December 2012 Service Charges for Communal Areas

C was a man with severe learning disabilities who was one of four tenants of a housing association property, where each tenant had their own bedroom but shared a kitchen, bathroom and other communal rooms.  The local authority had decided that the weekly charges for fuel and cleaning relating to the communal areas were not eligible for Housing Benefit (HB).

The Upper Tribunal held that C lived in ‘sheltered accommodation’ and was entitled to these costs.  The local authority appealed.

The Court of Appeal rejected the local authority’s argument that there would have to be ‘something exceptional’ if accommodation which was not self-contained was to fall within the description of sheltered accommodation.  The court however, decided that sheltered accommodation was a flexible concept that covered a broad spectrum, particularly given the increasing emphasis on care in the community.  Instead the court held that it would not be consistent with the statutory purpose to exclude from the definition of sheltered accommodation those very sheltered housing schemes where the need for communal rooms in order to provide adequate accommodation for those who were less able to manage on their own, was even greater than in other forms of sheltered accommodation (Oxford City Council v Basey 2012).

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