London

Woman loses fight to stay in dead partner's flat

An unmarried mother of four told to leave the council flat she had lived in for more than 15 years when her partner died has lost a High Court human rights fight.

Susan Turley complained that different council housing rules governing unmarried and married people were unfair and took legal action against the London Borough of Wandsworth.

But a judge has ruled against her following a High Court hearing in London.

Mr Justice Knowles had analysed rules governing situations where two people lived together in "social housing" but only one was a tenant.

The judge said if people were married or in a civil partnership the non-tenant was qualified to succeed the tenant.

But if people were unmarried and not in civil partnerships the non-tenant had to meet an "additional condition" in order to succeed the tenant.

They also had to show that they had "resided with the tenant" in the 12 months before the tenant died.

The judge said Ms Turley's case revolved around that "additional condition".

He had been told that Ms Turley's partner had been the tenant of the flat where they had lived in Wandsworth, south-west London.

The couple had moved in with their four children in 1995. They had separated in late 2010 and Ms Turley's partner had moved out and lived elsewhere for about a year.

But their relationship had been restored and he had returned to the flat a few months before his death in 2012. Ms Turley had subsequently been offered a "smaller" home by the council.

'Rights to a family life'

Mr Justice Knowles suggested that the "additional condition" had an "objective and reasonable justification". He said requiring a "state of affairs to be demonstrated for a period of time" served a "legitimate aim".

He said that aim was a reliable assessment of whether two people were "living together as if they were spouses".

And he concluded that Ms Turley was not entitled to a ruling in her favour and added: "Many are the systems that can give rise to hard decisions on particular sets of facts."

Ms Turley had complained that her rights to family life and not to suffer discrimination - enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights - had been breached.

Frances Walker, a senior policy adviser in the Department for Communities and Local Government, had told the court that social housing was a "scarce and finite resource" and

Ms Walker said the government sought to strike a balance between the "genuine management needs" of a local authority and the "legitimate needs" of a tenant's family members.

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