Maidstone Council told to apologise
A homeless family has been handed over £4,000 in compensation from their local council after a University of Kent law student stepped in to help them successfully challenge their unlawful eviction.
Samantha Harris, working alongside Kent Law Clinic solicitor Vivien Gambling, used her knowledge of property law to help file a written complaint about Maidstone Borough Council’s treatment of an unnamed family.
Now, over a year after Harris submitted the complaint, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has ruled that the family should not have been “forcibly evicted” at short notice from their temporary accommodation.
The scathing report reveals that following allegations of minor breaches of the tenancy agreement, the landlord evicted the family and placed their belongings outside. Moreover, the report claims the landlord prevented them from accessing parts of the flat during the eviction and refused to let the young children use the toilet.
Thanks to Harris’ intervention, the family has been awarded a total of £4,170 in compensation and issued with an apology from the council. Commenting on her success, Harris — who has since graduated with a first class law degree and is now working as a paralegal — 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. The whole case could have been resolved long before the ombudsman’s report if Maidstone Council would have listened to the family’s complaints and done something about them in accordance with the law.”
Gambling, who joined Kent’s Law Clinic in 2015, added: “Samantha did excellent work on this case; she understood that the whole family was deeply affected by the events that had taken place and wanted to obtain a good outcome for them.”
The former chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) continued:
“From April 2018 the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 will place wider duties on local authorities to help people at risk of becoming homeless. There needs to be not only more affordable accommodation available but also a more sympathetic approach towards vulnerable homeless people if the Act is to live up to its name.”
The leader of Maidstone Borough Council, Cllr Fran Wilson, issued the following statement to us: “This is an extremely complex case and we are considering this report and its findings. It is disappointing that we are found to be at fault and it will be discussed at our full council meeting on 6 December where a decision will be made about what action needs to be taken.”
This isn’t the first time Legal Cheek has brought you news of a David v Goliath legal triumph.
In 2015, we reported that law students at the University of West England and the University of Law had helped successfully appeal 95% of the Department of Work and Pensions “fit for work” decisions they had been assigned to handle. With an average rebate of £5,000 for each client, the near-perfect success rate saw wannabe lawyers claw back over £1 million in welfare benefits.
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