UKSSCSC CIS_4935_1997 (12 February 1998)
Mr. J. P. Powell CIS/4935/1997
Aggregation - married couple living in residential care - whether "members of the same household"
The five claimants lived in the same residential care homes as their respective spouses. The adjudication officers decided that each was a member of the same household as his or her spouse so that their capital and income fell to be aggregated. Tribunals allowed their appeals. The adjudication officers appealed to the Commissioner.
Held, dismissing the appeals, that:
- there cannot be a "household" unless there is a domestic establishment (paragraph 13);
- a domestic establishment involves a group of two or more persons living together as a unit where that group enjoys a reasonable level of independence and self-sufficiency (paragraph 14):
- whether this test is satisfied is a matter for the common sense of the appeal tribunal; facts which may be of the greatest assistance in one case may be of little or no help in another (paragraph 17):
- the tribunals did not err in law in their approaches to the cases before them (paragraphs 19 to 24).
DECISION OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER
Date: 12 February 1998 (signed) Mr. J. P. Powell
"married couple" means a man and a woman who are married to each other and are members of the same household;"
In each of these appeals the claimant is undoubtedly married to his or her spouse. That being so, the issue is whether that claimant and his spouse "are members of the same household". The statute could have defined "married couple" in other ways. For example, it could have defined them as a man and a woman who are married to each other and who are living together or who are not living separate lives. Instead, it used the words I have quoted. Those words involve a consideration of what is meant by "household".
"The only question considered by the justices was whether the occupants of the house on January 14, 1976, were persons who did not form a single household. The case stated does not reveal how many permanent residents there were in the house but that on January 14 there were 75 persons residing there. The justices held that as the occupants made collective decisions in regard to the running of the house, had no "permanently set room or accommodation and slept wherever there was a place and that the children of a particular family may not sleep together with a parent", the 75 persons formed a single household. I do not think that these findings, considered together or individually, sufficed to warrant the conclusion that the constantly changing residents formed a single household. The Chiswick Women's Aid provided the house really as a hostel for temporary accommodation of ill treated women and their children and it would be inapt to describe the occupants as members of a single household as it would be so to describe the occupants of a hostel. In my opinion the only conclusion to which on the evidence before them the magistrates could properly have come to was that the house was occupied by persons who did not form a single household."
"... The test of multiple occupation is whether the house was, at the material times, "occupied by persons who do not form a single household" (see Housing Act 1969, section 58 and Schedule 8) and as I interpret Bracegirdle v Oxley the question which must be posed on this point is whether on the facts proved any reasonable bench of magistrates, properly directing themselves, could have come to the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to prove that the actual residents in December 1975 and January 1976 did not form a single household. Admittedly the expression "household" is not given a statutory definition in the Housing Acts. The Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 5 (1901), p. 421, gives: "The inmates of a house collectively; an organised family, including servants or attendants dwelling in a house; a domestic establishment." This gives some colour to the appellant's case. The trouble is that the first part of the definition would cover the inmates of any house and deprive the section of any meaning at all. [Lord Hailsham then referred to certain reported decisions of which he said] I do not find any of these references particularly helpful except to make clear to me what I would have supposed in any case that both the expression "household" and membership of it is a question of fact and degree, there being no certain indicia the presence or absence of any of which is by itself conclusive.
In this case I am driven by at least three factors to place what happened in 369, Chiswick High Road outside the limits of what can be conceivably called a single household. The first is the mere size. There comes a point at which all differences of degree become differences of kind. Neither 36 nor 75 is a number which in the suburbs of London as they exist at the present time can ordinarily and reasonably be regarded as a single household. The second factor is the fluctuating character of the resident population both as regards the fact of fluctuation and the extent of it. The residents were coming and going in the words of Lord Widgery CJ "each day or each week". The first of the Canadian cases cited above does attempt a definition which, I think rightly, implies something more durable and more intimate than the fortuitous relationship between the unhappy inmates of number 369 at the material times. The third consideration is the fact that I cannot regard a temporary place of refuge for fortuitous arrivals as ordinarily forming a household at all. ... I do not think that every community consisting of temporary migrants housed under a single roof reasonably organised constitutes or can constitute a single household. I do not think this is necessarily true of a hostel, a monastery, or a school, but certainly not of a temporary haven in a storm."
"4. It seems to me from the dictionary definition of "household" referred to in the Pizzey case and indeed as a matter of what might be said to be obvious, that something more than mere presence in a place is necessary before those present can be said to constitute a household; there must be, I should have thought, some collectivity, some communality, some organisation. As was said in Santos v Santos  2 All ER 247 at 255 "household" is ".... a word which essentially refers to people held together by a particular kind of tie, even if temporarily separated ....". Furthermore, it appears to be of the essence of "household" that there is something which can be identified as a domestic establishment. In CSB/463/1986 it was said (para. 10) "It is a question of fact in each case which turns on the evidence concerning the domestic establishment maintained; the test is sociality not structive". So one might have a domestic establishment in for example a hotel or boarding house - but there must be a domestic establishment."
"I take the view, applying what was said in that case, that on the facts as I have found them, [the husband and wife in decision CIS/081/1993] do not have a domestic establishment in the nursing home: there is nothing that can be identified as a "household" in the sense to which I have referred. ..."
I respectfully agree with the learned Commissioner's view that an essential attribute of a "household" is a domestic establishment.
CIS/4934/1997 and CIS/4935/1997
CIS/5232/1997 and CIS/5237/1997