GUEST BLOG - understanding your housing rights

We're lucky to work with a lot of corporate partners who support our services in various ways. Osbornes Law have been sponsoring aspects of our Casework department for years, and have put together a useful blog about housing rights.

Sophie Davies Trans

Providing support never stops. In fact, throughout the current pandemic our teams have been working harder than ever to ensure our members and families get the help they need most. Our Casework team in particular have been incredibly busy, supporting people through benefits reassessments, and wider legal and finance issues. This also includes questions around housing - and we're lucky to welcome Sophie Davies (a partner at Osbornes Law specialising in brain injury) to talk us through some of these today:

This has been a time of great uncertainty for everyone.

We are facing unprecedented levels of stress whilst we worry about health, both our own and of our loved ones, and job and financial security all at once.

Due to their injuries most of my clients are incapable of work when they first instruct me. Financial need, and security of housing in particular, are at the top of their list of concerns. I am finding this to be the case so much more so now as my clients try to navigate the post Covid landscape.

We are being told that we are headed for a major recession.

The statistics make for grim reading. By May of this year an additional 1.8 million claims for Universal Credit had been made.

Even for those in work, with the furlough scheme scheduled to end in October many are worried about the prospect of unemployment next year.

In this climate little wonder that people are worried about keeping up with the mortgage or rent.

Shelter, the charity dedicated to assisting those dealing with homelessness, has reported in the past that the risk of eviction is higher for urban tenants and for Londoners in particular. With research in 2019 suggesting that more than half of homeless people have suffered a traumatic brain injury, this is an issue of which Headway East London members will be keenly aware.

Fortunately assistance is available. The government has taken steps to help keep people housed during the lockdown:

  • In order to assist home owners manage their outgoings it introduced a 3 month mortgage holiday initiative in March this year. In June it was officially extended by a further 3 months. Commentators have observed that this is going to lead to repayment problems for some, due to increased interest payments for example, in the longer term, but it has been very welcome relief for an estimated 1.5 million borrowers this spring.
  • Repossessions have been put on hold, the guidance being that any court action should neither start nor continue before the end of October 2020.
  • There has also been a ban on evictions of tenants during lockdown. Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 affords protection from eviction to vulnerable tenants during what has been defined as an emergency period. The original ban of 3 months has in June 2020 been extended to the end of August. So if you are in rent arrears, no eviction proceedings should be started before 1 September 2020. Whilst this brings a welcome further 2 months’ breathing space, there remains a lack of clarity in the longer term. There is, as yet!, no suggestion that the government is going to step in and pay the rent arrears.

In short if your landlord attempts to remove you from your home before September this year he or she will almost certainly be acting illegally.

What can you do if you find yourself in need of help?

If your landlord serves a notice on you seeking possession of your property then you will need legal advice. If your landlord is planning to take you to court you could be entitled to Legal Aid and a solicitor will be able to tell you if you are.

If the worst happens and you find yourself homeless then if you are a person living with brain injury it is highly likely that the local authority will have a duty to consider a homelessness application from you.

REMEMBER: If you're looking for legal advice or support after brain injury please use the Headway UK solicitors directory for a full list of options (click here).