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LAWYERS CASH IN ON HOMES REPAIR CRISIS IN LIVERPOOL

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Councillors on Liverpool City Council are calling on the lord chancellor's office to look at tightening up the syst...
Councillors on Liverpool City Council are calling on the lord chancellor's office to look at tightening up the system which allows lawyers from all over the country to blitz council tenants with offers of help to sue the local authority and force them to carry out repairs on their homes.

The Daily Post (29 April, p7), reported that lawyers from as far away as Staffordshire and Preston have been looking for work among Liverpool tenants - a practice that can leave housing authorities with court bills totalling millions.

Peter Fitzhenry, head of housing management services, said: 'Court cases have been as minor as£200 worth of work to scrub condensation from the walls. We would need around£800m to do up our housing stock and we are given around£20-30m a year to carry out the repairs so obviously there is a shortfall.'

He added: 'At the moment there are about£2m worth of cases generated from solicitors. Quite often these complaints have never been reported to the council and they have gone straight to solicitors.'

'We have 21 days to respond, which can be done when you have an isolated case. However, we have had areas which have been targeted by solicitors and they have lodged complaints on behalf of almost every home.'

Another officer said: 'This completely ruins our budget and means that the little old lady who comes in to complain in the proper way, is left high and dry.'

Councils want to see tenants barred from going to court if they have not first made their complaints known to housing officers.

However, a Law Society spokesman said: 'You have to remember that no one who takes a housing repair case to court will win unless the house is in an unfit state. Parliament has provided for legal rights for tenants to ensure they are not living in sub-standard accommodation, so it is perfectly rational for people to take this action.'

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