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Deceased parent's council house debt charges - are children legally responsible if they live there?

edited 17 November at 2:46PM in Reclaiming mortgage fees, council tax, etc
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Dynamic_EdgeDynamic_Edge Forumite
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Hi. I am not sure if my question belongs in this subforum, so moderator - please move to the relevant section if required.

My mother has passed away in early August. She was living in a rented 2 bed council accommodation with me (I am a single male in my 30s, currently in full time employment). The tenancy was given in 2015, and officially only in her name, and I was a "member of the household". My mother was receiving pension credit and housing benefit, and as such did not pay any housing charges to the council. So all this time, I was not responsible for the payment of any housing or other bills.
In September,  a process was started by the council case worker to legally end my mother's tenancy and  try to assign me to another council property (or try to give me tenancy at the current one if at all possible, although unlikely). This process is underway. In early October, I have been given an official "Notice to Quit on Public Trustee"; this notice expired a few days ago and now I am an "unlawful occupier" of the property. I've received an email from case worker that starting from the date of expiration of Notice to Quit I am legally responsible for housing charges. I am living in this property to this day.

Now, my question is: what about the charges for the period from my mother's death till the date when Notice to Quit expires? The tenancy was still in my mother's name for that period.  Yesterday I have received a letter from council income team, stating that there is an X amount of debt for the housing charges for that period (roughly 3 months). 

The letter has the phrase, and I quote, "Please confirm that you are responsible for dealing with this matter, and say whether you can pay the debts from the estate".  For some reason, this letter had a mistake in the spelling of my name: I am addressed by only my first name everywhere in the letter, and my surname is missing.

Now I assume by "estate" they mean my mother's estate. All her "estate" amounted to was a sum of around £5k in her current account. No other savings. This money was transferred to my own bank account, and I used most of it on her funeral and matters related to her funeral. I am the only child, no other relatives, and my mother was single

1. In this situation, am I legally obligated to pay my parent's debt, or can I simply refuse?
2.  2. Further: in the case that I am indeed legally obligated, if I say I can't pay from my mother's estate, what then? 
3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
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  • edited 17 November at 3:31PM
    MorningcoffeeIVMorningcoffeeIV Forumite
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    edited 17 November at 3:31PM


    3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
    LOL. No.

    You can always ask them to resend the letter in your full name if you want but doesn't make any difference.

    If there are any funds remaining from her estate, then they must be used to settle outstanding debts. You'll need to evidence that there is nothing remaining and it wasn't spent on anything other than the funeral expenses or other higher priority debts.

    If there are no funds, the debt will be written off.


  • MalMonroeMalMonroe Forumite
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    Hi, I'm very sorry for your loss.

    I'm in a similar position with my home, except that I am the mother and my adult daughter lives with me. I'm surprised that your Mum was allowed to claim housing benefits if you were living with her because although I'm a pensioner I'm not eligible for any benefits at all because my daughter lives with me. The council expects that if there are two adults living in a two bed property, those two adults will share all costs, including rent and council tax. So we get no reductions or benefits. And even though our joint incomes are still just under £16k per annum we are not eligible.

    And my daughter's disability only allows her to work part time, whereas you say you work full time.  Mine is the only name on my tenancy agreement but it also states that if a family member has lived with me for more than 12 months, that family member can accede to the tenancy of the property so I'm not sure why your landlord has given you notice. It seems a bit heartless for your council to want to simply move you to another property when that place has been your only home - unless they are in need of 2 bed properties.

    However, whatever money or property your mother did leave must go to clearing any debts in her name. If they are not in your name then they are not your responsibility. I agree with what MorningcoffeeIV says above.
  • macmanmacman Forumite
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    The occupiers are liable. If you are the only occupier, then that is you. Though you will now qualify for the SPD of course.
    That applies whether you are a tenant, lodger or excluded occupier.
    No free lunch, and no free laptop ;)
  • Dynamic_EdgeDynamic_Edge Forumite
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    MalMonroe said:
    Hi, I'm very sorry for your loss.

    I'm in a similar position with my home, except that I am the mother and my adult daughter lives with me. I'm surprised that your Mum was allowed to claim housing benefits if you were living with her because although I'm a pensioner I'm not eligible for any benefits at all because my daughter lives with me. The council expects that if there are two adults living in a two bed property, those two adults will share all costs, including rent and council tax. So we get no reductions or benefits. And even though our joint incomes are still just under £16k per annum we are not eligible.

    And my daughter's disability only allows her to work part time, whereas you say you work full time.  Mine is the only name on my tenancy agreement but it also states that if a family member has lived with me for more than 12 months, that family member can accede to the tenancy of the property so I'm not sure why your landlord has given you notice. It seems a bit heartless for your council to want to simply move you to another property when that place has been your only home - unless they are in need of 2 bed properties.

