Losing a close family member is a devastating experience for any family but it can be made even worse if their death leads to their relatives having to leave the family home. Too often Westminster Housing has been far too quick to trigger eviction procedures where the main tenant has died and the remaining family do not have the right to remain housed by the council (or will be required to move elsewhere and downsize if they are eligible to be rehoused).
In a recent case raised by Cllr Patricia McAllister a family who had been living the same home for over 50 years before their mother (who was the tenant) died received a notice to quit the property only a week after her funeral. In other cases surviving family members who did have the right to remain in the home long-term have still received a Notice to Quit, adding to their stress at a hugely difficult time.
Labour believes that new systems should be put in place to prevent such things happening in future. Every notice to quit in cases of bereavement should be subject to the sign-off of a senior manager to ensure things are handled with sensitivity. Labour believes that notices to quit should not be issued until families are given a reasonable time to grieve, resolve the deceased’s affairs and make preparations for their future. The notice to quit should not be the first contact the family has from housing setting out their options for the future. Family members should be given more time to find alternative arrangements and there should be greater flexibility to enable families to stay in their existing home where appropriate.
Cllr McAllister said “Labour believes families need time to mourn the death of a close family member. They need to be treated sensitively and with understanding. Not immediately sent a formal notice to quit their family home in 4 weeks and instructions to clear their home of all personal belongings. There are necessary procedures to end an existing tenancy but they need to be changed to be more humane and compassionate for those who are suffering and grieving.”