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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Meet the team: Solicitor Jill Downing

Picture of solicitor Jill Downing at Housing Rights AGM

For many years, Housing Rights has employed specialist solicitors who provide legal representation to clients with complex housing issues. In the past, our legal team has assisted with landmark cases with far-reaching implications, including the Bank of Scotland case on double charging and the Loughran v Piney case which looked at the legality of certain fees charged by letting agents to tenants. 

Our legal team can consider cases of appropriate complexity where the client is eligible for legal aid and the case fits the organisation's case selection policy. Our solicitors will usually only deal with a case that has been escalated through out other advice services. Speak to an adviser if you believe that you need specialist legal help with a housing case. 

With two new solicitors in post, we'd like to introduce our legal team to our members and users and have asked our latest addition to the team,  Jill Downing, to answer a few questions. 

Tell us about your training and experience

I qualified as a Solicitor in 1993 and worked in private practice specialising in Family Law in which the client’s home was at the heart of most cases. Much of my professional career was spent advising on the financial feasibility of maintaining homes in addition to protecting my clients' peaceful enjoyment of and security in their homes. 

When did you start working with Housing Rights and why did you want to work here?

I had previously worked with Housing Rights as a volunteer, but was delighted to join the organisation as an employee in January 2020 when I was appointed to the role of solicitor.  My experience in private practice showed me that there is a shortage of solicitors operating in the area of housing law because of the limited financial feasibility of this type of practice so I am very aware of the need for this type of specialist legal advice to be provided by the voluntary sector. The staff at Housing Rights have great expertise in this area and I am very keen to extend my knowledge of Housing Law and to contribute to continuing their record of effective and far-reaching strategic litigation. 

While most legal work involves working with clients who are distressed due to their circumstances, the thought of losing your home can have such a powerful negative impact on a person.  I'm finding that mental health issues can often be at the root of a person's housing issue  or can be triggered by a housing calamity and I hope that my work with Housing Rights can help to alleviate some of the immediate stresses and pressures that my clients are experiencing, putting them in a healthier and more positive place. 

What tips would you give to other advisers working on housing cases?

It is Important to remember that other organisations can assist in helping clients and it is good to collaborate with those organisations and benefit from their expertise.This is particularly beneficial with young people especially those who have experienced the care system who often need extensive support. Housing Rights has a great team approach and is really committed to collaborative working across teams and organisations. This ethos clearly illustrates that by working together we can help more people get the best outcomes.