    However, whatever money or property your mother did leave must go to clearing any debts in her name. If they are not in your name then they are not your responsibility. I agree with what MorningcoffeeIV says above.

    Hi MalMonroe, thanks for your detailed reply. Sorry to hear about your situation.

    I think my mother was allowed to claim housing benefit because the background to our situation was probably different to yours. My mother was living with me in a privately rented accommodation prior to obtaining a council home in 2015. She was also receiving housing benefit for the private property. I was a full time student all this time (doing my undergrad, then two postgrad degrees - MSc, PhD) till 2019. I think this is why she was getting full benefit. And from 2019 till Sep 2021, I was only able to find part time / temp work in my domain (the council weren't enquiring about my employment status for years, anyway).

    You say your tenancy states that family member has the right to succession? What I've been told by the council here and independent housing advice is that if council tenancy started after 2012, only the deceased's spouse has the right to accession; children / family members have no such right. So when did your tenancy start?

    I have applied for a "change of tenancy " with the council, following my case worker's advice. They might allow me to succeed, based on their discretion, and given that I have some long term health issues. If not, they will either simply kick me out or try to reallocate me (no idea what).
  • Dynamic_EdgeDynamic_Edge Forumite
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    macman said:
    The occupiers are liable. If you are the only occupier, then that is you. Though you will now qualify for the SPD of course.
    That applies whether you are a tenant, lodger or excluded occupier.
    What is SPL? Why would the present occupier be liable for another person's debt who is deceased?
  • edited 17 November at 9:17PM
    Dynamic_EdgeDynamic_Edge Forumite
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    edited 17 November at 9:17PM


    3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
    LOL. No.

    You can always ask them to resend the letter in your full name if you want but doesn't make any difference.

    If there are any funds remaining from her estate, then they must be used to settle outstanding debts. You'll need to evidence that there is nothing remaining and it wasn't spent on anything other than the funeral expenses or other higher priority debts.

    If there are no funds, the debt will be written off.


    Regarding funds from the estate: you say I'll need evidence to show there's nothing remaining. The thing is, my mother's bank account savings were passed onto me nearly 2 months after her death, paid directly to my account. Her funeral expenses were quite complex, as a part of the funeral (cremation) was done here in UK, and then I took her ashes abroad and buried them there via a special service. And I stayed abroad for a few weeks, for  spiritual / religious reasons in connection with my mother's death. So the funeral expenses also incurred expensive flight tickets, transportation, me renting a hotel, etc. And all this was paid for from my own money, since all this took place after my mother's savings were passed onto me. 

    Are you saying all this must be proved? And in retrospect, how can it be shown that it was specifically my mother's funds that were used, given that these expenses were incurred before the funds were transferred to me? Further: even if these expenses took place after I received the funds, these would have been paid out of my account - which would then have all the combined income (my own, and my mother's).


  • 1616six1616six Forumite
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    3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
    LOL. No.

    You can always ask them to resend the letter in your full name if you want but doesn't make any difference.

    If there are any funds remaining from her estate, then they must be used to settle outstanding debts. You'll need to evidence that there is nothing remaining and it wasn't spent on anything other than the funeral expenses or other higher priority debts.

    If there are no funds, the debt will be written off.


    Regarding funds from the estate: you say I'll need evidence to show there's nothing remaining. The thing is, my mother's bank account savings were passed onto me nearly 2 months after her death, paid directly to my account. Her funeral expenses were quite complex, as a part of the funeral (cremation) was done here in UK, and then I took her ashes abroad and buried them there via a special service. And I stayed abroad for a few weeks, for  spiritual / religious reasons in connection with my mother's death. So the funeral expenses also incurred expensive flight tickets, transportation, me renting a hotel, etc. And all this was paid for from my own money, since all this took place after my mother's savings were passed onto me. 

    Are you saying all this must be proved? And in retrospect, how can it be shown that it was specifically my mother's funds that were used, given that these expenses were incurred before the funds were transferred to me? Further: even if these expenses took place after I received the funds, these would have been paid out of my account - which would then have all the combined income (my own, and my mother's).


    From what I understand, the estate of £5k left is allowed to have funeral costs deducted prior to clearing debts, which I assume is able to be evidenced for the physical funeral.

    I highly doubt you can claim expenses of you buying flights, hotel costs etc from the estate to be honest.

    I would imagine you need to start with the 5k estate, deduct the funeral cost, then that remaining balance is the estate which then goes toward debt, any remainder after the debt is cleared is then your inheritance. 


