Court protects home from forced sale to meet care fees

Christopher Belcher, partner at Cambridgeshire-based law firm Mills & Reeve, said a judgement from Mr Justice Supperstone this week may “set a precedent”.

The case, which was heard in January, centered around Glen Walford, whose elderly mother and the homeowner in question, went into a Worcestershire County Council care home in 2006.

International theatre director Ms Walford, who was 67 when her mother entered care, said she was originally told the family home in Stourport-on-Severn would not be taken into consideration when assessing funding. Shortly after, the council reversed this decision, whereupon Ms Walford took legal action.

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This week, in a 19-page judgement, Mr Justice Supperstone ruled that the home could be kept by Ms Walford, even though it was not her primary residence.

Mr Belcher said: “This offers precise guidance on how to interpret what the statutes said. The judge has recognised that other forms of emotional and physical attachment to a property should be given full consideration.

“[The judgement] should give local authorities a greater degree of certainty and lead to more consistency across the country. We will be seeing cases where individuals will go back and challenge their local authorities as to whether they applied the right criteria.”

However, Alexandra Milton, head of private clients for Surrey-based W. Davies Solicitors and a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, said the case may have hinged on the fact that Ms Walford had invested £42,000 in maintaining the home.

She said: “It is a great achievement but may not necessarily pave the way for others to retain their homes, unless they invest in repairs or show other forms of commitment to the property.”

Janet Davies, founder of long-term care advisory network Symponia, agreed, adding: “It shouldn’t open up the floodgates for all grown-up children over the age of 60 to start laying a claim to their parents’ property. The ruling has just proved that classing somewhere as “your ultimate home” goes beyond where you spend some of your time.

“As for equity release, this ruling doesn’t change anything. Lenders are already reluctant to lend on a property that is occupied by anyone other than the owners.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council, said it would seek permission to appeal on this point.

The decision shines a light on the incoming cap, recommended by the Dilnot Commission in 2011, on the cost of long-term care for self-funders. The level, set at £75,000, was higher than what the Dilnot Commission originally recommended, at £35,000.

Penny O’Nions, founder of Buckinghamshire-based The Onion Group, said: “My interest has been aroused by the suggestion that it was left in her grandmother’s will for her mother to live in and then pass to the claimant. This suggests a trust with the mother having a life interest and the daughter inheriting the fee simple on her mother’s death, so the decision made by the council was odd.”