PROTESTS have been held for a Glasgow woman who was threatened with eviction over rent arrears weeks before Christmas.

Catherine Bennett will appear before Glasgow Sheriff Court today where she will make the case to keep her Yoker home of 15 years.

Yesterday, protesters from Living Rent held a demonstration in Glasgow city centre at The Wheatley Group offices, which is a subsidiary of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA).

They argued that the grounds for eviction are both irresponsible and unfair.

After last-minute crunch talks following the protest, Glasgow Housing Association said it has now agreed to a payment plan with Ms Bennett and is to ask the court to continue the case for eight weeks “to give her an opportunity to resolve the situation with our support.”

 Catherine, 48, said: “I’ve been in this flat for 15 years and have never had complaints against me.

 “All my family are here, who I rely on more than ever with the deterioration of my health and wellbeing due to the stress of eviction proceedings that I have been dealing with since January.

 “My house is my safe place as I’ve been through a lot in  my  life, but overcome it. The prospect of losing my home is so terrifying I can’t comprehend.”

Scotland’s Tenants’ Union took on mum-of-two Catherine’s case after she had her benefits restructured because her son was employed as an apprentice with Glasgow Housing Association.

 Her rent was increased as a result but Living Rent says Catherine was not informed of the change and entered into arrears.

According to Catherine, a housing officer contacted her last  Christmas to inform her that she was in £400 rent arrears but they couldn’t understand why. It was then established that her son becoming employed meant that Catherine was required to pay more rent – but by the time it was worked out, the arrears had escalated to more than £1700.

Prior to yesterday’s discussions, Glasgow Housing Association was demanding £53 per week towards the arrears almost doubling rent which she cannot afford.

 Catherine, who now lives alone, said: “GHA couldn’t understand why I had arrears so how am I suppose to understand. It was only months later they understood it when the money had accumulated.”

Anna  Knox, of  Living  Rent, said: “Living Rent is uncompromising about the  fact that no-one should be forced onto the streets in the freezing cold, and we are hoping that the courts will make a stand against   these cruel proceedings.”

MSP Partick Harvie, who plans to take part in a second demonstration outside Glasgow Sheriff Court today, said: “This case sums up why tenants badly need stronger protections from eviction. GHA is a publicly accountable organisation, but by proceeding with this court action, it is putting bureaucracy ahead of someone’s human right to housing.”

A Glasgow Housing Association spokesman said: “We take all our obligations to our tenants very seriously. However, all tenants sign a tenancy agreement and they too have to fulfil their obligations as a tenant. We’re always disappointed when tenants don’t pay their rent as not only does it put their home at risk, it is also a fundamental part of our investment in homes, services and employability opportunities.

“We’ve tried repeatedly, for over a year, to engage with this customer to help her sort her benefits and rent payments. Today we have been contacted by her representatives and can clarify that if the tenant herself now talks to us and agrees a repayment arrangement she is able to stick to, we would be happy to ask the court to continue the case for eight weeks. 

“This would give the tenant a final opportunity to resolve the situation with our support.”