Bid for ‘bereavement grace period’ to help grieving families of council tenants in South Tyneside

Families of council tenants in South Tyneside facing bereavement could benefit from a ‘grace period’ to reduce the pressures of rent payments, under new plans.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 6:03 pm
Councillors have voted through a motion to explore a grace period for grieving families of council tenants

South Tyneside Council’s housing stock is managed by arms-length management organisation South Tyneside Homes.

At a recent full meeting of South Tyneside Council, councillors agreed to launch a review of existing policies with a view of introducing a bereavement grace period for rent accrual.

Councillor Glenn Thompson, leader of the South Tyneside Independents Group, launched a debate on the matter at full council on Thursday, July 22, which was held at Temple Park Leisure Centre.

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The motion was signed by several opposition councillors and called for the council leader to write to South Tyneside Homes bosses asking them to introduce the policy and for a report to be produced on the scheme’s financial impact.

This included establishing a rent accrual grace period for up to 28 days from the date of bereavement.

Cllr Thompson told the meeting: “Currently, South Tyneside Homes treat every bereavement on its merits and work with families to assist with the difficult task of clearing a South Tyneside Homes property.

“But unfortunately what is not presently in place, is a grace period where families can know that additional pressures of accruing rent are not a further worry.”

At the meeting, Labour councillor Ed Malcolm said the motion presented was “fundamentally flawed” and proposed an amendment.

He said the changes aimed to ensure that “the sentiments and spirit of the original motion can be maintained and recognised so that the requests are addressed to the correct bodies.”

This included the requests for the new scheme being made to South Tyneside Council as the landlord and authority responsible for amending housing policy and releasing the relevant funding.

Cllr Malcolm, who is chair of the South Tyneside Homes Board, also gave an indication of the potential costs involved.

“It’s my understanding that there will be quite an impact on the Housing Revenue Account and that no other housing organisation has such a policy that this motion seeks to introduce,” he added.

“I think that a quick calculation is about £108,000 going by last year’s vacancies due to bereavement.”

Following discussion, the amended motion was accepted and won unanimous support.

Councillors agreed to review the policy regarding a grace period and for the council’s relevant corporate director to assess the financial impact of the policy change.

The amended motion in full reads:

Establish a procedural guidance document for bereavements.

This council notes that:

South Tyneside Council is responsible for housing policy in relation to homes managed by South Tyneside Homes, including the policy in relation to paying rent for vacated properties after bereavement.

Council notes that this forms part of a legal document, mainly the tenancy agreement.

Council acknowledge that:

Currently, South Tyneside Homes treat bereavement cases on its merits and work with families to assist with the difficult task of clearing homes managed by South Tyneside Homes.

Council resolves to:

Review the policy regarding its properties managed by South Tyneside Homes and establishing a grace period of rent accrual for up to 28 days from the date of bereavement.

The council also acknowledges that this will have a financial impact in relation to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA).

Council therefore requests the leader of the council to instruct the corporate director for business and resources to carry out a financial assessment regarding what impact the grace period of rent accrual for up to 28 days from the date of bereavement would have on the HRA.