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Posted 19 December 2016
“Almshouse residents are not tenants” – CA
Earlier this month the Court of Appeal confirmed the status of almshouse residents as charity beneficiaries under their letter of appointment, rather than as tenants with security of tenure (Watts v Stewart and others  EWCA Civ 1247).
The claimant, Mrs Watts, had been ‘anti-social’ and had to be removed. Although a previous case had highlighted the need to look beyond the title of a document and focus on the substance of its terms, the court said the agreement between her and the charity “quite plainly” pointed away from granting her an exclusive legal right. It was a personal licence, so she was not a tenant. Almshouse trustees could only properly fulfill their responsibilities if a personal licence was granted, as this could be revoked (e.g. if an occupier ceased to qualify as a person in need). Nor was there discrimination against Mrs Watts that infringed her human rights: denying her security was clearly justified by the need to secure a fair balance between the interests of the charity and its current and future beneficiaries.
This will be a welcome decision for the Trustees of the estimated 1,700 almshouses in England and Wales as it will reduce the risk of lengthy and costly legal disputes in relation to occupant status.
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