Janet Watts v (1) Ann Stewart (2) Sheila Harris (3) Ruth Price (4) Elizabeth Wolsey As Trustees of the Ashtead United Charity (a Registered Charity) & (1) Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (2) Charity Commission for England & Wales (3) National Association of Almshouses [2016] EWCA Civ 1247, Sir Terence Etherton MR, Arden LJ, Lloyd Jones LJ)

The Appellant (W) appealed against a possession order granted to the Respondent trustees (T) that she give up possession of the almshouse that she occupied due to her anti-social behaviour. W appealed, inter alia, on grounds that she occupied her almshouse as a tenant and not a licensee and that the occupiers of almshouse accommodation were entitled to security of tenure by virtue of Article 14 of the ECHR when read in light of Article 8 of the ECHR.

The Court held W did not occupy her almshouse as a tenant but as a licensee pursuant to the terms of her appointment letter. W did not have exclusive legal possession of her almshouse only a personal right of exclusive occupation as determined by her letter of appointment. There was no suggestion that T had dressed up the appointment letter to appear as a licence when it was in fact a tenancy. T could only properly discharge the trusts of the Charity, which limited its objects to those in need, hardship or distress, if a personal revocable licence was granted Gray v Taylor [1998] W.L.R. 1093 followed.

W submitted that, when read with Article 8, Article 14 prohibited discrimination against her on the basis of her status as an almsperson and/or as the object of a charity. In the context of almshouses the exclusion of security of tenure for almspersons had been in place for many years. Parliament had not required the grant of assured shorthold tenancies to almspersons. In Gray it was held that the grant of a tenancy would be inconsistent with the duty of the trustees to provide accommodation for deserving persons and that the relationship was one of licensor and licensee. On the basis of the evidence, not only was this the correct characterisation as a matter of domestic law but it also fairly balanced the competing interests of the Charity and the resident in a manner which would not be achievable if residents had the status of tenants. After the decision in Gray, the denial of security of tenure to almspersons was clearly justifiable as a proportionate measure which secured a fair balance between the interests of charities and current and future almspersons.

Appeal dismissed.