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Archive for October, 2008

Doh

Seems A4e’s plan for world domination hit a small speed bump HERE. Thanks to Watching A4e’s website for the story.

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West Sussex Clan

Whilst not really that exciting THIS document is quite an interesting little insight into the goings on behind the scenes in regards to what could be the first or second CLAN to be introduced.  I believe councillors are currently pondering over whether or not to go ahead with the Vale of Glamorgan CLAN.

I can’t imagine councillors are falling over themselves in joy at possibility that all their local CABx will close as a result of losing out on a CLAN tender that they okied. Politically popular, er not really.

I wait with baited breath!

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Just a quick follow up to THIS little post. BBC Watchdog ran a story on tenants being ripped off this evening. If getting somewhere to rent involves a Western Union money transfer in any way shape or form be afraid, very afraid!

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Today is the day that employment support allowance replaces Incapacity benefit and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds for new claimants.

Go HERE for DWP guidance.

It will be interesting to see how it works in practice as there seems to be a lot that can go wrong.

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Pre-action ponderings

I’m confused. I don’t have much experience of mortgage possession cases as although many mortgagees facing possession proceedings are CLS eligible (as they may have just lost their job so might be on Income Support or income based JSA) I don’t seem to get them as cases.

Most of my experience comes from the frenetic world of our Court Desk scheme where it’s usually a quick 5 or 10 mins with the client and then a norgan style offer (as opposed to the unrealistic demands made by the mortgagor) or a beg for some more time for the client to sell the property.

Having read the new preaction protocol for possession claims based on mortgage or home purchase plan arrears in repsect of residential property (phew) I’m wondering as to just how effective it will be in stopping possession cases.From reading the protocol it seems that it can be summarised as everyone involved should act in a ‘reasonable’ way towards each other and if they don’t then nothing much will happen as the compliance section seems rather limited. 

 Nearly’s post on the Pre-action protocol is most interesting. Especially interesting to me, as a rather clueless adviser, is the part on costs. I often use the preaction protocol for claims based on rent arrears and this often leads to my clients not having to pay the costs of the proceedings as they should never have been brought in the first place. However with mortgage costs I don’t really understand what power the Courts have to punish the mortgagor if they don’t comply with the protocol as the mortgagor usually seem to be entitled to whatever costs they fancy as part of the mortgage. Can a Judge order a mortgagor to only add X as costs? Has anyone ever successfully challenged these costs? It would certainly be interesting to see a possible challenge to them as an unfair term as Nearly mentions.
 
Also I was wondering whether the mortgagor could decide to charge the mortgagee more for having to comply with the protocol?
 
Perhaps instead of seemingly pointless protocols the Labour might grow the balls to properly regulate the currently dodgy types of illness and unemployment insurance that have put so many people off bothering to cover what is usually the single largest debt they will ever have. Fat chance though I guess.
 

 

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Incompatible?

I was wondering whether or not it is morally or even professionally right for a CAB or a Shelter Housing Aid Centre or other housing advice provider to have both a contract to provide Community Legal Service Housing advice and a contract to provide homeless prevention work with the Local Authority.

I don’t know the exact figures but I know of a few Not for Profit organisations who have both contracts in my Local Area so I can’t imagine it being to uncommon. My CAB used to have both contracts. In many many cases where a client was referred by the LA for prevention work the client should also have been advised that the Local Authority should also be seeing what if any duties were owed to them under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996. They were not. Perhaps the most common example of this would be the client with a section 21 which has expired. LA’s never seem to take any note of 8.32 of the Code of Guidance and LA’s seem to consider it a success if the client is rehoused even up to the point of being evicted by the bailiff (usually some £370 worth of costs later).

One can’t really blame the prevention officer when they didn’t advise the client of what duties the Local Authority may have to them. Their job afterall was to prevent homelessness and not to create another dreaded homeless statistic. I guess that by pointing out to a client that they were not being fully assisted the officer would rather be shooting themselves in the foot as Local Authorities certainly don’t want their prevention contract to actually create more ‘homeless approaches’.

There seems to be an innate conflict of interest in running both contracts. It concerns me that some organisation’s CLS advice might be tempered to take into account the Local Authority feelings. Will the adviser decide not to pursue an otherwise legitimate course of action purely because it might annoy the Local Authority and so lead to the possibility that they might decide homeless prevention was best done ‘in house’. I know from experience that such pressure exists because I was under it. I ignored it and the contract was taken back ‘in house’ as I’ve never really had any mercy when it comes to a LA.

Maybe I shouldn’t have ignored it. Maybe the CAB could have helped more people if we had held on to the contract. Would it right to sacrifice a bit of advice and assistance to a CLS client so a few more clients could be helped more effectively via the homeless prevention contract (compared to the help they would have got ‘in house’)? I believe I was right to ignore the pressure not to assist my CLS clients as fully as I could but the whole situation is certainly far from ideal.

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Simms v London Borough of Islington is a rather handy little case which summarises much of the law relevant to priority need. It’s also a useful one for reminding oneself how a Local Authority should deal with medical evidence that is presented to them. I’m sure Nearly and his jolly good team will pop something up soon. I only really mention it as it seems a good short one!

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