At one county court, tenants fighting to stay in their homes get what assistance they can from overworked lawyers in system described as a ‘pressure cooker’
The defendant is a widow in her 80s, disabled with osteoarthritis – and set to be made homeless in two hours. Her husband of 60 years, who was also disabled, died of cancer early this year. Shortly after, their landlords relaunched eviction proceedings against her under section 21 of the Housing Act – the infamous “no fault” evictions that the government promised to ban back in 2019 but which nonetheless still exist.
We are in a modern, slightly sterile courtroom at Watford county court on a mild morning in November. Due to her disability – the defendant walks with a frame – she is “attending” via a video link that only the judge can see. Her adult son, who is with her, does most of the talking on her behalf. The only time she speaks during the hearing, she sounds distressed.