‘At the time I ran into problems I was living with my four children, three of whom were adults. They’d become quite controlling of me and stopped paying any contributions to the bills. As a result, there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills and feed my family so my debts started accumulating. I didn’t know what to do so I just ignored the letters that arrived, but that just meant I got deeper into debt.
‘If I’d acted sooner it might not have gone as far, but because I’d built up rent arrears, I was eventually taken to court by my housing association. On the day of the hearing, I met Leena who was the housing duty officer on the day and she asked me loads of questions about my situation. I was able to tell her about the problems I’d had with the property – like the time I was without heating and hot water for a month, and the fact there’d been mould and damp in the house for years.
‘Leena requested my files from the housing association and could see that I had reported all these problems but they’d never been acted on. My case was reopened and as result my claim for housing benefit was backdated to 2017, which cleared the arrears, and the housing association started carrying out repairs, such as giving me a new bathroom.
‘When I heard that my rent arrears had been cleared, it was such a relief – it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’d lived in my house for over 20 years and we’d worked hard to make it a home. Knowing my son and I wouldn’t have to move changed everything, and for the first time in a long time I’m in credit again. I can’t thank Leena enough. She’s done so much for me.’
Helen* had a possession case brought against her by her housing association for rent arrears. Our court duty solicitor raised that the housing association was in breach of their repairing obligations. She also helped Helen apply for backdated housing benefit, and the award of £8,200 meant Helen could clear the arrears in full.
*not her real name