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Licence or tenancy: Is that still a problem?

Charity trustees drafting their own documents using imprecise language can unwittingly land their organisations in hot water, says Alec Samuels

31 May 2017

In Watts v Stewart and others [2016] EWCA Civ 1247 a resident of an almshouse claimed she was not a licensee but a tenant with security of tenure.

The owner of the premises was an almshouse charity owning 14 residential units. There are some 1,700 such charities, members of the National Almshouses Association (NAA), and 35,000 almshouse residents. To qualify as a beneficiary under the charitable trust and a resident a person had to be a poor, single woman, over 50, local, and preferably from domestic service.

By letter of appointment, following an NAA model document, the almsperson claimant moved into one of the residential units and lived there as her home. She fell into arrears with her periodical payments and was guilty of anti-social behaviour. The charity claimed to be entitled to evict her ‘for good cause’. She sought a declaration that she was a tenant an...

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