The courts are a scary place.
Once inside, a security guard motions for me to remove everything metallic and to empty my pockets into what looks like an ice-cream tub that's to the side of the scanner machine. Once through the other side, I took my mobile phone, about £2 in change, my keys and belt back and proceeded over to the list of hearings for the morning.
Up on the second floor; the open plan hallway stretched out with the 'not private at all' booths dotted along each side. The middle section housing chairs that remind me of a Doctors Surgery waiting area. Lo and behold, whilst sitting there reviewing my case with the money grabbing bastard of a solicitor, there were buzzers interrupting our flow of conversation. These buzzers indicating one of the twelve to fifteen rooms that each housed a Judge ruling over the various cases of the morning, was now vacant and ready for the next (victim) case. After a short while, I changed my mind about the similarities between a Doctor's Surgery and decided on a Cattle Market instead. Much more fitting.
My hearing was bought by the Lettings Agency that I'm trying to sue. Even though they had been well informed of my case against them; numerous opportunities to file a defence, make an out of court settlement offer, or even to just acknowledge the damn case, for reasons known only to themselves, they decided to bury their heads in the sand and to quietly ignore it, presumably hoping I was yanking their chain. Consequently, I pushed ahead, despite their silence, gained a court date for a hearing and because they didn't do bugger all the case was heard by a Judge in their absence and ruled in my favour.
Great! I had won the case!
Several days later, the money grabbing bastard of a solicitor informed me the the Lettings Agency had suddenly made themselves known and applied to the courts to have the ruling over-turned so they could defend their case.
They were past the deadline to apply for this by two clear days. We knew that; my solicitor and I. They must have known that. We are presuming they received the letter from the Courts informing them of the ruling, and perhaps panicked?! Trying their luck with an application to the Courts after the deadline date.
I was shitting myself, but felt fairly confident, even though the money grabbing bastard of a solicitor advised me that Judges can quite often be seen to be more, let's say lenient with small businesses. And not only that, but Judges can also be a little more forgiving when it comes to dealing with people who don't have legal representation and decide to represent themselves.
So, we get buzzed in; me, the money grabbing bastard of a solicitor and the owner (representing herself) of the Lettings agency, a small business.
It must have been my lucky day, because not five minutes into it the owner of the Lettings Agency apologized to me profusely for all my inconvenience, the extra debt I'd got into because I had been paying the mortgage myself each time the tenants didn't pay any rent, the stress it must have caused me, the distress and the horrible state the house was left in under their care. She promptly whipped out her cheque book and wrote me out a cheque for double the amount I was suing for and pleaded forgiveness from me. It was only when I glanced to my left and saw the money grabbing bastard of a solicitor ripping the Judge's blouse off, pushing her back into the leather bound chair and parting her legs in preparation of a 'right good seeing to down there' that I realized I day-dreaming.
After waiting in the Cattle Markets seating areas for over an hour, the ruling took less than ten minutes. Within the first five (after rustling through the documents in front of her and asking both parties a handful of questions), the Judge stated that the cut off date had quite clearly been missed by the Lettings Agency. Not only that, but they had provided absolutely no defence to my claim and when asked quite simple questions they either had no answer or "I'm not sure" as a comeback.
The final five minutes was choc full of legal jargon, the majority of which I didn't understand. What I could comprehend was the the Judge, in her infinite wisdom decided that even though the deadline had quite clearly passed, and the lettings agency had quite clearly not taken the claim seriously (lack of defence and no legal advice taken), the previous ruling in my favour was to be over-turned and the Lettings Agency have now been given three weeks to file a proper defence to the claim.
So, a major setback for me. And most likely now means this case will continue for at least another six to eight months before it's resolved.
Life is a funny fucker sometimes, huh?