Pickard v Constable  EWHC 2475 (Ch)
10th November 2017
Mrs Pauline Constable was adjudged bankrupt. Her trustees in bankruptcy applied for an order for the sale of her home that she owned jointly with her husband (Mr Constable). Mr Constable, who was 65, adduced evidence that he suffered from myasthenia gravis, which made him unable to walk without the use of a zimmer frame, and that he had insufficient funds to purchase or rent an alternative property. A district judge granted the trustees’ application, but postponed the order for possession until Mr Constable had either died or permanently vacated the property. The judge’s reasons for doing so were that Mr Constable had no means of obtaining alternative accommodation and if he were forced to live in bed and breakfast accommodation provided by the local authority he would be unable to cope or survive and therefore his circumstances were so truly exceptional that they outweighed those of his wife’s creditors.
Warren J allowed an appeal. It was not open to a court to postpone the sale of a bankrupt’s home for an indefinite period; previous authority indicated that a sale ought to be postponed for no more than 12 months. In any event, the evidence before the district judge did not support his conclusion that Mr Constable would be unable to survive if the property were to be sold and the court was entitled to rely on the local authority to perform its statutory duties to adequately re-house Mr Constable. In the circumstances, the appropriate order was for the sale to be postponed for a period of 12 months, but for Mr Constable to be given permission to apply for the order to be postponed further in the event that there was evidence that Mr Constable was unlikely to be re-housed.