Lovells has strengthened its relationship with key client Barclays, teaming up with the bank to provide council home residents with last-minute help to prevent eviction.
Together with Barclays’ financial inclusion team, the City firm has donated £51,000 to the Bow County Court Advice Network (BCCAN). The funds are being used to provide housing debt advice and representation to residents facing eviction across the London boroughs of Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
At the same time lawyers from Lovells are offering advice pro bono to represent residents at eviction hearings at Bow County Court, East London, to negotiate deals with local authority landlords to cover rent arrears.
Lovells pro bono manager Yasmin Waljee said: “There are often very good reasons why people haven’t paid their rent. For instance, sometimes… housing benefit payments are late, while other people are being pressured by loan sharks. And when people are in a cycle of debt, it can spiral.
“What we help them to arrange is not that their arrears are cancelled, we just help the tenants to come to some sort of arrangement where they can pay back [their debts] more manageably.”
Forty Lovells solicitors are involved in the scheme, attending a combined 11 afternoons a month. So far they have represented 490 clients, preventing evictions in all but 10 cases.
The firm initially became involved in the scheme after being approached by Community Links, an inner-city charity running community-based projects in East London.
Waljee explained: “We were initially approached by Community Links for funding, and after a while, realised that we could give better support by training lawyers to attend. This isn’t a very glamorous area of law, but it’s in an important area. And if pro bono is about anything, it should be about doing the unsexy stuff that helps people.”
Together with Community Link, the firm has also extended the BCCAN service by providing debt advice at the site of the court, allowing clients to gain advice at the most critical moment.
Lovells also provides 30 lawyers to assist with appeals relating specifically to disability living allowances and has managed to extend the duty solicitor volunteer rota to include high street law firms.