Four-Bedroom House Too Big for Sole Council Tenant

Lack of availability of social housing has led to long waiting lists in many parts of the country and councils are taking action to maximise the use of the properties they have.

A recent example of such action led to a court decision that an elderly and frail mother-of-five must leave the council house in which she had lived for 20 years, as it was too big for her after her adult children had left home and she had separated from their disabled father.

The woman had been left living alone in the four-bedroom property and the council took the view that she would have to make way for a family in need. It also pointed out that it had paid for special adaptations to the home, including grab rails and a 'through-floor' lift, which were no longer used after her husband had moved out.

The lower court granted the council a possession order. However, in challenging that ruling at the Court of Appeal, the woman's lawyers argued that she had a 'legitimate expectation' that she would be allowed to stay. She and her husband had been 'assured' by a housing officer that she could remain in the house following their separation and that 'all their problems would be solved'.

However, in refusing permission to appeal, the Court noted the lengthy waiting list for family-sized council homes in the relevant area. The property's special adaptations, paid for out of the public purse, would also make it ideal for a family with a disabled member. Although it was 'a difficult case', the woman had 'no realistic prospect' of overturning the possession order.

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