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Hello, my name is ***** ***** I am a qualified lawyer happy to help you this evening.
Your Sister needs to respond to the court proceedings as soon as possible - if the landlord used the money claim online site for their claim then your Sister will have login details with the court letter. She needs to login in to the money claim site using the details on the court letter - then click the option to defend / dispute the claim.
If the landlord didn't use the money claim online site then your Sister will have received a response pack (see attached). She should tick the box to say she wants to defend the claim and you will note the section to write a defence. She simply needs to say the damage was not caused by her but the previous tenant. Then she posts the response pack back to the court as soon as possible. Do not delay doing this - if she misses the deadline then the landlord can request default judgment which means they win and your Sister cannot defend the claim. She should mention the other issues and the harassment in the defence too.
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Yes, correct. The court will give her a date to send the evidence in due course - known as "standard disclosure".
For court then she can use http://www.lpc-law.co.uk or http://www.clerksroom.com once a hearing date is known.
Both can offer advocacy services and not too expensive either.
Yes, if her defence is accepted by the court. It's optional to have the advocate though - and most cases never get to that stage. It may make more sense to make an application to strike out the landlord's claim as it has no merit at all. The application costs £255 for the court fee but if your Sister is on a low income, has low savings or in receipt of benefits then she can ask the court for a fee exemption. That is another question though - the priority is to respond to the court documents
She can make a counter claim if she has losses as a result of the landlord's conduct.
A solicitor is not necessary as this is a small claim. She can come back here for advice. A solicitor in a law firm would charge her by the hour (not on a no win no fee agreement as they cannot recover their charges in a small claim case).
If there is no merit in the case, first send the defence in. Then a copy to the landlord by letter - write to them to say you consider their case has no merit and unless they voluntarily discontinue their claim then you will apply to strike out their claim and seek your costs of doing so (the court fee of £255). If an application is made then the court will list a hearing where you ask the judge to strike out the claim. You can have the advocate attend the hearing for you - they would charge around £300 or so for the hearing in question but their fee is recoverable if the application to strike out is made.
So, follow the above (give the landlord 7 days) and if they do not discontinue then come back to this site and post a new question (mark it for my attention and I will pick it up - I am on this site daily).
No problem, have a good evening