  • edited 17 November at 11:38PM
    Dynamic_EdgeDynamic_Edge Forumite
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    edited 17 November at 11:38PM
    1616six said:


    3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
    LOL. No.

    You can always ask them to resend the letter in your full name if you want but doesn't make any difference.

    If there are any funds remaining from her estate, then they must be used to settle outstanding debts. You'll need to evidence that there is nothing remaining and it wasn't spent on anything other than the funeral expenses or other higher priority debts.

    If there are no funds, the debt will be written off.


    Regarding funds from the estate: you say I'll need evidence to show there's nothing remaining. The thing is, my mother's bank account savings were passed onto me nearly 2 months after her death, paid directly to my account. Her funeral expenses were quite complex, as a part of the funeral (cremation) was done here in UK, and then I took her ashes abroad and buried them there via a special service. And I stayed abroad for a few weeks, for  spiritual / religious reasons in connection with my mother's death. So the funeral expenses also incurred expensive flight tickets, transportation, me renting a hotel, etc. And all this was paid for from my own money, since all this took place after my mother's savings were passed onto me. 

    Are you saying all this must be proved? And in retrospect, how can it be shown that it was specifically my mother's funds that were used, given that these expenses were incurred before the funds were transferred to me? Further: even if these expenses took place after I received the funds, these would have been paid out of my account - which would then have all the combined income (my own, and my mother's).


    From what I understand, the estate of £5k left is allowed to have funeral costs deducted prior to clearing debts, which I assume is able to be evidenced for the physical funeral.

    I highly doubt you can claim expenses of you buying flights, hotel costs etc from the estate to be honest.

    I would imagine you need to start with the 5k estate, deduct the funeral cost, then that remaining balance is the estate which then goes toward debt, any remainder after the debt is cleared is then your inheritance. 



    Well, the funeral as such would not be possible without buying flight tickets etc - so surely these expenses are an integral part of the proceedings here?

    Is the council legally allowed to require me to produce proof of the estate amount?


  • theoreticatheoretica Forumite
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    For inheritance tax purposes (which is the only place I can find to refer to), I am sorry that travel and accommodation expenses are specifically not allowed.  https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/inheritance-tax-manual/ihtm10379

    But a banker, engaged at enormous expense,
    Had the whole of their cash in his care.
    Lewis Carroll
  • 1616six1616six Forumite
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    1616six said:


    3.  And can I use their own mistake in the writing of my name (surname missing) on the letter against them - and claim that this letter was not actually addressed to me at all?
    LOL. No.

    You can always ask them to resend the letter in your full name if you want but doesn't make any difference.

    If there are any funds remaining from her estate, then they must be used to settle outstanding debts. You'll need to evidence that there is nothing remaining and it wasn't spent on anything other than the funeral expenses or other higher priority debts.

    If there are no funds, the debt will be written off.


    Regarding funds from the estate: you say I'll need evidence to show there's nothing remaining. The thing is, my mother's bank account savings were passed onto me nearly 2 months after her death, paid directly to my account. Her funeral expenses were quite complex, as a part of the funeral (cremation) was done here in UK, and then I took her ashes abroad and buried them there via a special service. And I stayed abroad for a few weeks, for  spiritual / religious reasons in connection with my mother's death. So the funeral expenses also incurred expensive flight tickets, transportation, me renting a hotel, etc. And all this was paid for from my own money, since all this took place after my mother's savings were passed onto me. 

    Are you saying all this must be proved? And in retrospect, how can it be shown that it was specifically my mother's funds that were used, given that these expenses were incurred before the funds were transferred to me? Further: even if these expenses took place after I received the funds, these would have been paid out of my account - which would then have all the combined income (my own, and my mother's).


    From what I understand, the estate of £5k left is allowed to have funeral costs deducted prior to clearing debts, which I assume is able to be evidenced for the physical funeral.

    I highly doubt you can claim expenses of you buying flights, hotel costs etc from the estate to be honest.

    I would imagine you need to start with the 5k estate, deduct the funeral cost, then that remaining balance is the estate which then goes toward debt, any remainder after the debt is cleared is then your inheritance. 



    Well, the funeral as such would not be possible without buying flight tickets etc - so surely these expenses are an integral part of the proceedings here?

    Is the council legally allowed to require me to produce proof of the estate amount?


    I understand and empathise with you but that’s an open ended statement, if there were 100 people attending the funeral, would the estate have paid for full expenses? 

    If the funeral were a ‘normal’ setup, you wouldn’t be covering fuel to drive there, taxi fares etc - it’s not something you’re going to have much luck with I don’t think. 

    Unfortunately I’m fairly certain I’m right in saying the actual funeral service/coffin etc is the part you can deduct from the estate. 

    Best to seek legal advice though to be honest. 
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