‘I’m a young mum with two kids. I’ve been renting my property from the council since I was seventeen but because I suffer from severe depression, sometimes I find it hard to keep up with paying the bills. When my rent arrears built up, the council told me they were going to take me to court to evict me.
‘I was walking past the Law Centre one day and I decided to go in to see if they could help me. I met Leena who was amazing and helped me come to an agreement with the council. This was in December 2015.
‘In 2018, my eldest child was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder and had to spend three months in hospital with three separate rounds of surgery. I was working on a zero-hours contract at the time, so because I had to take a lot of time off work to visit him, my income was much less. I also had to cover the travel costs to the hospital and pay for an after-school club for my younger son so he could be looked when I was visiting his brother. All this meant I didn’t have enough money left over to pay the rent. I tried contacting the council to explain my situation but they didn’t seem willing to help me.
‘I felt really alone. I had to visit the hospital, look after my younger son and manage my work all at the same time. I was trying my best but I just couldn’t do everything. Some days I felt suicidal. Eventually I had to stop working altogether and rely on universal credit.
‘Because I wasn’t paying the rent, in 2019 the council again tried to evict me and I was due to be evicted in June this year. I contacted Leena, who was so supportive. She suggested I get some help and therapy for my mental health issues, and agreed to take on my case. It felt like someone was finally on my side.
‘Leena looked into my housing benefit and discovered that there had been a mistake with the payment and I was owed £4,200. This not only covered the rent arrears but left my account in credit of about £1,000! The case was settled by consent: the local authority landlord agreed for the possession order to be discharged and that they would inspect and carry out repairs to the property. I was so relieved – paying the rent had always been a struggle but now I knew my children would have a roof over their heads. I felt like crying.
‘Leena is one woman I will never forget. The best thing I ever did was go into the Law Centre.’
Sara* instructed us to assist her in defending her eviction. Our housing solicitor raised that the landlord’s failure to take into account the impact of both her son’s illness and her mental health issues on her ability to pay the rent and deal with her benefits, was a breach of the Equality Act 2010, and that the property was in a state of disrepair. We successfully resolved her housing benefits issues which led to her rent arrears being cleared in full and her account in credit. The matter concluded with both parties signing a consent order agreeing that the eviction warrant is suspended, the 2017 claim for possession is dismissed (making it difficult for the council to evict her in future) and that the landlord would inspect and carry out repairs to the property.
*not her real name