Services

Duncan Lewis’ housing specialists can offer you legal help and advice on a wide range of housing property litigation matters. Our team comprises fee earners with experience in representing both landlords and individuals. Information on the nature of our work in this department can be found in this section, but you should not hesitate to contact us if you need urgent help with a housing issue.
 
Services for Individuals:
  • Homelessness
    if you have been made homeless, a member of our team will be able to put together your application to be housed by your local authority. Our housing specialists can assist you in this matter regardless which stage of the process you have reached.
  • Disrepair
    If you are living in a property that is not being properly maintained by the landlord, our housing team may be able to assist you. It is important that landlords meet their responsibilities and our fee earners regularly help tenants bring cases against negligent property owners, including local councils.
  • Eviction
    If you are facing eviction or have been evicted from your home, there may be remedies available to you that you are unaware of. We have a large team of lawyers who specialise in these cases. This section also includes information on what to do if you are facing repossession .
  • Illegal Eviction
    if your landlord has illegally evicted you, there are steps we can take to ensure you are allowed back into your property and are compensated.
  • Succession for tenants
    if you are renting a property and you are concerned about what might happen to the people who live with you if you die, this section has some information on what rights of succession you have.
  • Neighbourhood problems
    if your neighbours or your landlord are causing problems with noise, litter, antisocial behaviour or harassment, this section can offer you advice on how to handle the situation.
  • Debt
    getting into debt is one of the main causes of housing problems. This page gives you some information on how to avoid debt in order to preserve your property.
Services for Landlords:
  • Possession proceedings
    – if you have tenants who have not paid their rent or are behaving in an anti-social way which is causing damage to the property or a disturbance in the neighbourhood, our team may be able to help you legally remove them from the property.
  • llegal Eviction
    if you have been accused of unlawfully evicting a tenant or mortgagee, our housing lawyers will be able to defend you.

In addition, one of our specialists in litigation defence will be able to represent you in the event an action is brought against you regarding a property you own – including any you are holding as security on a loan.

Homelessness

 

If you have been made homeless, you will be able to apply to your local council or housing association for accommodation. Our lawyers can help you with this application and advise you how to proceed once you know the outcome. This section can tell you some of the ways we can help you if you have become homeless, including:

Are you homeless?

The legal definition of homelessness is very broad. Most people assume you have to be sleeping on the streets to be considered homeless but you may be eligible for help from your council or housing association if you are:

  • relying on friends or family for temporary accommodation
  • living out of a hostel or nightshelter
  • living somewhere that is over crowded or unhygienic to the point that it may be damaging your health
  • at risk of being the victim of violence or abuse where you currently live

Has your house been repossessed?

If your property has been taken away from you because you have been unable to pay your mortgage, our specialist housing team will be able to help you claim your right to be housed. Not all repossessions needed necessarily lead to eviction. You can contact us or read our Repossession section for more information.

 

Has your application for housing been unsuccessful?

If the authorities reject your request for accommodation, you are entitled to have the decision reviewed. Our specialist housing team can prepare the required documents and follow up on the result once it has been received. Applications to appeal housing decisions have very strict deadlines so we recommend that you contact us as soon as possible if you are in this position.

 

Are the authorities delaying giving you a decision?

If you have made an application for housing and your local council or housing authority is delaying telling you whether you are eligible for accommodation, you may be able to apply for Judicial Review. If this is successful the council’s delay will be considered illegal and you will be entitled to compensation from them. You should contact one of our lawyers as soon as possible if you have been the victim of a delayed decision. For more information on Judicial Review, you should consult the Public Law section of our website.

 

Have you been provided with adequate housing?

As well as your right to be housed, it is equally important that any accommodation you are provided with meets an approved standard. If you feel the council have provided a property that does not meet basic standards of size or hygiene, one of our fee earners may be able to help have the situation put right.

The housing allocation schemes

When you apply to your local council to be housed, you will have to go through their allocation scheme. Our housing solicitors will be able to help you through this system and advise you at every stage of the scheme. You can cont act us for advice even if you have already started this process.

 

 

Disrepair

 

If you are living in rented accommodation that is falling into serious disrepair, it is likely that your landlord is failing to carry out the necessary maintenance on the property. Living in a severely damaged property can be damaging to your health and wellbeing and legal remedies are available to you. In this section you can find out more about your rights as a tenant and how our housing team may be able to help you.

What are my landlord’s obligations?

 

If you are living in a rented property, your landlord will have a responsibility to make sure the state of the property meets a certain standard. Mainly they are to ensure the property is fit for purpose. If you think your landlord is not maintaining it to this level, our lawyers will be able to help you bring your complaints to the civil courts and remedy the situation.

