I got chatting to Frank one day. He was a volunteer at a soup kitchen run by a local church. Frank asked if I knew of any reputable landlords with flats going spare. He went on to show me some pictures on his phone – pictures of his present accommodation. To say it was substandard was an understatement, but he said that his landlord, far from offering to repair the property, was demanding extra money and threatening him with eviction. Whatsmore, Frank had a bond tied up in the property which he knew he would never see again. Without it, he could not afford a bond on a new place.
Frank was surprised to hear that he had rights that would protect him. I sat him down and showed him the Shelter website which, in simple language, confirmed my own advice as to what they were. These included:
- A right to apply for temporary accommodation based on his current property being uninhabitable.
- Support to have the necessary repairs done.
- The means to challenge any illegal eviction and withheld bonds.
I also explained to Frank about bond guarantee schemes for those who cannot afford a bond, about how and where he could apply for social housing – the list went on.
When I recommended that Frank see a housing solicitor to help and support him professionally, he expressed much reluctance for fear of mounting legal bills. Again, I was able to reassure him. In his circumstances, I said, he may well be eligible for Legal Aid.
Frank went to see a solicitor and was indeed awarded Legal Aid, for help in dealing with his housing crisis and to recover his bond. The fact that Frank needed the help of a solicitor demonstrates how out of reach the system is for some people.