amount of evidence an authority is legally required to get before making a decision. The housing officer’s decision was deemed irrational because of the degree of unchallenged medical evidence from Mrs El-Dinnaoui’s doctor available at that time.

Jonathan Glanz, cabinet member for housing at Westminster Council, said: ‘We are disappointed with this decision. Westminster is in the centre of the capital and inevitably much of our accommodation is in high-rise blocks. We have a duty to provide temporary accommodation to homeless households, and despite the intense pressure on our housing stock we have continued to house the family throughout the appeal process. We will now be looking at the family’s case again.’

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