Bob Prince, tenant at the house in Wolverhampton for more than 35 years, died last month following a battle with lung cancer and now his two sons, granddaughter and baby great-grandson have been told they must leave by the end of the month as they are not named on the tenancy.
Wolverhampton Homes, which manages council properties on behalf of the city council, said an investigation had determined they had not lived at the house, on Masefield Road, The Scotlands, for more than 12 months as required under tenancy succession laws and for that reason must go.
The sons accepted they had come and gone over the years but said they had moved back in to care for their sick father in 2019, and driving licences and other personal details registered to the house. Retired roofer Bob's five sons grew up in the house.
Neil, 47, and brother Darren, 38, currently live at the house, along with Bob's granddaughter Ellie and her two-week-old son. Another brother, Anthony, 42, also stays from time to time.
The family's battle has gone viral, with a petition calling for the family to be allowed to stay gaining more than 15,000 signatures in just three weeks.
Hayley Downes, daughter-in-law of Bob, who was 72 and a popular figure on the estate, said his sons Neil and Darren only became aware they were not on the tenancy following their father's death.
She said: "Neil would have to register homeless, he hasn't got anywhere else to go. I have a family, there is no room here.
"There is nobody else on the tenancy. We didn't know this until the tenancy officer came out."
Tenancy laws have proved divisive. Supporters say it frees up council houses for others on a waiting list but critics argue grieving families have been turfed out of homes they lived in for years.
Hayley said it was her father-in-law's wish for his sons to remain in the house, and that their complaints to Wolverhampton Homes have fallen on deaf ears.
She said: "He said 'don't give the house up. Always fight for it'.
"They are not listening. Because we are not on the tenancy that is their final say. They are not interested in anything we have got to say."
Storage and distribution worker Anthony said: "Why rehouse four people? That's four properties they have got to find when it is manageable in one property."
A Wolverhampton Homes spokesman said: “We were saddened to hear of the news of Robert Prince’s passing and appreciate that this will be a difficult time for his family.
“Under the Housing Act 1985, a tenancy can be succeeded by a tenant’s child provided they lived at the property, as their sole and principal home, for the 12 months before the tenant’s death.
“Following an investigation, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest Darren Prince lived with his father during the 12 months prior to his father’s passing. We are therefore legally bound to recover the property.
“Records show that in March 2016 Robert Prince informed Wolverhampton Homes that his son Darren had moved out of the property. At no point after that date did he inform Wolverhampton Homes – or any of the relevant local authorities – that his son had moved back into the property as is legally required.
“We are also aware that other family members have moved into the property since Mr Prince’s death.
“We have spoken to Darren Prince to explain the situation, which he has acknowledged, and our tenancies team has been in regular contact with him to check on his current accommodation arrangements and to discuss any possible future requirements.
"We have offered to support him throughout this process if he needs us.”