New 'grace period' policy for bereaved families in South Tyneside set for vote
The policy sets out what bereaved families can expect after the death of a loved one, and how the council would deal with the termination of a tenancy in a council property.
A two-week grace period is being recommended, during which time families will not be responsible for paying any rent for the property.
According to a report prepared for the council’s ruling cabinet, the policy aims to provide a “balance of support” for bereaved families while ensuring council properties are ready to be let as “swiftly as possible”.
Cllr Jim Foreman, lead member for housing and community safety, said: “When a tenant has sadly died, it takes two weeks on average for families to return the keys to a property.
“Discretion is already used in some cases, however without a policy, there is some inconsistency in how this is applied, which can bring unnecessary stress and worry at an already difficult time.
“This policy would ensure that bereaved relatives had the reassurance of support without additional financial burden, whilst still allowing much-needed council homes to be re-let without undue delay.”
The policy has been developed following a motion from a number of opposition councillors in July 2021 to full council, which requested a procedure for a grace period of 28 days.
The motion was passed by full council in an amended form, instructing senior council officers to carry out a financial assessment to gauge the impact on the local authority’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA).
Following the financial assessment, a two-week grace period was found to be “appropriate” due to existing pressures on the HRA and the need for affordable housing in the borough, a cabinet report states.
Implementing the two-week policy would result in a loss to the Housing Revenue Account of approximately £25,000 per year.
The policy would also waive the four-week notice period that is required to terminate a tenancy and rent for this period would not be payable.
Labour cabinet member, Cllr Jim Foreman. went on to say: “This policy strikes a balance between ensuring that families are treated with compassion, without significant impact on the already-pressured Housing Revenue Account.”
A report prepared for cabinet adds: “Allowing a rent grace period may delay empty properties being available to be re-let, at a time when the need for affordable housing is high.
“However, by working with families in a sensitive and understanding way repair work can be planned to reduce this impact.”
South Tyneside Council’s cabinet will next meet on Wednesday, July 13 from 4pm at South Shields Town Hall.