Concerning Death Of A Council Tenant/responsibility For Restoring Property.

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VenalWinfrey | 22:34 Tue 06th Aug 2013 | Law
18 Answers
Dear all

First, may I open by saying I am contacting my councillor(s)/MP with respect to this question, but I thought I would try here additionally. Any pointers/suggestions most appreciated.

My father, a council tenant (Lewisham), died three weeks ago. I am the last of my family remaining in the property (a three-bedroom house). I am listed as an non-dependant occupant of the property, though never a tenant/joint tenant myself.

I am currently in the process of tidying the property. It is full of 30 years' junk. Much of this can be thrown, and the house can be cleaned. However, my father, being rather eccentric, made a great deal of 'modifications' to the insides of the property.

I am concerned now that the council may attempt to make me responsible for returning the house in its original form.

Logic tells me that I surely bear no legal responsibility for doing so - having never myself had a contractual agreement with the council. Having spoken with the housing officer today, he seems to believe that we (my family and I) do in fact have a responsibility to them to empty the property. Though we have not discussed the matter any further yet. I will be seeing him this Friday.

Can anyone advise me on this? Do I have an obligation, as either a family member/incumbent to empty the property of all items? Do I further (more worryingly!) have a duty to restore things as they were 30 years ago?

Basically we are talking about an outhouse, a pond, a conservatory, and some internal walls, all in an extremely poor state. I am considering leaving the UK shortly and do not wish to be burdened with more than I am obligated to be.

If anyone could advise on this, or suggest where I might find more info (bar obviously councillors/MP route) I should really appreciate your proposals.

Thanks everyone for reading!


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My brother is the senior housing finance officer for a London borough adjacent to Lewisham and he tells me that in this situation the tenant or his/her family are not liable for the repairs/clearance. Any items remaining will be removed and disposed of by the housing association as part of the normal refurbishment before reletting the property. The Housing...
13:07 Wed 07th Aug 2013
How long have you lived there? Is any of the junk yours? Did you get planning permission for the conservatory?
Question Author
We grew up in this property. So I lived here between the ages of 5-20. Then I returned, recently, in 2010. I have been here (recently) for three years. I am 34.

I do not know whether my parents obtained permission for the conservatory. I believe they did not for the outhouse. We were overcrowded in the property, and the council refused to move us into larger accommodation. Thus, the outhouse and the partition in the living room were necessary to provide us enough bedrooms.

I should perhaps add that the tenancy was originally my mother's; it then passed to my father in 1990, when she left.

The council are fully aware of the dilapidated state of the property.

In terms of what belongs to me, we are talking about a small number of boxes of personal items. The rest (furniture, beds, etc. etc.) were never mine, but belonged to my father.

I expect this is pretty much thew same for any local authority
By all means write to your councillor and MP

as a modest private landlord I would be gobsmacked if a tenants exec/ next of kin said they were not going to empty the house of a decd tenant.
With notice I would then hire a skip.
I think I might try: 'I think you have to'
and failing that - well you dont need the keys can I have them now please ?

In terms of modifications I wouldnt expect the successors to bear the cost of restoring to original - I mean the q then arises do you really want it to look like a 60s house ? and I wouldnt expect anyone would want/try to require the house to be modernised ('restored' to 2013 spec)

I am not proposing anything
I am just telling you what I think
Don't see how you are liable. You are not a tenant. The deceased's estate may well be liable, the executors/administrator's standing liable for the debts and civil defaults of the deceased, but not personally liable; the debts and liabilities are of the deceased and they take the settlement of those assets which the deceased owned, at the time of death, to pay for them. If there is not enough to settle those debts or liabilities, that's just tough on those entitled to the payment for them.
In my area when a council / housing association house is vacated the housing association move in and 'gut' the place, they do a full refurbishment new bath toilet sinks , kitchen units everything. If anything is left in the property they send in a team who throw everything into skips and get rid of it. Outhouses sheds etc are left if they are in good condition and safe otherwise they get ripped down and into the skip as well. They do not charge for this it is just part of 'maintenance of the stock' . This actually happens quite a lot as elderly people die and the family do not want to do anything or there is no family locally.
Another answer is to get in a house clearance company, they pay you for the contents of the house , they then come and take everything and I mean everything even the rubbish. They pay about £50 to £100 and take the lot, they sell what they can and have to dispose of the rest safely. There is one such company just up the road from me i have an arrangement with them that I get first pick of any photographic equipment they get and have had a few bargains.
House clearance is a good idea. One mans junk is another mans treasure.
My father has been told that all modifications has to be inspected and any 'illegal' modifications will have to be restored once he leaves the property.
friedgreen yes that is if someone leaves to move to another property not if they have died , they do not try to claim off the estate .
OK Eddie, I understand that but as the OP has lived in the house for the last 3 years surely the council would be in their rights to expect the OP to clear it out and return the house in some sort of order? are not morally or financially responsible, imho. however, the council would have to pay for house clearance and then charge your father's estate for that. the modernisation/restoration of the house is the council's responsibility. no need to get excited about things or write to anybody.....your mp wouldn't be interested.
I am amazed they are still letting you live there after three weeks if you are not on the tenancy. I don't really see how they could make you do anything, especially if you are abroad
All the councils and housing associations around here have a policy of 'gutting' a property as soon as it is vacated this is to ensure that all new tenancies have a 'standard' house at the start. There is no requirement to do any repairs yourself in fact they would probably rip out any thing you did as it would not be to the 'standard' . In normal circumstances of course the tenant would be moving to a new property and take the furniture with them, the council / association still do a full 'strip and clean' though before the house is relet.
I'm puzzled as to why you are writing to your councillors and MP about this at this stage, Venal. I think you need to find out what the housing officer says on Friday first- there may not be any issues for you to trouble your MP with.
Question Author
Factor-Fiction: as I mentioned in my question, I have already spoken with the Housing Officer about this. He has told me verbally that he (Lewisham Homes) believes I am liable for the clearance of the property. I do not believe this to be the case. Therefore, prior to physically seeing him on Friday, it does seem not a wildly illogical move to make contact with relevant government representatives, to clarify matters.

Normally such issues would be dealt with by your councillor, as opposed your MP. I am aware of this. However, having already had an email response from the councillor, telling me they were unable to answer this question, I am taking the sensible precautionary steps.

Thank you all for your various suggestions - it is appreciated.
My brother is the senior housing finance officer for a London borough adjacent to Lewisham and he tells me that in this situation the tenant or his/her family are not liable for the repairs/clearance. Any items remaining will be removed and disposed of by the housing association as part of the normal refurbishment before reletting the property. The Housing Officer may well have told you that in the hope that you will do the work and save them the cost of clearing it themselves, they are definitely not above that sort of behaviour .
As I said just take anything you actually want and then get a house clearance company in to clear the rest, problem solved, plus you get paid instead of having to do it all yourself. You are happy, the housing association are happy and the house clearance company are happy.
Have the council asked for rent to be paid for the weeks since your dad died, and have you been living there?
I recall having to clear my grandmother's council flat and until this was done rent continued to be charged (payable by the executor/estate)

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