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MIL being forced to give up 15y tenancy for underoccupying - any housing experts?

(102 Posts)
NorfolksGiven Tue 13-Mar-18 23:14:43


My MIL is splitting up from her husband of 27 years (his decision) and whilst in conversation with her social LL (council house but run by different company iyswim) they have said that because she is now underoccupying her property they would not let her be the sole tenant. The house is 3 bedroom and she has lived there around 15 years.

He was pension age, she won’t be for another 9 years. Previously he was getting pension credit (joint claim) and his SRP full HB and c tax.

She is now about to claim UC and is looking for a job ( previously cared for him not worked for over 20 yrs)

Basically what I’m asking is if she has any legs to stand on in challenging this decision and if not, will her authority have any duty to rehouse her etc? Seems so crappy when none of it is what she wants.

Appreciate any help smile

hatgirl Tue 13-Mar-18 23:23:43

If you look at it from another (non emotional) point of view then 3 bedroom properties are far better utilised by families than they are by single women. There is a lot of pressure on social housing currently with many families massively over occupying property or even having to live in b&b accommodation.

I completely understand that she doesn't want to leave her home, but perhaps rather than fighting it and the emotional and financial cost that will inevitably come with that it might be better to try and encourage her to look at it as a fresh start and a chance to move on to a new life in a new home that is just hers.

MrsMcnulty20 Tue 13-Mar-18 23:30:50

Has your MIL’s partner tried to remove himself from the tenancy? Essentially if a joint tenant leaves it brings the tenancy to an end - however many social landlords would not work so literally and would grant the remaining tenant a new tenancy. I’d suggest your MIL goes to see Shelter and takes her tenancy agreement and any correspondence with her. They will be able to give her really specific advice. How the social landlord reacts depends on their policies and the type of area, I.e if family housing is in particularly high demand. They will also be looking at affordability so if your MIL finds work and can cover the full rent they may be more accommodating (this really does depend on who the landlord is though)

I would say that your MIL might want to consider the affordability side, as if it’s just her she will have to pay bedroom tax on two bedrooms, which will be 21% of the rent. It would be worth her making an application for Discretionary Housing Payment in the meantime. You apply for this through your local council and it can help cover the ‘bedroom tax’ while your mum is considering her options/looking to downsize. Now is a good time to apply as it’s the end of the financial year and councils are often more willing to grant payments and use up what’s in their budgets.

Hope that helps

MrsMcnulty20 Tue 13-Mar-18 23:33:34

One other thing, if the tenancy is still currently running and your MIL is thinking of downsizing, she could look at doing a ‘mutual exchange’ where tenants with assured tenancies swap properties. There would be lots of people looking for bigger properties so she may find something she really likes. The website is called Homeswapper.

BackforGood Tue 13-Mar-18 23:38:44

What Hatgirl and MrsMcunlty have said.

NOw is the time for a fresh start - a compact flat and the house made available for a currently overcrowded family.

bimbobaggins Wed 14-Mar-18 06:52:37

Whilst it is sad for your mil to have to leave her home of 15 years Surely you must see the council reasoning behind this . Of course a 3 bedroom house is under occupied with one person.
I don’t think she will have a leg to stand on, especially if she won’t be paying for it herself but the council will have a duty of care to rehouse her to a smaller proportion, they aren’t going to put her out on the street

JustMarriedAndLovingIt Wed 14-Mar-18 12:31:49

Good. Far too many large properties have one old person rattling around in it. My grandmother lived in the three bed council house that my dad and his 2 brothers grew up in, right until her death (following the death of my grandad) She was there about 60 ish years! She should have given it up for a family years ago given that families are often crammed into tiny places. She was a stubborn woman and would have none of it.

MessySurfaces Wed 14-Mar-18 14:24:32

Good lord you lot, do you have the same issues with people buying mansions? Young couples buying 2 bed flats and 3 bed houses? Or is it just poor people who have a moral obligation to downsize?

CotswoldStrife Wed 14-Mar-18 14:30:09

What people buy is up to them messy but there is a shortage of social housing so it is right (if horribly upsetting and inconvenient for the MIL in question here) to make the best use of the housing stock available for the people waiting.

Has your MIL been offered anything else by the housing authority, OP? Have they given her any idea what the next steps would be (and how long they would take?).

