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Mourning daughter 'disgusted' over bungalow blunder

A woman from Yateley has complained that Sentinel Housing Association has behaved in an insensitive way following the death of her father, prompting an apology from the affordable home provider

Julia Barker and her sister Angela Todd outside her late father's bungalow

A mourning woman feels ‘disgusted’ after a couple turned up to look round her dad’s home just days after his funeral.

Julia Barker, from Yateley, lost her dad Walter Barker, 88, to a blood clot on October 14 – 48 hours after he was rushed into Frimley Park Hospital.

For 14 years Mr Barker rented a bungalow in Hearmon Close, Yateley, from Sentinel Housing Association – providers of affordable housing in the Hart district.

On November 23 – five days after his funeral – Miss Barker and her siblings cleared out his bungalow and was approached by a couple who turned up to ask if they could look round it.

“I said ‘no’ and explained why and they said sorry they thought it was empty as it was on Hart’s homes scheme as vacant and the bungalow was up for bids already,” said 48-year-old Miss Barker.

“I cannot believe how insensitive Sentinel and Hart District have been.

“My dad’s funeral was only five days before and they treat his memory and family like this.”

Miss Barker also received a rent bill of £687.90 for the bungalow and picked up another bill which was addressed to her father saying he was in arrears with his rent.

She said: “I immediately rang Sentinel and Hart District Council and got nowhere with them – nor an apology for the distress they have caused at this sad and upsetting time.

“All they were interested in was the money. My father was never behind with any money or owed money to anyone his bills were always paid on time.”

Just over a year ago Miss Barker lost her mum Catherine, 85, to heart disease.

Kari Tourle, assistant director of neighbourhood services at Sentinel, said Miss Barker was contacted after her dad died to tell her what she needed to do next.

Ms Tourle said: “We explained that the executor needs to know about any outstanding rent and that this is not payable by Miss Barker personally as it will be paid from her dad’s estate.

“We understand that a quarterly rent statement was sent to Mr Barker shortly after he died and we are really sorry for upsetting his family at such a sad time.

“Although we did our best to stop Mr Barker’s statement going out we were not able to do so.”

Sentinel denied advertising the exact address and did not make any appointments for viewings.

“Unfortunately someone seems to have identified the house from the photograph,” Ms Tourle said. “They visited without an appointment and caused the family further distress.

“It was never our intention to behave insensitively towards Mr Barker’s family and we hope they will accept our sincere apologies.”

Phil Turner, head of housing at Hart, said the district was affected by a shortage of available housing and to address this, the housing service worked in partnership with Sentinel within agreed time scales.

“I understand that the association had been in contact with Miss Barker and did not request an advert until two weeks after notification that the tenancy would be terminated,” Mr Turner said.

“The property will not be let until after the tenancy has ended, which I understand is not until the end of the first week in December. I hope that Ms Barker will accept my apologies for any distress she has been caused at this very difficult time.”



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