The following was written by Pauline Lane | @Antonineone1
For a period of thirteen years I worked for various charities including the CAB, and an independent housing charity with a housing advice line. This was in the south of England, and I know situations are different in other areas; I simply want to relay my client’s stories which will never be told in any other way. No names, no locations. I intend to go on doing this for the foreseeable future. I received a telephone call from an elderly gentleman who was obviously in great distress. He’d barricaded himself into his home, and a gang of bailiffs were banging on the door. Once I’d calmed him down, and called him back to save him the cost of a telephone call, I discovered what was going on.
He’d lived in his council house for over forty years, and when he retired at 65, he bought his home through ‘right to buy’. His children had long since left, only he and his wife lived in the house. I have no idea why his wife decided to leave him, and ask for the house to be sold so she could have half of the proceeds, but that is what she had done.
My client sold his house through a private scheme which offered to rent it back to him. He did not realise they could raise the rent. He also did not realise that Housing Benefit would not cover him since he was living in a house with three bedrooms. For a period of time his children had helped him out with the extra rent, but eventually the financial strain became too much for them, and my client fell into arrears.
At this point my client had appealed to the Local Authority for one bed accommodation. He was badly disabled, and in his late seventies. He thought the LA would assist. He was told, as all applicants are, that they could not consider his application until the landlord had taken him to court and obtained a possession order.
My client had never been in debt before, let alone taken to court. He was terrified. The landlord took the case to court and won. My client then discovered that the LA would not act until the court bailiffs had arrived to throw him out of the property. The landlord, thinking that my client would not have access to professional advice, sent private bailiffs to the property immediately after they won the case. It was at this point that I received his first desperate telephone call.
I contacted the LA and explained the situation. I was told that a one bed accommodation had indeed been allocated to my client, but he would not be notified of this until the court bailiffs had arrived. This of course is because the LA hoped that my client would be so afraid of being homeless, that he would immediately find privately rented accommodation, and not need a LA property.
I also contacted the private bailiffs and pointed out, what they already knew, that their actions were illegal, and no one except court appointed bailiffs, could turn my client out of his home. I understand it was at this point that they stopped banging on my client’s door.
I kept my client fully informed of his rights, and the fact that LA accommodation would be made available at the eleventh hour, just before the court bailiffs arrived. Obviously he was very grateful, but he was still terrified of leaving his property just in case the illegal bailiffs came back, and changed the locks in his absence. Because of his disability, my client used a disability scooter, and it took him quite a long time to get to his local supermarket for food. My client did not have access to the internet, so he could not order food online. I contacted the super market, and they willingly agreed to deliver food if my client telephoned over his order. Without this intervention, my client would have been relying on his children for food, and they lived over thirty miles away.
It took the court bailiffs quite a while to write to my client, and let him know when they would be arriving. I telephoned him every day, just to see how he was coping, and to encourage him. I also contacted the LA every day pleading for them to give my client accommodation before the court bailiffs arrived, but they would not co-operate.
Eventually, after considerable distress, my client was given the keys to his one bed, ground floor flat. The last I heard of him was an answer phone message to say how grateful he was for my support, and that without it, he would have killed himself.
To the best of my knowledge, due to a lack of funding, the helpline I worked for is no longer available.
By Pauline Lane | @Antonineone1
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