In-Court Lay Representation Service
The In-Court Advice service provides advice and representation for people facing the potential loss of their home or who are struggling with debt. The service operates in Hamilton and Lanark Sheriff Courts and is based in Birnie House within Hamilton Sheriff Court.
What do we do?
We provide free, independent, confidential and impartial quality assured advice in respect of certain types of court actions and can provide representation at certain types of hearings. We also provide emergency assistance on civil court days to ensure access to justice to those who do not have a solicitor.
We work to prevent court action if we can and negotiate and mediate with creditors and landlords to provide alternative resolutions where possible.
Who can be referred to this service?
Residents with a court case calling at Hamilton or Lanark Sheriff Court; Advice organisations; solicitors, local authorities, housing associations and other statutory and community organisations.
Problems we can help with include:
- Housing – advice and representation for people facing eviction for mortgage repossession or rent arrears; assisting where a landlord is not carrying out their responsibilities;
- Debt – advice and representation for people who have been taken to court or are being threatened with court action for debt; advice and representation for people threatened with bankruptcy
- Legal - advice and representation for people raising or defending court actions for less than £5,000; advice on other types of action; advice on finding solicitors or other legal advisers; emergency representation in certain types of cases for people without solicitors
For more information: tel 01698 476853 or 01698 457319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
How we helped Gillian
Names have been changed to protect identity
Gillian had separated from her husband. He was a heavy drinker and had agreed to leave the home. She was left alone with her child who had a serious health condition which meant that she had spent many nights in hospital. Gillian worked hard and had a good job and provided a stable home for her child.
Out of the blue, she received notification that her husband had been made bankrupt because of all the debts he had run up and now she was being told to move out of her home. She did not understand how this had happened and came to us for advice.
We told her that because she and her husband (like most couples) had bought their home in joint names so when he was declared bankrupt his share of the house was automatically transferred to his trustee.
The trustee is appointed by the court to get together as much of a bankrupt’s property as they can and use it to pay off their debts. Gillian’s husband didn’t have anything to sell and wasn’t earning due to his alcoholism so the only thing he had of any value was the half share of the house.
Gillian was devastated. Since the breakup of her marriage she had kept everything going by herself –including the mortgage payments – and now she was going to be forced to sell the house. She was very anxious about what would happen to her and her child.
We were able to support her. We contacted the trustee and explained the situation. We also told them that the law said that Gillian’s house could not just be sold: the trustee would have to go to court and ask their permission and we would appear on her behalf and argue why they should not be allowed to sell the house.
The trustee listened to our evidence and agreed not to take this matter to court. We helped Gillian to think through her options. One possibility was for her to buy her husband’s share in the house.
We helped Gillian prepare a financial statement, consider the costs involved and how to proceed. She was able to pursue this option and the trustee agreed not to take any further action. As long as Gillian paid the agreed sums to the trustee then their home was safe.
How we helped John
John is a retired gentleman who lives in sheltered housing. Like many people of his generation he doesn’t like to cause a fuss.
He also didn’t want to rely on handouts so despite his health declining he carried on doing bits and bobs of work whenever he could and didn’t claim any “handouts” as he called them.
But John was not keeping as well as he had been and he couldn’t work as much. In the end he wasn’t able to keep up his rent for his sheltered house. The council took him to court and got an order that he could be evicted. Luckily one of the council workers who dealt with John’s case gave us a call and asked if we could help.
Of course we could: we went back to court and got the eviction cancelled. Then we worked with John. We told him he was entitled to help – it wasn’t a handout. We advised him to look at it as payback for all the years he worked. When we put it this way he agreed that we could help him apply for his benefits. We got his rent paid and a big bit off the arrears. He still insisted that he would pay the rest of the arrears off himself!
We also saw how little his state pension was for all the years he’d worked. We told him he might be due some more pension payments. So he agreed we could look into this for him – and he was.
John can’t work anymore because his health has got worse but he is safe and secure in his home and he has more money coming in. He has told us he is glad we showed him how he could get more help and agrees that these things are not handouts – they are your rights.