Today I dropped off my defence form for the landlord’s possession claim at the court.
On Friday morning I went to Launchpad’s drop-in session to ask for help with that defence form. I got to speak to one of their solicitors who gave me 2 options:
1) I could fill out the defence form myself
2) Have them take me on as a client
The solicitor didn’t have any free slots that were soon enough. Anyway she did me an enormous favour and went through the form super quick, drafting answers to things and suggesting the points I could defend the claim on. It was intense! This woman was simply amazing and this meeting gave me a lot of energy and motivation.
In the form there was a section where you could request extra time in the property if being evicted was going to cause you exceptional harm. That was where I detailed my health issues. I also detailed the abuse from the letting agent/landlord including my detailed incident log I wrote at the time (6 pages describing emails, phone calls and attempted break-ins to my room!). I mentioned that I had video evidence. And I mentioned that all of the harassment was relevant because it had exacerbated my existing mental health state. I requested the maximum extra time to leave the property of 42 days.
Yesterday before completing the form I did phone Turpin Miller Solicitors (the Launchpad solicitor’s firm) in case I could get the advice first, but had to wait for a call back so I delivered the form anyway. They called today and I have an appointment booked with them for next Tuesday. Salvation Army will attend with me :).
I’ve now just realised today that you can get legal aid for free when on Universal Credit, for serious problems. That was a key piece of info I didn’t know before! It was hinted at by Launchpad last week when they stated I wouldn’t have to pay the court fee.
Looking back now…I can see the options I had available when I first received that possession order and how much of a good defence I would’ve potentially had (hopefully still do!). Just frustrating that it took until the deadline for me to piece this all together since I didn’t have any one person giving clear advice. I did phone the Government’s legal advice helpline at the time and they were of the opinion that it would be difficult to defend, but they didn’t know my full circumstances such as the previous abuse. Because the possession claim was an ‘accelerated procedure’, there’s no guarantee I’ll get a court hearing. Hopefully I do!
My Salvation Army person is now back after 5 weeks off. Her illness coincided with the council dropping the ball at the worst possible time in September. Today I finally had the vindication from her that she was also waiting this whole time (4 months) for the council to find me at least another shared place to move into. Since the end of September I’ve been needing that vindication because I couldn’t understand how this whole crisis happened. We neither can.
Needless to say…if I am ever in this situation again with the possibility of free legal representation, I’ll know when and how to get lawyer-happy in the course of such a situation.