A law student helped a homeless family win in an unlawful eviction case against the council. The Local Government Ombudsmen ruled that the family should not have been “forcibly evicted at short notice”.
The family, two parents and two children, were told by their landlord and the Council that they were to leave their accommodation straight away. This followed from allegations of minor breaches of the tenancy agreement at their temporary accommodation arranged by Maidstone Borough Council. They then spent two months in a bed and breakfast accommodation. Even prior to being evicted, they had to spend two and a half hours waiting for this accommodation, causing humiliation and distress. During the eviction process, the family was given no time to pack properly, where the landlord moved the belongings outside and prevented entry to parts of the flat. This prevented the children from using the lavatory.
Samantha Harris, a Kent Law School student, working with Kent Law Clinic solicitor Vivien Gambling, is the one who filed a written complaint. She wrote about the family’s mistreatment, which began from the beginning of their application. She said:
“When the family came to see us, the mother was very tearful and it was clear the whole family was still deeply affected by the events that took place.”
Vivien Gambling commented on the event:
“The striking thing about the case was not only the catalogue of mistakes on the part of the Council but also its apparent reluctance to listen to complaints and put things right. If the complaints had been dealt with properly the unlawful eviction and untold distress to the family could have been avoided. Mr & Mrs A have demonstrated that people can challenge unlawful decisions and win.”
The Ombudsman found the Council faulty in four aspects: the way it handled the family’s homelessness application; allowing an unlawful eviction and no 28 days’ notice for the family to leave; not investigating allegations of the landlord’s harsh behaviour immediately, not allowing the family to tell their side of the story before making a decision. The ordered remedy was that the Council apologise to the family, pay a financial remedy of £4,170, and improve its procedures for non-recurrence.
From April 2018, the Homeless Reduction Act 2017 will mandate local authorities to have wider duties in order to help people who are at risk of becoming homeless. Gambling says that a change is needed, “if the Act is to live up to its name”.
To read the full Ombudsman’s report, click here.