Support grows for eviction threat family

MORE than 1,200 people have rallied behind a young family hit by tragedy who have been threatened with eviction from their north Suffolk home, it emerged last night .

By David Lennard

MORE than 1,200 people have rallied behind a young family hit by tragedy who have been threatened with eviction from their north Suffolk home, it emerged last night .

The grown-up children, whose mother died from cancer seven weeks ago, were originally told to quit their local authority home in St Edmund's Road, Southwold, by December 1.

However, Daniel Smith, 22, Kathryn Smith, 21, and 18-year-old James Smith have now been told by Waveney District Council they can stay in their home until after Christmas and the New Year.

The children's parents, Doreen and David, had a joint tenancy on the home and Mrs Smith became the successor tenant when her husband died six years ago.

Mrs Smith, 54, recently lost her three-year battle with cancer. But according to the 1985 Housing Act only one succession of tenancy is allowed – resulting in the two brothers and their sister being given notice to quit.

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The situation has upset many people living in the Southwold area, and town councillor Susan Doy organised a petition in support of the family – which has collected 1,226 signatures in less than a week.

She said: "To get so many signatures in such a short time shows the tremendous support for the young people from everyone living in the Southwold and Reydon area.

"We wanted to do something to demonstrate what tremendous support the family has in the area and hope that it will encourage Waveney to do everything it can to get a change in the law."

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: "We have every sympathy with the family and do not wish to add to their distress at this sad time.

"We, however, feel it is necessary to outline the legal position because this matter, which we would normally treat in strict confidence, has been brought by them into the public arena."

The spokesman said that the succession of a tenancy, on the death of a tenant, is closely governed by the 1985 Housing Act and only allows a succession to happen once.

"So if you are already a successor you cannot pass your tenancy onto anyone else.

"This was a deliberate policy decision made by the Government of the time, otherwise councils would have little control over who inherited the property in the event of a death," he said.

If the council disregarded the succession rules it would likely by seen as an unlawful act and other families awaiting re-housing in Southwold could ask for a judicial review of the council's actions.

"Despite this we do have discretion over the length of time that can elapse before an eviction became necessary and we did extend this leeway to the family concerned, as we would to any family finding themselves in similar sad circumstances," said the spokesman.

The council's chief executive, Mairi McLean, confirmed that a petition from Southwold supporting the family had been received but councillors believe that it should ideally be redirected to the Government to demand a change in the legislation.

Stephen Chilvers, portfolio lead for housing, said: "I have every sympathy with the family, their predicament, and the strain they must be under – particularly at this time of year.

"Clearly, we cannot act outside the framework of the law laid down to us by Parliament and it would be disingenuous for anyone to suggest otherwise."

Mr Chilvers added that the council would be doing all within its powers to assist the family through this difficult situation.

Daniel Smith said the council had informed him that they would not apply for a possession order until the New Year.

"In a way I am just going along with it at the moment but Waveney have been quite helpful and sympathetic.

"I am now waiting for a court date and then I will decide what to do as it may cost us thousands of pounds to fight this," he said.

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