Takes 5 Minutes: Live Blog from the County Court

12.12pm

The last case has been heard. BHT’s solicitor represented five cases, and positive outcomes were achieved in all five cases. Homelessness has been prevented. I am humbled by what I have seen today, and it makes me proud that BHT staff do such amazing work.

11.54am

The lesson to tenants is to talk to your housing officer, get advice, and try to agree a repayment schedule before you go to Court.

11.53am

Very impressed by the compassion being shown by a representative of a housing association who is talking to her tenant. The housing officer is seeking a lower, more affordable arrears payment. The tenant is saying she is determined not to end up back in Court.

11.43am

The Clerk has advised us that of the 12 housing cases on his list today, nine attended Court, three did not. Five of the nine received advice and were represented by BHT’s Court Duty Solicitor. So far, in four of the five cases, homelessness has been avoided.

11.25am

We’ve just had an update from the BHT solicitor, the first chance she has had to speak to us in over an hour (don’t tell me she doesn’t earn her salary!).

Of the four cases that have gone before the judge, four positive outcomes have been achied:
One suspended order
One warrant withdrawn
One case withdrawn
A second suspended order where the tenant has arrears of over £4,000.

In my view, as someone who has a foot on both sides of the fence, he needs to sort this out otherwise there might be no further chance.

11.23am

Judge has just adjourned a case to a later date. The landlord sought a suspended order. It means the tenant has longer to sort our her affairs.

11.10am

Back into court for the BHT solicitor. “This should be a quick one”, says the Clerk. It is amazing that the future of someone’s home can be decided so quickly. It is great if their home is saved.

My experience here this morning has emphasised to me just how valuable our court duty service is in preventing homelessness.

11.04

We have been going for an hour and we think homelessness has been prevented in at least three, possibly five cases, but the BHT solicitor is too busy to speak to Lucy and me.

11.02am

Laughter from the interview room. We know not why!

10.59am

There is a queue waiting to see the BHT solicitor.

10.56am

Case finished, but our solicitor is so busy she hasn’t had the chance to update us on the outcome of two of the three cases that have been concluded. She is currently meeting with another client with an 11.00am hearing.

10.43am

Our solicitor is back before the judge for her third case in 45 minutes. Each takes some advice, appraisal, guidance and instruction, but usually all in less than 5 minutes.

10.41am

The judge has agreed to suspend the warrant and both parties have agreed repayment of arrears of £5 per week. Our client is in part time employment. Has managed to sort out benefit problems.

10.30am

It is always better to get advice at the earliest opportunity. Here are contact details for our three advice centres:

Brighton
Eastbourne
Hastings
Brighton

10.20am

The waiting room is full, some nervous looking people. I’m not surprised as without proper legal representation they could lose their homes.

The earlier two cases shows that it takes just 5 minutes to get advice that could save your home.

10.10am

“It doesn’t even take 5 minutes to save a home”, I say to my colleague, Lucy Enever who is here with me at the County Court. “It still has to go to the judge,” she reminds me.

Follow Lucy’s tweeting on @BHT_Sussex.

10.07am

Agreement reached and warrant suspended, subject to agreement by the judge. The client says, “It is a relief. I’m feeling so much better about the whole thing.”

10.04am

Our solicitor is now negotiating in another case to suspenda warrant.

10.03am

First probable result of the morning. The other side have agreed to withdraw a warrant. This needs to be agreed by the judge.

9.55am

Seven possession cases are being brought by the local authority, seven by housing associations.

9.51am

BHT’s solicitor is speaking to her first client, exploring options and taking instructions.

9.35am

There are 16 hearings listed today in the Brighton County Court including one application to suspend a bailiffs warrant. This is really a ‘last chance saloon’ moment before a household is made homeless.

9.12am

We cannot promise to save your home but in Hastings, Eastbourne and Lewes Courts, for example, 91% of people we have worked with we have secured positive outcomes.

We would always advocate getting advice as early as possible. But if you haven’t done so before the hearing it is always better to attend the hearing and see what we can do to help.

9.00am

Today we are campaigning to encourage people facing eviction through the Courts to attend their possession hearings and to get the free, emergency advice that we offer at the County Courts so that they stand a better chance of saving their homes.

I will be live blogging from the County Court today.  My colleague Lucy Enever will be tweeting on the @BHT_Sussex twitter account.  Follow the day’s activities with the hashtage #takes5mins

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