Worcestershire County Council (WCC) have won their case against Miss Glen Walford, despite a two year legal battle, to use the equity in a £205,000 cottage to cover Care Home fees for her 100 year old mother.
The house is not only the childhood home for Miss Walford, but also the home in which she intended to retire. Her existing arrangements were that at the time of the assessment, in 2006, Miss Walford was living in a rented flat in London, to enable her to work as a Theatre Director. The Council agreed that they should not take into account the property in their assessment at that time.
Under the law, anyone with more than £23,250 worth of assets, including property, is asked to contribute to their care. But if a relative aged over 60 lives in the property the house is usually exempt from sale.
In 2013, the council reversed their decision and required a contribution from Miss Walford, based on the house not being the main residence at the time of assessment, whilst accepting that it was previously her home. Indeed, Miss Walford had spent over £40,000 upgrading aspects of the property in the interim and, in her own words, her car was in the drive and her clothes in the wardrobe.
Miss Walford successfully argued in the High Court that the decision should not have been overturned. Justice Supperstone ruled that a “home” is a place to which a person has a degree of attachment, both physical and emotional”.
But WCC took the case back to the Courts and were granted leave to appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled that, although the house was her home both before and after her Mother was taken into care, it wasn’t at the time that her Mother was taken into care.
Miss Walford therefore now faces almost definitely having to sell her family home to fund the care home fees, as she hasn’t the money or the energy to fight this latest ruling in favour of the Council. The property, at Shipton on Stour, was constructed by Miss Walford’s Grandmother’s Aunt and has been in the family for generations, since the mid 19th Century.
She reputedly stated:
“I work in the theatre and you can’t do that in the country which is why I rent in London. It isn’t my home.
“I pay council tax, the electricity bills and have spent £42,000 renovating it. It is going to be sold from underneath me.
God knows how many other people will face the same heartache following this ruling.”
This ruling potentially provides an important precedent as to responsibility for care fees within local authorities. It appears that if someone who normally lives at a property, and owns the property, but temporarily is not a full-time resident at the property (for instance because their work requires them to be elsewhere), may have to sell it if another occupier has to go into care, even if the owner is paying the bills for the property at that time.
For Glen Walford, herself a 75 year old pensioner, this will be a substantial upheaval.
LCB / SJ www.PropertySurveying.co.uk 05.04.15