“From the first moment I came to the Law Centre I knew exactly what I had to do”

*Hetel, is a working single mother of two children, who had accrued rent arrears after her benefits had been stopped. She was informed that she needed to attend court where a judge would decide whether she would get to keep her home:

“When I first saw my landlord had taken me to court and was trying to get an order to evict me for rent arrears, I felt helpless. I did not know what I was going to do. I actually had a panic attack at court because I was scared.”

Hetel didn’t have the money to pay for a solicitor but was informed by the usher at the Kingston County Court (where we run a court duty scheme) that there was a free solicitor from the Law Centre who could advise and represent her.

“I talked to Janet. She not only advised me but also helped me a lot. She made me breathe into a bag. She calmed me down, took me into another room. She let me sit there for a long time and comforted me when she saw I was stressed”

Despite Janet’s efforts, the court told Hetel that her landlord would be able to evict her. Janet referred her to her housing colleagues Florence and Jeinsen at SWLLC’s Croydon branch.

During her first meeting with our housing solicitors, Hetel explained that she was diagnosed with PTSD and depression, and was a survivor of domestic violence which had a significant impact on her mental health. It was clear during the initial meeting that Hetel’s circumstances were dire and amidst her psychological battles, her landlord had just left her to fend for herself.

“I asked my landlord to provide me with support to help me manage my tenancy but they told me that just wasn’t something they did”

I felt really lonely and isolated. I tried to make a new claim but I didn’t seem to be able to give the council the information they needed. It felt hopeless. It was always ultimatums, not options. They treated me like a number and not like a person. No one helped.”

Time was really tight because Hetel’s landlord had made it clear to her that unless she cleared the rent account they would seek to evict her. She was very worried because there was no way she would be able to raise the money. In order to save her home, our housing solicitors wrote to the council and successfully restored Hetel’s housing benefit claim from 2022 and secured a £5.5K back payment. They also applied for a grant which cleared the remaining £750 of court costs. With the rent arrears clear, the landlord could not attempt to evict Hetel and her children from their home.

“Before I came to the Law Centre I just could not deal with it. I shut myself off and everything just seemed too much to do on my own. I felt like I didn’t have a voice but going to the Law Centre and explaining my situation, I felt you actually heard me.“

You guys went out of your way… You didn’t beat around the bush. There was no confusion in what you were telling me. From the first moment I came to the Law Centre I knew exactly what I had to do, what to write, or what to say. The advice you gave me was amazing..

I felt empowered because I had someone to speak on my behalf.. You have given me confidence. Suffering from mental health problems, that’s a really big thing for me. I just want to add how grateful I am. You all have done an amazing job. From the bottom of my heart I could not thank you enough.”

*Name has been changed