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Confirmation by the Court of Appeal

In a recent case in the Court of Appeal (Watts v Stewart and others [2016] EWCA Civ 1247) the Court confirmed that the legal status of residents of almshouses as licensees not tenants and also not subject to the Human Rights Act 1998.
There are around 35,000 residents of almshouses in the UK and it would be difficult for almshouse charities to meet their charitable objectives if residents were construed as tenants with full rights of protection from eviction.
Mrs Watts was a resident of an almshouse provided by the Ashtead United Charity.  In 2014 the charity trustees served Notice to Quit on Mrs Watts due to anti social behaviour in breach of the letter of appointment and terms of occupancy and the Trustees sought an Order for Possession.   The County Court held that Mrs Watts was an appointee and therefore was a beneficiary of the charity, she did not have a lease, and therefore granted the Order for Possession.
Mrs Watts appealed the decision claiming that occupiers of almshouses are entitled to security of tenure by virtue of Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (protection from discrimination and the right to private life, family and home).
During the Court of Appeal case the Charity Commission and National Association of Almshouses were permitted to intervene.   The Court of Appeal held that Mrs Watts as a beneficiary under the charitable trust did not have exclusive possession of the property and was therefore not a tenant.
The Charity in this case had correctly used the model documents available from the Almshouse Association and followed the process scrupulously, had they not done so the outcome could have been very different.
For advice on charity property issues please contact a member of our Charity Team