Help when you need it: why North Herts and Stevenage advice experts can be your friends at court - Credit: Archant

The Citizens Advice teams in North Herts and Stevenage have teamed up to offer an ‘on the spot’ service to help people cope with court hearings.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice - Credit: Archant

People struggling to make rent or mortgage payments can find themselves facing the courts without much idea of how the system works.

But in addition to their normal debt and housing advice the two charities also run a joint court help desk in Stevenage.

The project is funded by North Herts District Council and Stevenage Borough Council to make sure that trained caseworkers are available at the court to advise and represent local people at rent and mortgage possession hearings, which are held in Stevenage on Fridays.

While they may still be able to help or represent you in court if you contact them on the day itself even if you haven’t sought help from them previously, it is always best to get advice as soon as possible.

They’re asking anyone who might need their help to get in touch as soon as possible so they can get advice before the day of the hearing.

One of the North Herts caseworkers who has handled many of these cases said: “There is a lot you can do to help yourself if you’re in rent arrears.

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“Firstly, get advice as soon as you realise you’re in difficulty – go to a drop-in session at your local Citizens Advice office.

“Some landlords have an in-house adviser or fund Citizens Advice to give tenants guidance on benefits and debt.

“Check if you are eligible for housing benefit – you may be if you work part-time or have a low income, as well as if you claim benefits.

“Try to make payments regularly – this shows you are willing to make payments even if you can’t always pay the full amount being asked for.”

If you have rent arrears and your landlord is your local council or a housing association, there are rules about what they must do if they want to take you to court.

But it is essential that you contact them to discuss any issues which may affect your ability to pay your rent.

If you are at the point of court proceedings then you can contact the court desk team on 03444 111 444.