Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Court in the Act

Well, I do live a very varied life! Today, I accompanied Lee to Kettering County Court. We’ve been in Kettering over 15 years and I never knew of its existence (I guess not-knowing is a good thing in this case!) It’s tucked away in a side street just off the main shopping area in the town. The reason? Lee’s landlord decided last Christmas to stop paying her mortgage. She also ‘forgot’ to tell her lender, the mighty Santander, that she was letting the property – that’s naughty! Therefore Lee has become the target of Santander’s displeasure and to make life even more complicated, her landlord has disappeared, and can’t be traced.

Oh joy!

So, as we approached the building for our 1.45 appointment, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We knew that the whole affair would be presided over by a Judge and we’d have some local free legal-aid there, but the rest of the process was a bit of a mystery.

First impressions were a bit scary. On entering the building, there was a reception desk surrounded by what looked like bullet-proof glass. No-one on duty, so I pressed the bell for attention. A member of staff arrived quickly but in her rush to serve us, had obviously left her smile behind – what a scary woman – hope she’s not the Judge!!! We were invited, no instructed, to take a seat and after a short time, our legal-aid person, Helen, met us. We were ushered into a small room, where the process was explained to us. Actually, Helen was really nice, clearly on our side, and very eager to help.

After the briefing, we were sent upstairs to the waiting room that looked a little like the dentist’s, complete with magazines last seen on the Antiques Roadshow! There were another two couples already seated, and it soon became clear that Helen our legal representative was theirs too – the result being that she was flitting from one to another and looking incredibly stressed-out.

At 1.44.59 a loud voice bellowed over the tannoy and we were filed in to the Judge’s room. In addition to the Judge, Lee and me, there was Helen and a 12 year old representing Santander’s interests.

I know my place – and obviously, so did they. Whilst Lee and Helen were sat on the table nearest the Judge with Santander opposite, I was encouraged to sit in the corner – clearly an indication that I wasn’t part of the process. Shame – I‘d been practising my ‘I object’ line for ages. Let battle commence!

The facts were read out, and the two-month extension before being evicted was proposed. To our surprise, Santander’s representative objected on the grounds that they didn’t know of Lee’s tenancy and they hadn’t received the letter Ann had written to them a week ago explaining the situation.

Fortunately, the Judge was on good form and reminded Santander of a law passed late last year that was “designed to protect vulnerable people in situations like this”  and consequently, he found in our favour.

From that point on, it was plain sailing. Now all we have to do if find Lee somewhere to live in the next eight weeks!!!