Pensioner ordered to sell home to pay mother's care home fees

Could this set a precedent for other families?

Updated: 
The disputed house.

A pensioner is to be forced to sell her home to pay for her 100-year-old mother's care bills, in a landmark ruling that could have implications for thousands of families.

Theatre director Glen Walford, 75, lived part-time at the £205,000 family home in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, while also renting a pied-a-terre in London.

And when her mother Mary was admitted into care in 2006, she successfully argued that the house shouldn't be taken into account during means testing.

Under the law, anyone with more than £21,000 worth of capital is asked to contribute to their care, including by selling property. However, if a partner or relative is aged over 60 and lives in the property either in 'whole or part', the house is usually exempt.

However, three years ago the council backtracked on its decision, and demanded that the house be sold to pay for Mrs Walford's bills. The case went all the way to the High Court, where Miss Walford claimed: "It has always been my intention to retire to Sunnydene, which is why I have only ever rented accommodation. I dearly wish to be able to keep a much-loved house in the family for my own continued use."

Glen Walford

But while the judge agreed and ruled in her favour, the Court of Appeal has now sided with the council, saying that the house isn't her main home.

But as Miss Walford has pointed out, she travels a great deal for her job, and only rents the tiny London flat for convenience. She's been paying the council tax and electricity bills on the Stourport house, and has spent £40,000 on renovations.

"It is quite simply my home and it is going to be sold from underneath me," she says. "God knows how many other people will face the same heartache following this ruling."

Ironically, it's because she's working that she's been away from home so much of the time; now, she says, she won't be able to retire, as she'll need to keep earning.

Mrs Walford

It's unclear how many other people might be affected by the ruling.

"This was a very significant judgement and one which will affect many in similar situations. This is a very complex area which will affect an increasing number of people," Charlotte Kelley, an associate at law firm Kerwoods, tells the Worcester News.

"The whole care fees issue can be a bit of a nightmare, especially where loved ones are involved and emotions are running high. This case was very finely balanced with the Appeal Court judges split two to one."

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