The legal status of Almshouse residents

The legal status of Almshouse residents

We can almost sympathise with Anthony De Ritter of the Almshouse Association in his attempt to defend the indefensible (Mature Times, June). No amount of circumlocution can erase the fact that England’s almshouse estates categorise as inadequate housing according to United Nations criteria and that their occupants’ human rights as citizens of the EU (Brexit notwithstanding) stand violated therefor.

Furthermore, as Mr. De Ritter readily admits, the almshouse sector is in substantial receipt of public funds by way of Housing Benefit. We maintain that this should render all almshouse charities publicly accountable and within reach of public law.

As Graham Mole’s article (Mature Times, May) intimates, the iniquitous link between the charity commissioners and almshouse charities needs to be severed. Social housing is much too important to be relegated to a quango that maintains it cannot intervene to protect elderly and vulnerable residents on the pretext of (palpably flawed and out of date) caselaw.

As for it being “exceptionally rare for an appointment to be set aside”, little wonder when residents finding themselves in dispute can be intimidated into submission by hubristic trustees. It’s all done behind closed doors; the number of actual disputes cannot publicly be known. Our confidential inbox evidences a disproportionate number of incipient disputes.

And as for residents “having the opportunity to have their case heard in the County Court”, if a dispute ever gets that far, all the judge can do is re-assert the hapless petitioner’s ‘right’ to a 30-day stay of execution – and the petitioner remains on risk for costs!

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it behoves the Almshouse Association to remember that the anachronistic – indeed Kafkaesque – predicament of Almshouse residents now stands open to a trailblazing legal challenge on the several grounds intimated – notwithstanding our hypothetical crusader could well turn out to be sacrificial.

Furthermore, informed legal opinion is entirely content that the granting of defensible tenancies would not compromise any trust’s ‘charitable objects’.

In the light of the above, perhaps the director of the Almshouse Association might consider joining us in advocating defensible tenancies for his member’s charges. Such would ensure security and peace of mind for the elderly and vulnerable in their declining years – which, after all, was indisputably the intention of every Almshouse charity’s historical benefactors, would he not agree?

The Almshouse Residents Action Group