Tuesday, 17 December 2013

First Eviction Court Cases

Picture credit: Vicki Morris

The first people to be taken to court by Labour led Nottingham City Council for rent arrears caused by the Bedroom Tax had hearings on Thursday 21 November at Nottingham Crown Court. 

Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign, which includes several Socialist Party members, organised a protest outside the court to demand that the Labour run city council implement a no-evictions policy. 25 people came to protest and show solidarity. The local TV crews covered the protest and the issue was discussed on local BBC radio throughout the day. Members of our campaign were interviewed.

Some of us went into the court building but, following objections from Nottingham City Council, the public were not allowed into the court hearings. We understand that the Council argued that each case would only take 3 minutes so there was no point in having the public present! There were 20 possession hearings listed for the day (we believe 6 concerned the Bedroom Tax). After more than half an hour only two cases had been heard. Our campaign member had their case adjourned because the Council could not explain the amount that was being deducted from their Housing benefit and because they had not yet applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

From talking to others waiting to go into court, it appears that instead of using possession hearings as a last resort, the council are calling people to court before they have even looked properly at their situation. (eg. One person had proof they were not underoccupied). This means that the council are not following the legal process that applies to social housing landlords.

Most of the people waiting did not have legal representation, and were offered a 5 minute meeting with the duty solicitor. The duty solicitor does not represent people in court and, from one person's feedback, did not attempt to explore whether the council had followed the legal processes.

Issues: Campaigns need to pressurise courts and landlords to allow the public into court and if they don’t bring their actions to the attention of the public.
We need to highlight where Councils are using the court process to pressurise people.

We need to keep collating information so that we can support people coming to court without representation.

Scrap the bedroom Tax, Defend Council Tax Benefits Campaign, Notts.