We are petitioning MPs countrywide via the agency of selected correspondents. It is in the form of a ‘polemic’ entitled “STOP CHARITY LANDLORDS FROM BULLYING DEFENCELESS PENSIONERS!” It is a précis of our case to date, augmented by a list of trustee delinquencies as notified by our correspondents since the website’s inception.
This polemic is appended to this page. A copy can be had on application (via the Contact Us facility), in the form of a docx or doc Word file or as a PDF. As stated, it is a précis of our case to date; however, the closing paragraphs are a new development and they are significant to our case. Indeed, it ought to be the final nail in the coffin of Gray v Taylor. It remains to be seen how HM government will now respond. From this point on, any prevarication or circumlocution will have to be extraordinarily inventive! You’ll see what we mean when you read the paragraphs. We cite them here, viz.:
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Finally, the burden of evidence notwithstanding and irrespective of the exemplars given above; in June of this current year, 2014, the United Kingdom government, via the agency of the Ministry of Justice, is due to render its quintennial progress report on giving effect to the rights inhering in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This Covenant is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and which the UK government ratified on 20 May 1976. Apropos Article 11 (1) of the Covenant, which addresses the right to adequate housing, General Comment No. 4 deriving from the 6th Session 1991, section 8(a) thereof, reads as follows:
Legal security of tenure. Tenure takes a variety of forms, including rental (public and private) accommodation, cooperative housing, lease, owner-occupation, emergency housing and informal settlements, including occupation of land or property. Notwithstanding the type of tenure, all persons should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. States parties should consequently take immediate measures aimed at conferring legal security of tenure upon those persons and households currently lacking such protection, in genuine consultation with affected persons and groups.
This exhortation clearly encompasses almshouse residents. Its import is unequivocal and it pre-dates, countervails, supersedes and is nugatory of the Gray v Taylor judgment. It supervenes the limitations of the badly-drafted Human Rights Act 1998 and it brings almshouse residents within the ambit of public law. Accordingly we perceive a clear duty bearing upon HM government to give expeditious effect to the particular condition of legal security of tenure for inter alia some forty thousand almshouse occupants that the Covenant imposes upon it and consequently we should be able to look forward to an express assurance that HM government intends to report that it has implemented, is moving to implement, or will expeditiously move to implement, the said legal security of tenure.
So what’s the solution?
(1) For HM government via the agency of the Ministry of Justice to give immediate effect to the particular condition of legal security of tenure for almshouse residents that Article 11 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights imposes upon it.
(2) For HM Government via the agency of the Attorney General’s office to restore and fix inviolate for posterity the status of almshouse residents by drafting, promulgating and imposing upon all trustees, retrospectively where appropriate, a form of tenancy agreement particular to the condition, aspirations and life prospects of domiciliary almspersons.
(3) In the interim for HM Government to prevail upon all almshouse trustees via the agency of the Charity Commission to ensure that no almshouse license agreement be entered into without the intending licensee having taken independent legal advice with particular regard to the degraded nature of the tenure on offer. It should be made an offense to inveigle the unwitting into such a nexus.
Update, May 8th 2014:
Disingenuous or what?
On 19th July 2013 Karen Pierce CMG, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and Other International Organisations, writing under the auspices of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, responded to a questionnaire from Raquel Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. In her covering letter Ms Pierce asserted that “The United Kingdom is committed to ensuring adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living to all its citizens and takes its international obligation in this area very seriously.”
We shall see how seriously. Specific questions posed included:
1. “Are there laws/regulations recognising or ensuring legal security of tenure for all the population and/or for specific individuals or groups?”
2. “Are there any laws or regulations offering protection from forced eviction or involuntary resettlement? Describe briefly the content of the laws/regulations.”
In answer to the first, Ms Pierce averred: “In addition there are various forms of license arrangements whereby the licensee does not have exclusive rights to the property. For example, a lodger may live in their landlord’s own home under a license arrangement.”
She omits to cite – and address – the situation of those citizens in exclusive occupation of their retirement homes under the auspices of charity landlords.
In response to the second, Ms Pierce averred: “The processes by which an occupier of a property is evicted are governed by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. It is an offence to unlawfully evict or harass the residential occupier of a property. A wide range of occupiers are covered by this legislation, although there are exceptions for certain types of licenses such as lodgers.”
She omits to cite – and address – the real impact of those exceptions upon elderly and vulnerable citizens in exclusive occupation of their retirement homes under the auspices of charity landlords.
Disingenuous or what? Surely, due diligence demands that Karen Pierce, as Ambassador to the UN, must fully inform herself of the relevant legalities before making her report? We perceive that special rapporteur Rolnik has been significantly under-informed by the brevity of HM government’s response to these questions. Were Ms Rolnik to have been made aware that elderly UK citizens in exclusive occupation of their retirement homes were currently classed as mere lodgers with no effective legal security of tenure, we are sure she would have had some pertinent questions to ask.
Accordingly, as of May 15th we have taken steps to make sure that Ms Rolnik is made aware of this curious ‘economy of truth’ and that HM government seems perversely content to remain in dereliction of the obligations imposed by the Covenant since 1976.
Update: We have now received a most courteous response, informing us that Ms Rolnik is being superseded as Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing by Leilani Farha and that we shall receive a considered response from Ms Farha when she takes up her duties in a few weeks’ time.
At the same time as we wrote to Ms Rolnik we also wrote to the Lord Chancellor (the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP) pointing out that almshouses as a system of housing were chronically inadequate under UN criteria and petitioning for remedy accordingly. As of today, August 18th, we are unsurprised to report that we have had no response from the Lord Chancellor’s office.
The text of our outgoing communications to both Ms Rolnik and the Lord Chancellor may be had on request via our Contact facility.
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