Court Duty Service: Real Life Story 1

This week (Monday 27th to Friday 31st October) BHT is running a campaign to raise awareness of our Court Duty Service run at Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings County Courts. Whenever a housing possession case is listed to be heard, one of our solicitors or advisers will be present to advise and provide some representation to the defendant. Unfortunately, not everyone attends these possession hearing.  This campaign aims to encourage people to get advice and, at the very least, attend Court and get advice and representation from our solicitors and advisers.

The following account is by someone whose home was saved by our Court Duty Service:

I was really upset when I arrived at the county court. I felt terrified of what might happen.

We had worked all of our lives but my husband had suffered a catastrophic injury at work which resulted in him having significant brain injury and requiring 24 hour care. I had to give up my business to care for him. The accident had turned our life upside down.

We used all of our savings to just get by but it had run out and we couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage.

Demanding letters from the mortgage company started to come through the door and I just felt like I couldn’t cope so I stuffed them all in a drawer and tried to forget about it.

One day, it all became too much and I broke down in front of my friends and explained everything. I told them I was scared that we would lose our home and become homeless and I feared that my husband would be placed in a care home. My husband and I have never been apart since we got married and I really didn’t want that to happen now.

My friends encouraged me to phone the mortgage lender to discuss my situation. They offered to hold off the possession if I agreed to pay £350 per month off the arrears. I simply couldn’t afford that much and so believed that was the end of the line for us. There was nothing less but to attend the court hearing and lose our home.

That day at the court I was introduced to a BHT housing adviser who said that she could advise me on our situation for free. I explained everything to her and she realised quite quickly that we were entitled to benefits that we had not been claiming. She also told me that under case law, the ‘reasonable’ repayment that the court would ask for would be £50 a month not the £350 that the lender had insisted on.

When we went into the court room I was shaking. My adviser put her hand on mine and smiled a reassuring smile.

After just five minutes the Judge accepted our proposal to suspend the possession on the terms we agreed.

We left the Court room and the adviser explained what has just happened, what it meant and what I needed to do next. I was shell shocked but so relieved. I remember just saying over and over again to her “does this mean my husband won’t have to go into care, that we can stay together?”

“Yes” she said.  I cried with relief.

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