In a case which starkly illustrates the occasional cruelty of the law, a loving daughter who devoted 20 years of her life to caring for her desperately ill and irascible mother is facing eviction from the home where she was born following a Court of Appeal ruling.
Wendy Holt, aged 59, gave up much of her adult life to look after her mother, Edna, whose autumn years were blighted by strokes, mobility problems and Alzheimer's disease that made her confused and aggressive. The three-bedroom home in which they lived had been occupied by the family since 1949 and Wendy succeeded to her mother’s secure tenancy upon her death, aged 90, in 2010.
Following her bereavement, Reading Borough Council was granted a possession order against Wendy on the basis that the property was ‘under-occupied’ and substantially too large for a single woman’s occupation. The council had made offers of one-bedroom accommodation for Wendy and pointed out the extreme pressure upon its housing stock, with 1,242 applicants seeking three-bedroom homes although only 13 such properties were available.
The Court of Appeal expressed ‘great sympathy’ for Wendy and observed that it was plain that she would be deeply distressed at the prospect of having to move from the home where she had lived all her life. The court also paid tribute to the selfless care that she had lavished upon her mother and acknowledged that there was a real risk that she would be unable to settle in another home.
However, in dismissing Wendy’s appeal, the court noted that she had conceded that the property was larger than she reasonably required. Given the pressure on local housing waiting lists and the availability of suitable alternative accommodation, it had been reasonable to make the order for possession.