A woman who was forced to move out of the family home just ten days after her mum died was wrongly told she owed the council £1,600 for the house.
Sophie Kelly-Sullivan, from Bootle, Merseyside, was told by her mum’s former neighbour she had “final notice” to pay the council tax bill, despite the fact she didn’t live there.
Jeanette Marie Kelly, 60, died on March 15, two weeks after she was taken to hospital over her deteriorating health.
Her daughter Sophie Kelly-Sullivan said her mum initially discharged herself but could only stay at home for one night before having to be readmitted to the Royal Liverpool Hospital and dying 10 days later.
Sophie said when her mum died, she had to tell landlord Regenda Homes and, on March 18, they told her and her brother, Billy, that they had to have the Bootle house empty by March 25.
Sophie said the news added to the family’s stress in what was, and still is, an extremely difficult time.
Sophie said: “My mum passed away, she was only in hospital for two weeks and it was all very quick. It was horrific. As soon as we had to make everyone aware of the death, including the housing company, they basically came back to us and said we had a week to move her stuff out of the house.
“We asked if we could have a bit longer to move out and they said we needed to pay rent for the extra week. We had to throw away so much because we didn’t have enough time to sort through her things.
“My friend told me that the house was on Property Pool three days after moving her things out. People were turning up to view the house and asking us lots of questions about it while we were moving her things out.”
Sefton Council by default named Sophie as the sole occupier of the house and failed to pick up that a new tenant had moved into the Regenda Homes-owned house, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Sophie said: “They had been sending letters to my mum’s house which were being redirected to my neighbour and I wasn’t aware of any of these until my brother went to pick them up.
“I managed to speak to the council yesterday but they were putting a lot of the blame onto me about the bill. I had to tell them that I don’t even live at the property anymore and they said they had got my email about me moving out but because I didn’t tell them the date I moved out they put all the blame on me.
“But if they needed further information and were chasing me, why didn’t they follow anything up rather than just sending letters? I was just trying to grieve for my mum.”
Before the dispute with Sefton Council, Sophie said Regenda Homes, the firm that owns her mum’s house, told her and her brother they had to move their mum’s things out of the house within a week of telling them that their mum had died.
She added: “Obviously Regenda and the council didn’t communicate at all.
“There’s been another family in that house for a couple of months who will be paying council tax and I’m just in shock that Sefton Council didn’t know that when I was on the phone with them. I don’t get how they didn’t know.”
Sophie has now managed to resolve the dispute, with Sefton Council clearing the debt.
A spokesperson for Sefton Council told the ECHO: “We understand what a difficult time it is after losing a family member.
“In this instance, we made contact with Ms Kelly to express our sympathy on her loss and to explain that the Council Tax bill would now be issued in Ms Kelly’s name as our records stated that Ms Kelly was resident at the property.
“Once we received correspondence from Ms Kelly that this was not the case, we updated our records, cancelled the bill and apologised for any distress caused. We would like to reiterate that apology for any stress that was caused.”