Ipswich: Man brands council ‘obscene’ for charging £364 rent on dead mother’s flat

Dorothy Stone lived in No 6 of these flats on Lovetofts Drive, Ipswich

Dorothy Stone lived in No 6 of these flats on Lovetofts Drive, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

A man from Ipswich has said it is “obscene” that the Borough Council continued to charge rent on the flat of his mother after she died.

Tony Stone’s 84-year-old mother Dorothy lived in a council flat in Lovetofts Drive, Ipswich, before she passed away on October 10.

Tony notified Ipswich Borough Council about her death and had the flat cleared and keys returned within a week.

However at the end of last month he received a letter from a housing officer at the council to say rent would continue to be payable until the end of the tenancy after a four week notice period.

That meant £364.70 was due to the council by November 18, despite the fact that Mrs Stone had received disability and housing benefit before her death.

Ipswich Borough Council has said the policy is standard across the country and in accordance with tenancy law, but Tony said he initially thought the letter must have been a mistake.

“I phoned them up and said this is ridiculous, she hasn’t paid rent for 13 years and you are now saying the tiny amount she did leave for a funeral and for grandchildren, you are saying we have to pay that. Surely it’s some mistake?

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“I was told that they treat them the same as they treat somebody who is leaving or moving a council house. It’s not the same, you can’t give notice that you are about to die, if you could it would be illegal.”

After Tony tweeted about the situation he was contacted by a member of staff at the council to say that it was possible to fill out a form declaring there were insufficient funds in the estate to cover the cost of rent. The sum has since been written off.

John Mowles, Ipswich Borough councillor with responsibility for housing, said he was glad the issue had been resolved.

“The reason why such letters are issued as quickly as possible is to help the people in the situation of a deceased tenant and relative because under the contractual arrangement which affects everybody there’s a four week notice arrangement.

“That is tenancy law and we have to abide by that and there are very good practical reasons that we have to abide by that.”

Mr Mowles added that the council were unable to change the policy to take account of a death.

“It’s not something that the council can do, this is tenancy law. I have had issues like this raised with relatives in the past. It’s an unfortunate thing but bills still have to be paid, mortgages still have to be paid, even after people have passed on.”

However Tony insists the policy is unfair. “How can you treat death the same as somebody choosing to move a council house?

“You’d be prepared to pay four weeks notice if you were moving or giving up a property, but if somebody dies how can you possibly charge their estate four weeks notice? I just really, really can’t get my head around it.”