TheBlindspot Wed 14-Mar-18 14:34:09

I don't think she has a leg to stand on. Can understand how it's unpleasant for her definitely, however agree with PP that a 3 bed house should be used by a family not a single person.

And no, I don't have a problem with people buying houses that have more bedrooms than people - because they are buying it! Social housing is there to fulfil a very real need, and one person does not need a three bedroom house however unsettling moving may be.

OutyMcOutface Wed 14-Mar-18 14:35:44

Why would she event need a three bed?

DullAndOld Wed 14-Mar-18 14:39:04

There are sites that you can go to for council house swaps..I am sure some young family would be delighted, and a smaller place would be easier for your MIL.

RedRedDogsBeg Wed 14-Mar-18 14:43:53

a 3 bed to herself.....but paid for by benefits on top?

StormTreader Wed 14-Mar-18 15:21:04

You must see how one person is hugely underoccupying a three-bed house though? When there are families with three kids crammed into a single-room b&b for years?
Its not unfair, it IS unfortunate that we don't have enough properties to let everyone have a large one.

WhistlingBrooks Wed 14-Mar-18 16:04:13


I don't care if a young couple buy a 10 bedroom house or a family of 5 buy a two bedroom house because that's all they can afford as I have no moral right to dictate what they want to do with their own money.

While I empathise with the op's mil's situation, there are some things that just need doing because of the benefit of living in a welfare state.

feral Wed 14-Mar-18 18:02:57

Good on the council.

There's far too much family sized social housing hogged by older people who no longer need the space. I don't care for all that 'they raised their family there' and 'they've live there xx years' - great - someone else's turn now then!

As long as they can find her a suitable alternative then she needs to stop being selfish and move out!

GlitterGlue Wed 14-Mar-18 18:08:31

If she's going to claim benefits while she looks for work then it's very unlikely that she'd be able to afford the property as it is unlikely that the housing benefit would cover the rent on a three bedroom property. Moving to a smaller property will be more economical. Perhaps she could try and look at it as a fresh start?

Bellamuerte Wed 14-Mar-18 18:17:52

I'm guessing they were exempt from under-occupation uses because he's a pensioner, so if he leaves then she's no longer exempt? Speak to Shelter or Citizens Advice. If her husband had died and she inherited his tenancy the council would be unable to evict her for under-occupying. I don't know how it works if he divorces her? In the meantime, refuse to move and force the council to seek a court order.

NeverTwerkNaked Wed 14-Mar-18 18:19:12

I know it must be heartbreaking for her to have this all happen at once. But a smaller property will be much more affordable. And she should look into the house- swapping option. She may find a lovely small house or flat which is currently overcrowded with a family and so they will all benefit from the swap.

Familylawsolicitor Wed 14-Mar-18 18:22:44

It's possible to get a court order transferring the tenancy to her as part of divorce proceedings or stand alone under the Family Law Act 1996. However council have right to be heard and their objections considered by the family court. Worth taking advice from a firm of solicitors with both housing and family law specialists.

BrieAndChilli Wed 14-Mar-18 18:25:47

We just do not have the social housing stock for everyone who wants one to be given a family house to live in forever.

Nowadays council housing should just be temporary while people get on their feet. They should be assessed each year. People in private rentals have to move every so often,downsize when needed etc. It’s exactly the same thing really.

NewImprovedNinja Wed 14-Mar-18 18:28:58

Your poor MIL. What a sad situation for her to be in. Seek professional advice from Shelter or CAB and don't let her give up the tenancy without being certain of her rights under the law.

NotAllTimsWearCapes Wed 14-Mar-18 18:33:32

Surely she’ll never afford a 3 bedroom house by herself anyway? Especially if she isn’t working. She needs a smaller place financially. Unless she has a pile of money sitting somewhere?

LoislovesStewie Wed 14-Mar-18 18:39:09

Firstly she would be subject to the bedroom tax as she would be undercutting, secondly has there previously been an assignment of the tenancy perhaps with ex`s first partner? The rules are that there can't be 2 assignments, so she might not have a leg to stand on if that is the case
If the landlord is prepared to offer a suitable properly I would grab it.

kinorsam Wed 14-Mar-18 18:42:27

A shortage of social housing is not the fault of elderly women who find themselves (through whatever circumstances) living alone in the rented house they have occupied and looked after for decades.
They are the unfortunate victims of the 'system' and (while understanding the reasoning behind it) I feel appalled that they are unceremoniously kicked out of their own home.

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