PROFESSIONAL HOUSING ADVICE SERVICES
GHR is recognised for its exemplary commitment to providing high quality, professional advice and associated services.
Our Commitment to Free and Independent Advice
Greenwich Housing Rights believes that equality before the law is a fundamental right.
We also believe in equality of access to the justice system. No one should be denied legal advice due to lack of resources.
We therefore offer all of our advice and casework services free of charge to the individual receiving advice.
We do so with the support of our primary funders, Greenwich Council and the Legal Aid Agency, without compromising our independence or our ability to legally challenge government and other public bodies.
We provide specialist advice and assistance in the following areas:
- Possession claims and court proceedings;
- Rent Arrears;
- Housing Benefit problems;
- Homelessness and Rehousing;
- Security of Tenure (succession, assignment, service charges etc).
- Via Greenwich Migrant Hub, a range of services specific to the needs of vulnerable migrants (www.greenwichmigranthub.com).
How do we gauge the effectiveness of our advice services?
Each year more than 4000 local residents access our services. We collect a large amount of information about our clients, the problems they face and the types of outcomes we achieve.
Our statistics speak for themselves:
- 50% of our casework is focused on possession, eviction and homelessness cases. Generally we are responding to emergencies by trying to help our clients to retain their home or access accommodation when they are homeless or living in unsuitable housing.
- The remainder of our casework focuses on the underlying causes of housing emergencies – benefit issues (and in particular problems with Housing Benefit), multiple debt, relationship breakdown, and health problems for example. By helping to resolve these issues we hope to bring stability and reduce the likelihood that a housing crisis will occur.
- In 91% of cases we achieved a positive outcome: we helped 42% of our clients to retain their home or find alternative housing; 29% of our cases led to a reduction in housing costs or associated debts and in doing so we helped clients to recover over £112,000 in quantifiable benefit or compensation awards.
- The majority of occupiers who attend court do so without legal representation. Our duty representation services at Woolwich & Bromley County Courts ensured that tenants and homeowners had access to advice and representation. In 88% of possession cases we helped the occupier to avoid the type of possession order that could lead directly to eviction. Our advisers also assisted a large number of people to apply to delay or stop the eviction process and we were successful in over two thirds of cases.
We know however that our services cannot resolve the full range of legal problems facing our clients.
Where our advisers identify other legal issues or support needs we refer clients to solicitors, other advice agencies and sources of support in the statutory and voluntary sector.
We work closely with our partner agencies within Greenwich Legal Advice Services to ensure that clients have access to a wide range of legal advice services. We also offer advice to those working in other agencies so that they can support their own clients with housing issues.
The information we collect about our clients and services allows us to look more broadly at the changing advice needs of local residents. For example we've seen a sharp rise in recent years in people needing advice about renting in the private sector. This is perhaps a reflection on the over-stretched resources of the social housing sector, with an estimated 13,000 on the Council's housing waiting list. It also reflects the Council's drive to encourage as many people as possible to consider renting privately as an alternative to accessing social housing services.
However without adequate support for tenants and regulation of private landlords those entering the private-rented sector face the uncertainty of short-term tenure, landlords with questionable understanding of their legal obligations and spiraling rents not adequately met by the Local Housing Allowance.
Our services will continue to adapt and respond to the changing needs of our client group. The overwhelmingly positive feedback received from our clients however gives us confidence that the services we currently provide are appropriate, effective and necessary.
In 2016, together with some of our other local partner agencies, we set up the Greenwich Migrant Hub. This novel organisation is a specialist project managed by ourselves, which offers free immigration advice (provided by OISC regulated specialist advisers from Lambeth Law Centre and funded by the Royal Borough of Greenwich), advocacy and support for victims of domestic abuse by former staff from EAVES and NIA and specialist advice for families without recourse to public funds provided by Project 17. It also offers access to family law advice by Adelle Banks from Hudgell and Partners and runs a women's project together with Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network.