THE grieving family of a cancer victim have criticised a local authority for sending them a rent bill because they did not give enough notice that he was going to die.
Retired steel erector Harry Keetley, 73, died of cancer last Monday after being cared for by his former partner Denise Murray, who fulfilled his wish to die at home.
But following his death Rotherham Council demanded a payment of £276 for rent because they had failed to give a month’s notice.
After emptying his bungalow in Maltby, Rotherham, within days, and handing the keys to a council official, they were stunned to be told that they had to pay £69.13 a week in rent.
Mrs Murray, who has a son, Daniel, 14, from her relationship with Mr Keetley, said: “I can’t believe they’re doing it. You can’t give the date and time of somebody dying. I can understand it when people give up their tenancy, but the man died.
“He had saved up a bit of money to give Daniel something when he died, to give him a bit of a start in life and the council want to take £276.52 off his inheritance.
“I think it should be up to each family. Some may want to leave it longer to clear the house and pay the rent.
“After they told us we owed rent for four weeks, I said ‘OK, I’ll have the keys back then’ but they said they couldn’t do that.
“So the council can get people in to get it ready for a new tenant and within a week could be getting rent from somebody else as well. It may be the council’s policy but morally it stinks.”
A council spokeswoman said the council appreciated Mrs Murray’s concerns but a four week rent charge is made when any tenancy is terminated.
She added that as Mrs Murray is not the executor of Mr Keetley’s estate – her daughter had that role – the rent is charged to Daniel as Mr Keetley’s only beneficiary .
“In such circumstances the standard policy is that the rent charge should be paid from the estate, if there is one, or the beneficiary of that estate.
“If there is not an estate then the rent is then covered by the authority by the way of deceased tenant allowances.”