Housing law encompasses a wide range of landlord and tenant issues, and covers a various areas of law from criminal damage to breach of contract.
What does this type of lawyer do?
Housing lawyers act either for plaintiffs or defendants with regard to litigation, and clients can include private individuals, Local Authority (Council) landlords, and Housing Associations.
Defence work may include such things as breaches of tenancy agreements, non-payment of rent, damage to the property, antisocial behaviour allegations; and may lead to possession proceedings.
Acting on the other side of the fence, for the plaintiff, you may be engaged in property disrepair, illegal eviction, homelessness or harassment cases against a landlord.
Typical activities will include interviewing clients, negotiating settlements, preparing documents for court (for example obtaining expert witness statements), advocating on behalf of your client, and briefing Counsel.
What skills are required?
A non-judgemental attitude and a desire to help improve people’s lives tend to be the hallmarks of a housing lawyer.
Clients may be distressed, angry or frightened, so the ability to gather evidence and give clear advice through good people and interviewing skills are vital.
You will be liaising with a wide range of people from many different areas in addition to your client: for example, with Local Authority Housing Officers, with doctors, and psychiatrists; as well as working collaboratively with lawyers from other departments in your own firm (for example, criminal lawyers), so the ability to work as a team is also required.
As there will be a wide number of people involved in your cases, you must have strong time-management skills, and be able to pull everything together in order to meet legal deadlines (for example, deadlines on appeals).
What with private investors in the market, benefit caps, the ‘bedroom tax’, the proposed extension to right to buy and so on, the sector is going through a period of significant upheaval and the services of those advising landlords and housing associations is in demand. Those advising tenants are equally in demand, but have been affected by the cuts and restrictions which have affected all those working in legal aid and areas covered by legal aid prior to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act coming into effect.
What's it like in practice
Find out what some of our people who have practised welfare law say about it, and the advice that they would give those interested in a career in this area. Look at the following Case Studies:
- Anna Williams (Employability Consultant, University of Law)
- The Housing Law Practitioners Association (HLPA) website contains useful information, and you can join the HLPA Junior Group online at http://www.hlpa.org.uk/cms/
- ‘Inside Housing’ is a website containing ‘news, views and jobs’ for those interested in social housing http://www.insidehousing.co.uk
- The charity Shelter has an excellent website at http://www.shelter.org.uk which covers homelessness, eviction and repossession, housing benefit, renting and leasehold etc, as well as information on voluntary opportunities.
Regulation and funding:
- The Homes and Communities Agency (the national housing and regeneration agency) website provides useful statistics and information http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/
- The Tenant Services Authority (regulator for social housing)