 

The landlord is required to keep the property fit for purpose even if it was not at this standard at the beginning of the tenancy. This means that if a new landlord takes over a property that required repairs since the previous ownership, they will be responsible for them as well as any maintenance that maybe needed in the future.

 

Is this property fit for purpose?

If a property is shown to have any of the following problems, it will not be considered fit for purpose:

  • Pest or vermin infestation
  • Faulty drainage or sewerage system
  • Insufficient access to water
  • It is infected in any way

Your landlord can be compelled to put right any of these issues. If they refuse to do so, or the result is not satisfactory, you may be entitled to compensation.

If you think your landlord is being negligent in their maintenance of the property you live in, contact one of our lawyers.

 

Disrepair leading to homelessness

If the property you are living in is in such poor condition that you are considered homeless, you will be able to apply to your local council or housing association for accommodation. More information on this can be found in our Homelessness section.

Funding

Your case may be covered by legal aid if you can show that the disrepair to your property is a health hazard. Our housing solicitors will be able to advise you how you will be able to prove that this is the case.

 

 

Eviction

There are a number of reasons why you may be evicted from your property by:

  • Your landlord – if you are a renting tenant.
  • Your local council or – if you are in council housing
  • The owner of your properties free hold – if you have bought your house and are currently paying a mortgage on it. The process by which they will obtain your property is called repossession.

Some of the reasons they may start eviction proceedings include:

  • you have not paid your rent or mortgage and it is not likely that you will be able to do so within a reasonable time period
  • your neighbours have complained that you behave anti-socially – this might be because you make too much noise.
  • you carry out illegal activities in the property
  • you are damaging the property in some way

Whatever the reason given for your eviction, you can contact us whatever stage in the proceedings you have reached. Our housing solicitors have a significant level of expertise in helping people through this difficult process.

 

If you have been made homeless as a result of eviction, you can find more information in our Homelessness section.

 

Repossession

If you have defaulted on your mortgage and have no way of paying it back, you may be facing repossession orders from the owner of your property’s freehold.

 

You can only be evicted from the property if your freeholder has followed all of the correct steps before finally demanding repossession. Our lawyers have extensive experience in ensuring victims of repossession have not been taken advantage of by their freeholders. If you think your property is going to be repossessed, or your freeholder has started possession proceedings, you can contact one of our lawyers for immediate advice about what you can do now.

 

Has your property been repossessed?

If you think your freeholder may have illegally repossessed your property, you can consult one of our housing specialists to assess whether or not you can bring a claim against them. If you are a freeholder who has been wrongfully accused of illegally repossessing a property, you may find more help in our Possession Proceedings section.

 

Repossession may not always result in you having to vacate the property. In some cases, you may be able to remain in the property subject to certain conditions. You can contact one of our lawyers to discuss what options are available to you.

If you have been made homeless as a result of repossession in some cases you will be eligible to apply for accommodation from your council. You can find help in our Homelessness section about how we can help you do this.

 

Illegal Eviction

 

You will have been illegally evicted if your landlord or mortgagor has not gone through the appropriate legal stages before removing you from your property.

 

Remedies

If you have been illegally evicted, we will be able to:

  • Apply to the court to grant you an injunction – this will enable you to regain access to the property.
  • Ensure you are compensated by your landlord or mortgagor for the time you have not been able to access the property.

If you think you have been illegally evicted you should contact our housing department immediately so that we can help you as soon as possible.

 

Landlords

If you are being wrongfully accused of illegal eviction, our housing solicitors may be able to help you. Contact our housing department as soon as possible if you are in this position.

 

Succession for tenants

If you are renting a property and you are concerned about what might happen to the people who live with you if you die, you may, under some circumstances, be able to pass the tenancy on to a successor.

 

If you are renting a property:

  • Your wife, husband or civil partner will automatically take over your tenancy should you die
  • Other members of your family may also be able to inherit your tenancy, provided they are able to comply with the tenancy agreement
  • For anyone else to inherit your tenancy, you may have to apply for a tenancy order from the court – our housing solicitors will be able to guide you throught this legal process

Tenancy succession can usually only be passed on once. It is therefore unlikely that you will be able to inherit a tenancy from someone who obtained it my succession, but in the case of private tenancies, there may be exceptions to this rule.

 

Neighbourhood Problems
Solving problems in your neighbourhood

When disagreements arise in a neighbourhood it can have a negative affect on your standard of living. Minor disputes can fuel larger, more serious conflicts and it is advisable to prevent this from happening as far as possible. In this section we outline some of the more common neighbourhood disputes and how you can avoid them or find solutions to problems which have already developed.

