HOUSING WORK – VIRGO SOLICITORS LIMITED – Costs and service information

Our specialist and dedicated Housing Team passionately defends the rights of those with housing problems. Our solicitors will deal with your case sympathetically and they will fight on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome.

Our Services:

Our specialists help people with housing problems including:

Housing Disrepair Claims
Housing Discrimination
Defending Possessions Proceedings
Evictions
Homelessness
Challenging Decisions via Housing Judicial Reviews

Most of the work is carried out on Legal Aid basis if you satisfy a means and merits test. We are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency to provide housing assistance to those who are eligible for Legal Aid. Our solicitors will assess your claim and check if you are eligible for this funding option. Emergency legal aid can be applied for in exceptional cases.

Financial eligibility

Assessments of client’s capital is needed, even where the applicant is in receipt of
Income Support, Income-related JSA or Income-related ESA.
The Legal Help forms contain a checklist for acceptable proof of income.
If you are unable to provide sufficient evidential proof, e.g. because you are homeless, or particularly vulnerable, you will need to contact the Legal Aid Agency directly to ensure funding can be provided.

Service information:

1. Possession claims

This includes defending possession proceedings from both public and private landlords.
Funding is available for counterclaims, including disrepair counterclaims.
Funding is available regardless of the grounds for possession as long as there is a defence.
Assistance for mortgage repossession cases is also available (but these cases are now classified as ‘debt’ cases and subject to the telephone gateway).
Legal Help is available as soon as possession is being sought, i.e. when a notice seeking possession is served.

2. Homelessness

 Funding is available to assist clients with their homeless applications.
Funding is also available for provision of accommodation through community care services and for accommodation for asylum seekers.
This includes requesting reviews of negative decisions or requesting reviews of suitability of accommodation.
Funding is available for County Court appeals.

3. Eviction and unlawful eviction

Funding is available for assistance in setting aside a warrant of eviction.
Funding is also available to bring a claim for unlawful eviction.

4. Re-housing
So long as the client falls within the definition of homeless then assistance can be provided in relation to their application for re-housing.
Therefore, funding should be available for anyone living in unsuitable accommodation wanting a transfer as it will not be reasonable for them to occupy their current accommodation and so they will be ‘homeless’.

5. Disrepair
Where there is a serious risk of harm to the health and safety of a client or their family legal aid is available to pursue a disrepair claim.
Funding does not cover any claim for damages in civil proceedings.
Legal Aid is therefore only likely to be suitable for very urgent injunction cases where compensation is minimal.
Legal Help can be used to investigate prosecutions under the Environmental Protection Act but alternative funding will have to be used to take the case to Court

6. Judicial Review
Funding is available for housing judicial review cases.
Note, however, the coming changes to judicial review – providers will only be guaranteed payment if they are granted permission to bring a claim, payment for cases that settle before this will be at the discretion of the Legal Aid Agency.

7. Other cases
Funding is also available for anti-social behaviour cases and injunctions concerning harassment in the home.

Cost information for private cases

If you are not entitled to public funding, we can discuss other ways of funding your case, including private arrangements, a ‘conditional fee arrangement (CFA)’, (often described as ‘no win, no fee’).
Housing claims can differ in costs, therefore, our expert solicitors will clearly set out all your funding options as soon as we know the details of your case. We want to give you every assurance that we would never incur costs on your behalf without your full agreement and knowledge.

We offer an initial fixed fee consultation meeting of up to an hour for £150 + VAT to assess the details of your case.

Conditional Fee Agreements

Legal Aid will not be granted for cases that are suitable for a Conditional Fee Agreement.
It is the type of case that is relevant, not the provider – therefore the fact that many not-for-profit advisers cannot fund cases under CFAs is irrelevant.
You should explain why the case is unsuitable for a CFA in any application for Legal Aid.

Exceptional Cases

Funding is available for cases no longer in scope where failure to provide funding would breach the applicant’s Convention rights under the ECHR.
There have been very few successful applications so far.
Funding is only likely to be available in extremely rare circumstances.

Some questions and answers on housing matters:

Will I be evicted if my landlord takes me to court?

This will depend on the type of your tenancy agreement and the reason that the landlord is seeking possession. If you have an assured or secure tenancy, the court will not order possession unless grounds to do so have been proved and in many cases, only if it reasonable to do so. There are many arguments that could be put forward in defence to any such claim.  Although private tenants have less secure tenancies, there are often valid defences which can be put forward to avoid being evicted. We can advise you further in this regard.

What can I do about poor living conditions in a property?

All landlords, including local authorities, housing associations and private landlords, have a legal duty to maintain their property in an adequate state of repair and to ensure these are fit for human habitation. They must also ensure that any defects in the property do not pose or present a threat to the safety of tenants. If the property’s condition is unacceptable and deemed inhabitable, then we can help by advising you on the best course of action. This might include applying for a court order requiring the council or landlord to put things right. The court can also award you compensation where repairs have been delayed for no good reason and impose fines on landlords who do not maintain their property in a good repairable condition.

How can a landlord evict a tenant?

If you are letting a property to a residential tenant who does not leave when you ask, then in most cases you will need to obtain, and enforce, a Court order.  The main exception to this is for certain “live-in” landlords who share bathroom/kitchen facilities with their tenants; but even
then, there may be legal complications in trying to evict without a court order.
The requirements for obtaining a court order will depend on the kind of tenancy.  For private landlords, the most common kind of tenancy is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). An AST landlord has a right to a possession order if he/she has served a valid “Section 21” notice (a
notice meeting the requirements of Section 21 Landlord and Tenant Act 1988).  However, the process is highly regulated, and there are a number of technical pitfalls which could lead to the Section 21 notice being invalid. Even minor errors in the paperwork may prevent a Court from granting a possession order or lead to significant delays and costs.

Our Housing Team can advise landlords on their rights and obligations, in order to minimise void periods and protect property investments.

I am a landlord and would like to evict a tenant, what can I do?

If you are a landlord and would like to understand more about the process for regaining possession of a property, call our 24/7 number and speak to a member of our team.

Who will carry out the work?
The firm’s Director, Dr. Abess Taqi who is practising Solicitor in England & Wales, and also a Notary Public, undertakes all Housing work in our firm. He is assisted by the firm’s Trainee Solicitor, Mr. Soner Koroglu.