EVERY YEAR an estimated 300,000 people across England and Wales are forced to move home following the death of someone they lived with.

According to the end of life charity, Marie Curie, that is more than one in ten (11 per cent) bereaved people, and the problem is getting worse. The charity is calling for significant changes to the Renters (Reform) Bill to protect recently bereaved private renters.

New research from the charity, which provides care and support to people with an illness they are likely to die from, shows that an estimated 173,000 people left their homes due to a loss of income. Shockingly, the research projected that 144,000 were forced to leave following the death of someone they lived with because they did not hold the tenancy.

And the charity says the problem getting worse. People bereaved in the twelve months up to November 2023 were twice as likely to be affected as those bereaved between 2018 and 2021.

Each year, over 500,000 people die in England and Wales.

Alexis Board lost her rented accommodation after caring for her mother Fay for nine years. “She wasn’t even gone a week when they told me I had to leave. I hadn’t even made the arrangements for her funeral yet. I knew I would have to move eventually and downsize. It was 26th of May she died, they told me the following week that I had until the end of July to leave. I asked for longer, I was hoping for six months to give me time to make arrangements and come to terms with my mother’s death, but they denied [that] and gave me two months.

“My mum was 96 years old with a loft full of photographs and possessions from nearly a century on this earth, and I had to get rid of it all, because I had nowhere to go.

“My mum had lived in her home for 24 years. As time went on she became increasingly worried about what would happen to me after her death, especially after I had sacrificed so much. She repeatedly told me that the matter had been discussed with the landlord and that she had received certain assurances regarding my future security.

“Mum died on a Friday, I got a phone call from the landlord asking to see me the following week. I remember thinking how kind of them to come and commiserate after such a long association, but the following Thursday they told me to get out.”

Marie Curie is calling for changes to the Renters (Reform) Bill to protect the rights of private renters when someone they live with dies.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of Marie Curie, said: “A complete absence of compassion could be seeing renters evicted at the rate of almost 400 a day because they person they lived with has died.

“The death of someone you live with, whether they be a family member, a partner or a friend, is a uniquely distressing event. Bereaved renters often experience significant and immediate loss of household income, as well as additional costs like preparing funerals and memorials for their loved ones. They should not have to deal with the stress, pain and anxiety of losing their home, and all the memories it holds, as well.”

In support of Marie Curie’s campaign, Clive Betts, MP for Sheffiield South East and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee, has signed amendments to the Renters Reform Bill that would protect the rights of bereaved renters. He said: “It is utterly unacceptable that private landlords are able to use bereavement as a trojan horse to remove tenants. If the Government is genuinely committed to protecting renters, it must use the Bill to give tenants the peace of mind that amidst the very worst circumstances, their basic right to shelter and safety will not be jeopardised.”

The issue is getting worse as more people are forced to rent in the face of record housing unaffordability, with rates double what they were three years ago. The problem is especially acute for young people and Londoners – those who live in the capital or are between 18 and 34 years old are more than twice as likely to be forced out of their homes because of the issue.

As the law stands, landlords can evict renters if the named tenant dies, even if the surviving renters continue to fully pay rent and there are no other grounds for eviction. Marie Curie is calling for this to be changed, so that bereaved renters are not forced from their homes. The need for a change in the law was highlighted in a report from the UK Commission on Bereavement, of which Marie Curie was a founding partner, which offered a series of recommendations on how to better support bereaved people.

* Source: Marie Curie