Hello! and welcome back to the world of the Renters Guide (tRG).
So, Friday last week was my first time back inside of a Court since Friday 20 March 2020. I don’t believe I mentioned it before, but I have been providing on Duty Advice and Advocacy at my local County Courts for the last 13 years.
On Friday 20 March 2020, I left the Court building for the last time. Of course, I did not realise that it would be the last time for the next 14 months. I had left my Court shoes and my suit jacket, thinking that I was returning the following week. Who knew that the world would completely grind to a halt over the space of just one weekend?
There were a few false starts. A few days before the end of the eviction moratorium was due to end when the Master of the Rolls would make a last minute announcement extending the ban. Hurray for some tenants! Not so joyous for some who had to put up with nuisances neighbours and troublesome flatmates.
Finally, I received THE call and I was back!
I had been quite nervous in the lead-up; from the brief telephone conversation on the Tuesday afternoon to the Thursday evening before the Friday morning.
14 months out of Court, contemplating the changes that have been made to the Court process. (We will outline these in a later article).
Sadly, two Court staff members had died at the heart of the pandemic. A tragic loss to their colleagues and all who knew them.
I arrived early with my copy of the Housing Possession Duty Desk, Practical Guide in hand. The initial front desk security was the same, although their welcoming greetings helped to calm my nerves.
I was shown to the room the Duty advocates had previously used for storage, and there, in all their glory, were my court shoes and suit jacket! LOL! I had not relished the possibility that on my first day back in the Court room, I could be appearing before the Judge, in trainers!
I had been warned by the Duty Scheme organiser that it was likely to be very quiet, but in fact it was quite busy. The morning yielded back-to-back tenants, all of whom I assisted with retaining their homes, despite the high level of some of their rent arrears.
I was also flanked with a welfare benefits specialist and aspiring lawyer who assisted me in extracting as much information from the attendees as possible.
Later on in the afternoon, the Judge asked to see me. They expressed how appreciative they were of the service I provided, and asked how I had found it.
‘Glad to be back!’
If you are due in Court, please seek legal advice immediately! If for any reason you are unable to secure a representative, please attend your Substantive Hearing 20 minutes earlier seek out the on Duty Advisor.
I may well see YOU in Court!