 

Preventing neighbourhood disputes

There are some basic initial steps you can take to build a positive relationship with your neighbours. This will help establish a channel of communication between you so that if and when neighbourhood issues do arise you can solve them by negotiating. One way of doing this is to join a Neighbourhood Watch group in your area – this will tell you what initiatives are already in place in your community and how you may be able to make a positive contribution to it. More information on the nation wide Neighbourhood Watch scheme is available here.

It is also important that you take responsibility for your household and ensure you are not the cause of the dispute. Here are some pre-emptive measures you can take to avoid being the cause of a complaint:

  • Supervise your children – if you live with children you should make sure they are not causing a disturbance either through noise, littering or other forms of antisocial behaviour.
  • Look after your pets – if you keep any animals in your house or garden it is advisable that you take the necessary steps to make sure they do not inconvenience your neighbours possibly by being noisy or behaving aggressively in a way that could cause alarm.
  • Maintain your property – neighbours might be concerned if you let the external appearance of your property become untidy or fall into disrepair, which can reflect poorly on the neighbour and spark tensions between residents.
  • Keep noise under control – a large proportion of the complaints neighbours make about their neighbours is noise related. Within reason, it will always be in your interests to keep your noise level reasonable – most neighbours will understand if you are celebrating and are therefore going to be quite loud into the night, but if it is a constant occurrence, they are less likely to be understanding.
 
How to handle neighbourhood problems

 

Sometimes problems will arise in your neighbourhood despite your best efforts. When that happens, it is important you handle them properly so that the problem does not escalate. In the worst cases, you could be fined or forced to pay compensation to the neighbour with whom you have a grievance. Our housing solicitors will be able to help you defend yourself against accusations of being the cause of neighbourhood problems, should you find yourself in this position.

 

Below we look at some of the most common neighbourhood problems and outline what steps you may be able to take to resolve the issue.

 

Common neighbourhood problems:


In this section we look at some of the more common disputes that can arise between neighbours and what steps you can take to resolve them. The main causes of most neighbourhood disputes are:
- Boundary disputes
- Noise
- Antisocial behaviour
- Harassment
- Criminal activity and damage

 

Boundary disputes
In some properties it can be unclear where one ends and the other begins. Occasionally, two properties may have equal rights to a piece of land that lies between them. You can find out what the legal boundaries of your property are from the Land Registry or, if you own the property, its exact dimensions will be in the title deeds. Our team of housing lawyers have extensive experience in dealing with boundary issues. Should you have difficulty obtaining the right information from the Land Registry or interpreting your title deeds, one of our specialist lawyers will be able to help you.

 

Creating physical boundaries
Disagreements can often be started when a member of a neighbourhood erects a fence, bush or hedge. This could be because the new instalment blocks someone’s light or physically intrudes onto their property. Is would be advisable to consider the effect bordering your property might have on your neighbours to avoid conflicts.

 

Noise
Noise is one of the most common neighbourhood complaints. Persistent loud noise between the hours of 11pm and 7am will be considered ‘night noise’ and should be dealt with seriously by the authorities. If noise problems in your area are persistent, and informal attempts to resolve them have not been successful, you can contact your local environmental health officer (EHO) for help. Your local council will be able to put you in touch with the EHO for your area. They will have the ability to intervene to stop the noise pollution.

 

Antisocial behaviour
The definition of anti-social behaviour is very broad. If someone in your neighbourhood is behaving in such a way that causes you alarm or distress, it is possible that you are the victim of anti-social behaviour. There are, however, some important exceptions and reasonable behaviour will not be considered anti-social purely on the basis that it alarms you personally. If you are unsure if you are the victim of antisocial behaviour, you can contact you local housing association who will be able to give you some preliminary advice.

 

If you are accused of antisocial behaviour
If someone from your neighbourhood complains that you are behaving antisocially, it is in your interests to discuss the issue with them. If you are genuinely unable to control the behaviour you should try and make this clear. However, if your behaviour is causing a disruption you should make every effort to prevent it from continuing. Failure to do this can have serious consequences and you could face intervention from the courts. If someone has accused you of antisocial behaviour, our housing lawyers maybe able to help you. We will be able to advise you what the nature of the allegation against you is and how you should conduct yourself in order to have it lifted.

 

Harassment
Being the victim of harassment can be very distressing and there is help available to you should you be in this position. Harassing behaviour can come in a variety of forms. Someone may be harassing you via mail or telephone messages, or by their physical presence – either by visiting you suddenly or without warning (particularly if they are doing this at night), stalking or threatening you. If this happens twice or more times a member of our housing team may be able to help you apply to the courts for an injunction to prevent the harassment from continuing.

 

Harassment from your landlord
Your landlord may believe they have the right to visit the property you are renting from them without warning and look around your living quarters. This is not the case and if they persistently do this, and in doing so behave in a threatening or alarming way, you may be the victim of harassment. It can be difficult to stand up to your landlord but there are remedies available through the courts which can prevent them from abusing their position in order to harass you.

