liability for rent arrears for succession tenant
Appreciating that this isn’t strictly welfare related, but is putting a tenancy at risk.
My friend is about to succeed a Council tenancy from her deceased mother. The council have said she is liable for her late mothers arrears. Now i appreciate that if she agreed to take arrears on as a condition of tenancy that would be a contractual agreement, but she hasn’t. She was just informed that she had to pay the arrears off having signed a tenancy agreement with no mention of this.
To my knowledge, debts can only be recovered where there is a liability to pay them, and if someone dies, liability ends, unless someone specifically agrees to take it on.
What are the thoughts of others?
This looks like a job for Elliot Kent or Timothy Seaside. Shelter website refers to case law saying that private sector Rent Act successors are not personally liable for rent arrears, but suspended possession orders that existed prior to the death put the successor udner a practical compulsion to continue with the arrangement. They suggest the same principles apply to social tenancies. But there are people on here (such as the two I have mentioned) who know about this stuff. It may even be Elliot who wrote that weg page
Succession as such isn’t something which the council has to agree to or can make subject to conditions - it is something which happens by operation of law when certain conditions are met. The specific circumstances in which succession can occur will depend mainly on (1) the sort of tenancy the mother had (2) when it was entered into (3) whether there has already been a succession (or an event treated as a succession) and (4) potentially the terms of the tenancy agreement.
If the person involved is entitled to succeed in this way, then they become the tenant immediately following the death and that is when their liability begins. The rent arrears due up to that point will be a debt owed by the estate and if the estate cannot meet them, they will be at an end.
However sometimes when people are talking about succession, they are referring to what is sometimes called ‘non-statutory’ succession. Essentially this is in reference to the idea that it will sometimes be appropriate for the landlord to grant the occupant a new tenancy in circumstances where they are not entitled to succeed. In this situation, it is at least conceptually possible to make the offer of the property subject to conditions.
I would suggest that your friend contacts their local Shelter hub for advice on which of these situations is most likely to apply and on how best to navigate it.
It may even be Elliot who wrote that weg page
Haha… no they do not let me near the weg pages… Timothy knows the housing stuff far better than I do anyway.[ Edited: 20 Nov 2020 at 02:04 pm by Elliot Kent ]
Hello to you both
Thankyou both so much for your responses, it is really good of you to bring forth your knowledge, I will pass this on to her.
best wishes to all
I think the main thing I’d be worried about would be if this is a genuine succession and the council had a possession order. The order would still exist (because the tenancy would still exist) and any breach could (in principle) lead to repossession.
But it’s quite a complicated subject - and, like Elliot, I would strongly advise her to get specialist housing advice (and although I still feel some loyalty to Shelter, I have to point out that other housing advisers are available).