Important ruling for almshouse charities and residents

December 9, 2016

The Court of Appeal today handed down judgment in Watts v Stewart & ors [2016] EWCA Civ 1247 which will be of fundamental importance to the 1,700 almshouse charities and the 35,000 almshouse residents in the UK.

In a wide-ranging and important decision the Master of the Rolls found that in order properly to discharge the trusts of the charity, the trustees of almshouse charities were only entitled to award residents with licenses rather than tenancies and, relying upon numerous authorities dating back to 1752, the court held that the almshouse resident in this case was not a ‘tenant at will’ and did not benefit from security of tenure.

In addition, the court considered and dismissed an attempt by the appellant to suggest that almshouse residents, by virtue of their lack of protection from eviction, were the victims of discrimination under Article 8 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judgment will be of importance to all almshouse charities and almshouse residents but the judgment also contains significant discussion on the application of human rights law to charities and non-public bodies, the definition of ‘Charity Proceedings’ under the Charities Act 2011 and to housing law as a whole as reflected in the interventions of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Charity Commission and the National Association of Almshouses.

The full judgment is available here

Stephen Hockman QC and Nicholas Ostrowski (who appeared unled at first instance) appeared for the successful almshouse charity.