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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Saving homes across Northern Ireland – the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme

Eamonn McLaughlin is one half of Housing Rights’s Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme.  Eamonn and his colleague  Maria travel across Northern Ireland offering free representation services to tenants and homeowners who have come to court to deal with mortgage or rent arrears.   Here, Eamonn discusses a recent morning at court when he met Grace, a Housing Executive tenant who’d fallen behind on her rent.

Going to court for rent problems

I met Grace at Laganside Court in Belfast recently. She was very nervous and explained that she owed £570 in rent. She was really worried about appearing in court and wanted to know how likely it was that she’d end up losing her home because of the money she owed.  Grace had lived in the property for 4 years.  Sadly, Grace’s mum died in April after a very serious illness.  While her mum had been sick, Grace had tried to stretch her minimum wage salary to cover some of her mum’s expenses as well as paying for her own rent and living costs. She hadn’t been able to balance things as well as she’d hoped and had missed a few rent payments.   In the six weeks running up to her court date, Grace had been paying an extra £13 every week towards what she owed the Housing Executive.   Grace told me that she felt she could repay the debt over time now that she wouldn’t be helping with the costs of her mum’s care needs.

I had a quick chat with the Housing Executive’s representative at court.  She confirmed that Grace had made recent payments towards the arrears.  During Grace’s hearing, I told the Judge about Grace’s mum’s illness and how this had led to the arrears. I explained that changes in Grace’s circumstances meant that she could now afford her full rent and showed that she had made recent efforts to reduce the arrears.

Case adjourned generally

I asked that the case be adjourned generally as the arrears were relatively low and Grace’s current circumstances meant that the arrear would be cleared in the near future. The Judge agreed and adjourned the case generally. This meant that Grace’s case was removed from the court list and the court did not make a possession order.

I was delighted to be able to help this hard-working young mother, who had been through such a tough time of late.  She and her 5 year old son are delighted that they can stay in their home and won’t have to start looking for somewhere new to live.

Getting help at court

At Housing Rights we want to help people stay in their homes wherever possible.  Eamonn and Maria will be at court to help any homeowner or tenant who has received a summons about rent or mortgage arrears.   It’s never too late to get help. 

Tagged In

Repossession, Social Tenancies

This article was written on 30 July 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.