A mother is fighting for her grown-up son with cerebral palsy to remain in the family home after her death.
Irene Young, 74, who uses oxygen for a chronic lung condition, alleges Sanctuary Housing has broken a promise to allow son Darren, 49, to remain in the Melrose Avenue property in Vicars Cross, after she passes away.
She cites a 2006 letter to her late husband Kenneth from Sanctuary’s predecessor Chester and District Housing Trust (CDHT) signed by then community housing manager Julia Nundy, who stated: ‘We would allow Darren to remain with appropriate support in place’.
But Sanctuary says the house, which became a four-bed home after it was adapted to meet Mr Young’s disabilities shortly before his death two years ago, is under-occupied and it has an obligation to make sure the housing stock is used to full capacity.
Mrs Young, who has lived with Darren at the house since 1997, accuses Sanctuary of ‘bully tactics’ and says the housing association inherited CDHT’s responsibilities to its tenants.
She said: “They think they can run roughshod over everybody and with a lot of vulnerable people they do, who don’t stand up for themselves. Go and manage all those empty houses that are on their books, get empty houses filled up, don’t come taking houses away from people!
“If I had the money to take them to court I would,” added the pensioner, a mum-of-four and grandmother-of-six, who is seeking support from any legal practitioners willing to volunteer their advice.
“This has been his home all these years. It’s not just bricks and mortar, it’s not just a house, it’s his home,” she continued “My daughter lives just up the road and she said if anything happens to me she will move in with him.”
Darren, who is physically weak down his right side and partially-sighted, also has difficulties communicating and concentrating. “If I move I’ll be lost,” he said.
Ideally, Mrs Young would like Darren to succeed her on the tenancy agreement but by law this can’t happen as only one succession is allowed. Even though she was named on a joint tenancy agreement with her late husband, his death meant the tenancy succeeded to her. But in 2006 CDHT stated that landlords could allow an entitled family member to remain even if there was no further right of succession.
Julia Nundy, then community housing manager, wrote: “Please be assured that because of Darren’s individual circumstances, we would not look to remove him from his home and familiar surroundings should anything happen to his parents.”
But Christa Ripley, local head of operations for Sanctuary, explained the change in position after she recently wrote to Chester MP Chris Matheson when he took up the case on behalf of Mrs Young and her son. She told him ‘any form of change is difficult’ but suggested a move to a smaller property ‘that better meets their needs’ and highlighted affordability implications for Mr Young if he remained there in future.
In a statement to The Chronicle, she said: “As a social housing provider, we are expected to ensure that four-bedroom family homes such as this are used to their full capacity. However, we fully appreciate the complexity of the situation and are still working with the family to help them fully understand all the options available to them.
“One succession has already taken place and while rules about succession say that this can only happen once, in exceptional circumstances an additional succession can be granted if the property in question has been adapted specifically for the person who wishes to remain there.
“A fourth, ground floor bedroom and an adapted wet room were added to the property in 2013 but these were for Mr Young’s father who has since passed away, and the family have told us that these adaptations are currently not being utilised.”
Chester MP Mr Matheson commented: “I am currently looking into Mrs Young’s case so I don’t want to talk about specifics. What I will say is that this case shines a light on the government’s failure on housing.
“We have a Chancellor who believes that a house is not your own unless you own it and this cannot be right. I am speaking to Sanctuary to see what can be done to support the Young family and I will continue to act in their best interests.”