Proposal for housing legal advice a step in the right direction
Tenants facing repossession proceedings – and potential homelessness – could be in line for enhanced legal support under new proposals by the Ministry of Justice.
Under the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Scheme (HLPAS), which replaces the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, non-means tested legal advice would be available to those facing repossession of their homes.
The scheme also proposes changes to how legal aid providers claim fees for their work, some of which have already been introduced on a temporary basis.
We will consult our members to review the adequacy of the payment scheme.
“It would be a welcome step to make non-means tested legal advice available to those facing repossession before their case actually ends up in court,” said Law Society of England and Wales president, I. Stephanie Boyce.
“While having the option of additional advice on welfare benefits and debt is an added bonus, we cannot underestimate the value of early legal advice as it can help address problems before they escalate, preventing cases from going to court unnecessarily.
“However, this well-intentioned move may well be hampered by the desperate shortage of legal aid-funded solicitors with the relevant expertise in large swathes of the country which has created housing legal aid deserts, affecting millions of people.
“Those facing repossession will not be able to access vital legal advice if there is no legal aid provider in their area.
“While the funding commitments announced in the Autumn Budget were a welcome step in the right direction, much more investment is needed to ensure legal representation is available to those without the means to pay for it.
“Legal advice must be available to all tenants facing the loss of their homes, particularly when homelessness is a likely outcome.
“We welcome these proposals but are concerned that the scheme cannot function if the lack of legal aid providers is not addressed.”
Notes to editors
The Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme provides emergency advice and advocacy to anyone facing possession proceedings in England and Wales.
The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Scheme will incorporate the existing service of advice and representation at court, but also early legal advice before court.
The consultation will close on 20 January 2022.
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