What happens if the mortgage or rent aren’t paid?
Your financial situation is likely to change if someone you live with dies. You need to ensure that the rent or mortgage will be paid, even if you’re not liable for paying it. You should also find out whether you’re eligible for any benefits, or need to update any existing claims.
Falling behind on payments could result in:
- eviction or repossession
- your landlord or lender taking you to court to force you to pay off the arrears
- a bad credit rating, which would make it difficult for you to find a new home.
Am I liable to pay the rent or mortgage?
If you are the sole owner or tenant you will continue to be liable for the whole of the payments.
If you and the person who has died were joint tenants or owners, you automatically become liable for the whole of the rent or mortgage.
If you are the spouse or civil partner of the owner or tenant, you will normally become liable for the rent or mortgage payments once their estate has been settled. However, you may also be liable in the meantime if you are their personal administrator. Either way, it is important to ensure that the rent or mortgage is being paid to avoid building up (or increasing) arrears. Contact an adviser or solicitor if you are unsure about anything.
If the property isn’t in your name, and you’re not the spouse or civil partner of the owner or tenant (eg. you are cohabiting) the situation is more complicated. You may not be legally responsible for paying the mortgage but will probably need to ensure it is paid in order to protect any legal interest you have in the property. You should get advice as soon as possible to find out where you stand.
Visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery or contact a solicitor.
Can I be held responsible for their rent arrears?
If the property is rented, when you become liable for the rent, this usually includes liability for any rent arrears the deceased had built up. The only exception is if the deceased had a secure tenancy. In this situation you will not normally be liable unless you have agreed to take on the arrears.
Can I get any help?
If you have a low income, you may be able to claim income support mortgage interest (if your home is owner-occupied) or housing benefit (if the home is rented). Depending on your personal circumstances you may be able to get a crisis loan or a community care grant.
If you already have rent arrears or mortgage arrears, remember that your home might be at risk. Contact the National Debtline, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or a local advice centre as soon as possible.
What if I am already claiming housing benefit?
If you have an existing housing benefit claim, it might be affected by your change in circumstances. You should update your claim as soon as possible, as the amount you are entitled to may change. If you don’t inform the council, you might end up being paid too much and having to pay it back later on, or you might possibly lose out on additional benefits.
If you are already receiving housing benefit but are struggling to pay the rent, you could try applying for a discretionary housing payment.
Can I get bereavement benefits?
If your husband, wife or civil partner has died in the last year, you may be entitled to special benefits. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim:
- bereavement payment or widowed parent’s allowance
- bereavement allowance
- a funeral payment.
For more information about the financial help you might be entitled to, visit the Directgov website or a local advice centre.
Can I claim mortgage or life insurance?
If your home is owner-occupied, the person who died may have taken out mortgage payment protection insurance. This type of insurance policy is designed to pay the mortgage if the insured person dies and could protect your household from the risk of eviction.
Whether you own or rent your home, the person who died may also have taken out life insurance.
You should contact the providers of any insurances that may have been taken out and get financial advice as soon as possible. You should also let your mortgage lender or landlord know what is happening to ensure that they don’t take action to evict you or repossess your home if payments are missed.