The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the relationship between Almshouse Charities and their residents is that of a contractual licence arrangement only and not a tenancy.
A case was brought claiming Human Rights issues by an almshouse resident in Surrey. The charity was set up to provide accommodation for “poor single women of not less than fifty years of age”. For various reasons, the resident was being asked to leave and she challenged whether the Almshouse Charity could do so and whether she in fact had a lease in place. Even though the paperwork between the residents and the charity used both lease and licence terminology the Court accepted that the charity trustees were bound by the terms of the charitable trust and were not trying to artificially create a licence rather than a tenancy. They also clarified that Almshouses have a special status.
The Court made the point that from a wider social policy perspective, it has long been recognised that Almshouses are distinct from other forms of social housing and private rented accommodation and that parliament has not seen fit to provide any kind of security of tenancy to the occupants of Almshouses. Trustees should be able to ensure that only qualifying persons occupy Almshouses, which is why a contractual licence is needed. This means that if residents’ circumstances change – e.g. by a lottery win or inheritance, or they fail to comply with the rules regarding occupation e.g. by anti-social behaviour, then the accommodation can be provided to a new resident who meets the criteria to be a beneficiary of the charity.
Care should be taken however to ensure that the right paperwork is put in place between the charity and the resident to minimise the possibility of disputes and to make clear to the resident that they are not a tenant.
For advice and assistance for almshouse charities please contact by telephone 01726 74433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org