Havant sister left with £14,000 court bill as brother evicts her from dead mother’s home

A MAN ordered his sister out of their dead mother’s home two days before Christmas in a court case that left her with £14,000 to pay.
File GV of a man and woman arguing. Picture: ShutterstockFile GV of a man and woman arguing. Picture: Shutterstock
File GV of a man and woman arguing. Picture: Shutterstock

The brother issued a claim for possession to evict his sister after discovering she was living in the house located in the Havant borough.

The siblings, who The News are not naming, were both due at a court hearing at Havant Justice Centre - but the sister did not attend.

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In her absence the judge ordered her to pay more than £14,000 - including a £49.32 daily rate for staying in the home and costs.

She was given notice to leave on October 3 last year, with her due out on December 23. It’s understood she was living there prior to her mother’s death.

A review was held prior to the hearing in a bid to resolve the case. But this just added costs on top.

The case came to a full possession hearing after no alternative was agreed.

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Before granting a 14-day possession order, judge Mark Loveday said: ‘This is a classic example of how the possession review hearing simply generated costs.

‘In this particular case, to no advantage of anybody at all.’

The case was observed by The News as part of an investigation with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism covering 550 possession hearings in England and Wales.

In response to Covid lockdown, the government brought in a series of measures to protect tenants losing their homes.

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When a six-month freeze on court action ended, a review stage was brought in for cases, with a judge and the parties looking at the case before a full hearing.

But many insiders say the reviews often add little and are not well attended.

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Some 26 review hearings, held between October 2020 to March 2021 at Havant Justice Centre, were attended by lawyers claiming legal aid.

It’s the only indication as to how many review hearings took place in that period. The Ministry of Justice does not collect data on attendance at review hearings.

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Legal aid claims are only made when a tenant’s representative provided by a duty scheme attends.

A freedom of information request from Bureau found 13 per cent of reviews led to a conclusion, while the majority - 60 per cent - led to a full hearing. The rest were withdrawn or adjourned.

Solicitor Tina Smith, from Swain & Co in Havant, gives free legal advice via the Legal Aid Agency-funded Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme at Havant Justice Centre.

She said the review scheme has not worked – and is widely recognised as having failed.

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She said: ‘None of it’s worked and even the judges have said it hasn’t worked.

‘There’s been a very, very low take up about people getting in touch about the review date, therefore no-one turns up at the review date.

‘If we haven’t heard from anybody I can’t contact (the landlord) to see if there’s any scope (for negotiation).’

As reported, in addition to reviews, the Ministry of Justice awarded a £2m contract to the Society of Mediators to run mediation between landlords and tenants in a bid to stave off the need for evictions.

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But a Bureau FOI found that just eight cases went to mediation in the first five months of the scheme - with £130,873 spent on set-up costs.

Ms Smith added: ‘Most cases aren’t suitable for mediation. If someone is in a high level of arrears they’re not going to agree to mediate for that.

‘If someone has anti-social behaviour they’re not going to sit down with them. I’m not sure what cases they were hoping to mediate.

‘I’m sure there’s a few but to my mind, not that many.’

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Ms Smith has said too few people realise they are eligible for free legal advice - and do not get in touch.

They either ask for legal advice at the court building, where Ms Smith and her colleague Thomas Eacott have a room, or do not ask for help at all.

‘The only time we see somebody normally is at the substantive hearing,’ she said.

For help, call Swain & Co on (023) 9248 3322 or 033 33582581 for legal representation funded by the Legal Aid Agency under the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. This is only for defendants due to appear in possession court.

Case dismissed at review after landlord failed to give enough notice

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A HUSBAND and wife landlord couple’s claim was dismissed at a review hearing.

The tenant owed £6,800 in rent but the landlord started court proceedings within three months of notice to quit being issued – too soon according to the rules.

A judge at a review hearing dismissed the claim, but the landlord applied for a hearing to argue it should continue.

The hearing was granted, ultimately duplicating the review hearing.

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During the hearing the landlord said they were ‘struggling here against the system’ and added ‘we have had terrible trouble with the tenant’ trying to collect rent dating back years.

‘We’ve been very considerate and tried to agree a number of payment plans which didn’t result in payment,’ the husband told the court.

‘We have a mortgage on that property and we have to sell that property because of the arrears.’

Thomas Eacott, a housing paralegal at Swain & Co offering free legal advice, argued the claim should be struck out.

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The judge threw out the claim and said: ‘I don’t have any discretion about the matter. I’m afraid there are a lot of Is that have to be dotted and Ts that have to be crossed by landlords.

‘There are a lot of options available to you, I suggest you get some legal advice to make sure next time you do it right.’

The tenant did not attend as they were self-isolating at home.

City council calls on people to join mediation scheme

TENANTS are being urged to join a pilot mediation scheme.

As reported by The News, the scheme aims to avoid costly legal action when disputes arise between landlord and tenants.

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Portsmouth City Council is funding the Portsmouth Mediation Service-run scheme using cash from homelessness grants.

Councillor Darren Sanders, housing cabinet member, said: ‘This is a really challenging time – the economic impact of pandemic has begun to bite, recent reductions to Universal Credit and rising gas and electricity prices are going to place a huge strain on the household budgets of the estimated 30,000 people living in privately rented accommodation in the city.

‘Our ambitious and radical strategy for the private rental sector is about making sure there are mechanisms in place to prevent homelessness and provide safe, stable accommodation for tenants - and this is one of the ways we hope to achieve that.’

Tenants who want to refer to the scheme over any dispute should contact Steve Rolls at the service by emailing [email protected] or by calling 07958 473474.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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