An example of why it’s so important to seek help when served with a possession claim – including accelerated proceedings.
In March this year, a young couple who were renting privately were served with an accelerated claim for possession.
This sort of claim usually leads to a possession order and eviction without a court hearing. It’s a popular choice for private landlords relying on an expired “s21 notice”
trying to evict tenants. The judge looks at the papers and if everything appears to be in order, the court must make a possession order. The maximum time allowed for a tenant is between 2 to 6 weeks before the bailiffs can be requested to attend at the property to evict them.
The young couple in our case had accrued rent arrears due one of them developing health problems and not being able to work.
They had problems getting the benefits they were entitled to, including housing benefit.
When they realised that, in their straitened circumstances, they could not afford the rent even with housing benefit, the clients approached their local council for housing assistance.
The council didn’t take a homeless application until the clients came to see us. Whilst helping them under the legal aid scheme with getting housing assistance we represented them and defended the possession proceedings.
After a trial attended by a barrister instructed by this firm, we last month learnt the claim for possession was dismissed. We successfully argued that the landlord had not served all of the information required by the law in respect of the tenancy deposit, even though it had been protected. We secured return of the deposit, compensation and interest for our clients. Most importantly, we avoided the loss of the roof from over their heads on this occasion.
Meanwhile, we managed to persuade the council to pay additional housing payments to help cover the cost of the rent and also accept a full homeless duty to the tenants. The council only agreed to accept a full duty after we had said we would ask a county court judge to examine their reasons for not accepting a full duty despite the clients’ circumstances (by way of an appeal under the Housing Act 1996).
It’s a sad feature of assured shorthold tenancies (which nearly all private tenancies are), that if the landlord wants the tenants out, they can be evicted sooner or later – there is little security of tenure.
It’s also not uncommon for councils to do little to help statutorily homeless people until people obtain help from specialist advisors.
See the attached document for the court’s judgment in the case.
We hope this case demonstrates the importance of seeking specialist help early on, even when faced with a case which at first blush might appear to be indefensible.
Even if a possession order has been made, advice should be sought because there may be grounds for setting it aside, and defending the possession claim.
Legal Aid is still available for possession proceedings and homelessness.
We helped these clients in conjunction with barristers from Garden Court North Chambers.
Ranjit Bains, a Trainee Solicitor, acted for the tenants.
Gary Willock prepared the Defence and Laura Cawsey represented the tenants at the hearing.