Housing Case Study
Mr D’s case is very typical of the cases we handle at North Kensington Law Centre. He had been moved from London and housed in temporary accommodation in a coastal town for nearly a year, whilst his close networks remained in London. Mr D came to us because he was facing eviction from his temporary accommodation which would have left him homeless. We successfully fought this case and helped Mr D avoid eviction; we are now working to get him rehoused in London where he originally resided.
Like many of our housing clients, Mr D suffers severe mental health issues. He had previously fled from another country where he had been tortured by the Army. He was still suffering flashbacks about his traumatic past, which had a severe impact on his ability to interact with those in positions of authority. In particular he felt extremely vulnerable when dealing with the courts on his housing matter.
Mr D was living in temporary accommodation when the Landlord served notice to terminate the tenancy and issued possession proceedings in County Court. The Landlord served notice by arguing that Mr D did not live in the property. As evidence he used that fact that Mr D often visited his daughter in London, and that on inspection, he had not used the cooker in the temporary accommodation. In reality Mr D did not use the cooker because he had been told not to by the Landlord as it was unsafe to use.
We agreed to represent Mr D in the possession case, even though we were concerned about the strength of our defence because it was temporary accommodation and an unsecure tenancy. We defended that Mr D had no mental capacity to litigate and that this was a breach of Equality Act. At the first hearing the Judge reacted positively and commented that he would welcome more of these cases as proceedings of this type were rarely challenged. But even with this support, this case remained a very tough one to win.
With skill and patience we supported the client, as he was often afraid to even talk and our Housing Solicitor had to conduct all interviews in the presence of Mr D’s daughter. His relatives would plead with him to attend court as the day before the hearings he would retreat, cover himself with quilts and refuse to talk to anyone because he feared he would be killed.
Aside from Mr D’s mental state, the other obstacle we faced was funding. Mr D’s benefits had been stopped for not attending a medical examination. And so the only way we could secure Legal Aid was by proving his son and daughter’s income, which was difficult because the son was unable to obtain a statement from the bank for an account that had been closed earlier in the year. We personally contacted the bank and demanded the evidence we required.
With no funding in place, we could not instruct an expert report on Mr K’s mental capacity and without this we could not proceed. On this basis, the Landlord’s solicitor made an application to strike out our defence and our Housing Solicitor produced a 50 page statement explaining actions taken to restore legal aid, exhibiting all the emails and telephone conversations with the Legal Aid Agency .
A satisfactory win
After much effort, legal aid was restored just in time for the second hearing and the judge accepted our Solicitor’s statement and extended our time to comply with directions. We obtained an expert’s report from an experienced Psychiatrist. The report gave a compelling case about Mr D’s lack of mental capacity to litigate and why he should be placed near relatives in London. We used this report to negotiate with the other side that the possession order be dropped. Having achieved this, we then fought for our costs, and were awarded £20k. And the fight continues as we are now working with Mr D to get him housed in London.