The following update was compiled for the Community Works March 2020 newsletter.
BHT provides specialist legal housing advice in Brighton (as well as in Hastings and Eastbourne), from specialist solicitors and advisers who have years of knowledge and experience in this field.
The focus of BHT’s Housing Advice Service is to prevent homelessness; we aim to help clients to remain in their own home or ensure they are rehoused. Last year the BHT Housing Advice Services across Brighton & Hove and East Sussex prevented 927 households from becoming homeless.
Under our contract with the Legal Aid Agency, advice can be given free of charge to those who are financially eligible, for example if they are in receipt of an income-based benefit, such as Universal Credit, or on a low income. We can give advice that falls into any of the following categories:
- Advice on homelessness (whether actual or threatened) – looking at duties the Council owes the client and challenging incorrect decisions
- Checking that notices are valid, including Section 21 notices served by private landlords, and other notices served by Housing Associations, Local Councils, and others
- Defending possession proceedings – ensuring that possession is the last resort, regardless of the reason for the proceedings
- Unlawful eviction – stopping landlords from gaining possession unlawfully
- Disrepair that causes a serious risk to health – advising where landlords should carry out the repairs and taking legal action where necessary
- Court proceedings for housing related anti-social behaviour
Clients can be referred or can directly contact the BHT Advice Centre reception team on 01273 645455 to see if we are able to help.
Our main reception at 144, London Road, Brighton remains open. Most of our housing advice is being delivered by phone or other remote means, but we are still able to see the most vulnerable clients face to face in the office where there is a need. The reception and interview rooms are Covid-secure, and all visitors are required to wear a face covering unless they are exempt.
While free advice is provided under the Legal Aid scheme, in a small number of cases when a client’s case goes on to a full certificate there may be costs that the Legal Aid Agency requires the client to pay. This is discussed with the client before the case is started to ensure they are aware of any potential costs to them.
Court Duty Scheme
BHT also provides the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme at the Brighton County Court; we provide advice to anyone who has a possession hearing regardless of their tenure. This is last-minute emergency advice.
Review hearings are not in person but on the day of the hearing the defendant can contact our office on 01273 645455 to receive advice. On the days where face to face hearings are being heard a specialist Housing Solicitor or Advisor from BHT attends the County Court in Brighton when repossession cases are being heard. Some substantive hearings are being heard remotely and once again a defendant can contact the advice office by telephone to receive advice.
This service is available to all tenants facing eviction or repossession who have a hearing listed on that day. Our Housing Adviser or Solicitor might be very busy on the day, so a defendant would need to arrive at court about 30 minutes before the hearing is listed.
Last year BHT stopped possession being granted in 87% of the cases we were involved in at the Housing Court Duty Possession Scheme.
We would strongly recommend that people contact BHT’s Brighton Advice Centre as soon as they are given notice seeking possession by their landlord.
Some clients who are not eligible for legal help are still eligible for assistance under the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, so can receive last minute advice that is free.
Currently, whilst landlords can apply to court for possession of properties, the courts will not grant a date for a warrant of eviction to be executed unless there is over six months of arrears or anti-social behaviour involved. However, these possessions will start to go through in the near future and clients should seek advice as soon as they receive a notice from their landlord or have received possession paperwork from the court.
The MoneyWorks Project
The MoneyWorks Project works with clients who have a housing related debt. This could be rent arrears, mortgage arrears or deposit issues. Clients who are not financially eligible for assistance under the Legal Help Scheme may be able access advice around rent and mortgage arrears via this Project.