The local authority is responsible for taking all reasonable steps to protect the movable property of an adult with care and support needs who is being cared for away from home, in a hospital or in accommodation such as a care home, and who cannot arrange to protect their property themselves. This includes pets as well as the adult’s personal property (for example, private possessions and furniture).
The local authority must act if it believes that if it does not take action there is a risk of movable property being lost or damaged.
In order to protect movable property in such circumstances, the local authority may enter the property:
- at reasonable times;
- with the adult’s consent (see Section 3, Mental Capacity below), which is ideally in writing;
- reasonable prior notice to enter should be given.
Protecting property may include arranging for pets to be looked after when securing premises for someone who is having their care and support needs provided away from home in a care home or hospital, and who has not been able to make other arrangements for the care of their home or pets.
3. Mental Capacity
If the adult lacks the capacity to give consent to the local authority entering the property, consent should be sought from a person authorised under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to give consent on the adult’s behalf. This might be:
- an attorney (also known as a donee with lasting power of attorney) that is someone appointed under the Act who has the legal right to make decisions (for example decisions about their care and support) within the scope of their authority on behalf of the person (the donor) who made the power of attorney;
- a deputy (also known as a court appointed deputy) that is a person appointed by the Court of Protection under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to take specified decisions on behalf of someone who lacks capacity to take those decisions themselves;
- the Court of Protection.
4. Duties of the Local Authority
If a third party tries to stop an authorised entry into the home they will be committing an offence, unless they can give a good reason why they are obstructing the local authority in protecting the adult’s property. If convicted for an offence of obstruction by a Magistrates’ Court, the person being fined.
The council officer who intends to enter the property should have written permission in relation to protecting the specific adult’s property / pets. The officer must be able to produce the written permission if anyone asks to see it.
The duty on the local authority lasts until the adult in question returns home or makes their own arrangements for the protection of property or until there is no other danger of loss or damage to property; whichever happens first. Often a one off event is required such as the re-homing of pets or ensuring that the property is secured.
If costs are incurred or if there are ongoing costs the local authority can recover any reasonable expenses they incur in protecting property under this duty from the adult whose property they are protecting.