 

Criminal activity and damage
Having criminal activity in your neighbourhood can lower the quality of life for everyone in the area. You can take basic measures to protect your personal property such as fitting good locks on the doors and windows and installing a burglar alarm if possible. However, activities that affect the area around your property such as vandalism, damaged lighting, rubbish burning etc can be reported to the police and the local Neighbourhood Watch so steps can be taken to stop those committing these acts from continuing to do so.

 

What remedies are available to me?

 

I am suffering due to problems in my neighbourhood caused by other people
Discussing neighbourhood issues without a professional negotiator present can be very difficult – particularly if your neighbour is behaving in a way that make you feel threatened. Our housing lawyers can represent you at these meetings and help you and your neighbour reach a compromise that is acceptable to you.

However, if you have neighbours whose behaviour is having a significant and negative impact on your life, and attempts to discuss the issue with them have been unsuccessful, you may be able to apply to the courts for an injunction to stop their harmful behaviour. Our housing lawyers will be able to present your interests to the court and help you enforce the court order against your neighbour.

 

Someone has accused me of causing problems in our neighbourhood
If you have been made aware of a court order against you, you are advised to contact a legal representative as soon as possible. Our housing team have a high level of experience helping individuals who find themselves in this situation and will be able to help you.

 

Debt

At Duncan Lewis, our housing team includes a number of solicitors who specialise in helping people who find themselves in a significant amount of debt. On this page we outline some of the key issues you may face if you are struggling with your finances.

Managing your finances

A change in employment, family or other circumstance can have an impact on your finances. Careful planning can help avert serious debt problems and help you pay back what you owe in a way that is manageable for you. It is never too late to take control of your money; this section offers some advice on how you can get the most out of your income.

 

Managing your income

Help paying your rent
You may be eligible for housing benefit if you cannot afford to pay the rent for the property you are currently living in. If you think your housing benefit has been unfairly withheld or withdrawn from you, our Welfare Benefits department may be able to help you.

 

If you already receive council tax and you still can’t afford to pay your rent, you may be eligible for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). This is an extra payment you may receive from your local council to help you with day to day living. A DHP is often a short term solution to money problems, allowing you time to make adjustments such as moving to less expensive accommodation. Our housing lawyers will be able to advise you on your eligibility for

 

Budgeting effectively
Effective budgeting is crucial to avoiding debt. As a good starting point, you should follow these basic steps when drawing up a personal budget:

  • Divide your income up into weekly or monthly instalments. This will help you track your spending effectively.
  • Deduct from your income all of your ‘fixed costs’ – these are things you know you have to pay. Some may be monthly (rent, bills etc) and some may be less often (such as car insurance). If you find it more helpful, many service providers will allow you to split an annual sum up over 12 months or 4 quarters to allow you to budget for them more easily.
  • Divide up what is left into things you need – groceries, entertainment etc. Make sure this figure is realistic!

 

Managing your loans

If you are in debt – be it a mortgage, credit card, pay day loan etc, it is important you manage these debts so that you do not risk defaulting on payments towards your property. It is recommended that you prioritise any housing related costs you may have before handling the rest of your finances.

 

Bankruptcy

If you reach the point at which you are so far in debt that you cannot possibly pay your creditors, a court may declare you bankrupt. You may be forced to sell your valuable possessions order to repay your debts. However, there are some things you are entitled to keep. The basic contents of your household will be largely unaffected unless it is of particularly high value. If you own your house then it will be at risk of repossession to pay back your creditors but the rights of anyone else who lives in it will have to be considered first. If you are facing bankruptcy, a member of our housing team will be able to discus your options with you and help you minimise potential damage to your day to day life.

 

Mortgage and Rent Arrears

Mortgage arrears
Many people find it harder to make regular payments towards their mortgage when they are having difficulties with their finances. It is important that these payments are always prioritised but if you do fall behind on them, there a number of things you can consider doing to start rectifying the situation:

  • Make your lender aware that you are trying to pay the loan: this will make them more likely to give you the time you need to organise your finances. They may also be able to rearrange your loan so that you pay them less each month but over a longer period of time.
  • Consider reorganising your lower priority loans so that you can continue to make you mortgage payments.
  • You may have mortgage payment insurance protection – if so you should speaker to your insurer and see if you are able to make a claim on it.

Eviction
If you default on your mortgage, you will not necessarily face eviction. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to negotiate with your lender to allow you to remain in the property. If your lender has started eviction proceedings it is recommended that you contact our housing team immediately so that appropriate steps can be taken to save your home if at all possible.

 

Rent arrears
If you rent your accommodation and your circumstances have led to you falling behind on your payments, it is important that you speak to your landlord as soon as possible
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