Critical need for housing legal aid as evictions and repossessions continue to rise
Housing legal aid is increasingly out of reach for those who need help to keep a roof over their head, the Law Society of England and Wales warned today.
Quarterly statistics from the Ministry of Justice for April to June 2023, show that mortgage possession claims increased by 15% and landlord possessions (evictions) increased by 24% compared to the same quarter last year.*
All landlord possession actions, including eviction orders, have increased compared to the same quarter in 2022. Thirty-three per cent of all landlord possession claims were social landlord claims and 32% were private landlord claims.
With rising evictions and repossessions, housing legal aid must be available for those who cannot afford legal help.
Our president Lubna Shuja said: “We have long voiced our concern about the lack of housing legal aid.
“The increasing cost-of-living and rising interest rates have heavily impacted people’s ability to afford their homes, so it is critical people are able to access legal help for their housing issues.
“Yet our research has found that 25.3m people (42%) do not have a local legal aid provider for housing advice.** More and more firms can no longer afford to offer this service, as legal aid rates have decreased by almost 50% since 1996.
“We are pleased the government recently launched the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) which provides free, non-means tested legal advice to vulnerable families facing eviction or repossession. However, without providers there to do the work this service will not be effective.
“The government has been unable to find providers for their HLPAS scheme in several major cities, notably Liverpool and Hull.***
“Without easy access to providers, the scheme does little to help people at risk of losing their homes. And with increasing demand, the few providers remaining will not have the capacity to take on new clients.
“Furthermore, families can only access this early legal advice service once a landlord or mortgage lender has given notice of intention to pursue repossession – leaving many already on the backfoot and in desperate need of advice.
“It is unacceptable that housing legal aid is not available for many people facing eviction or repossession. There must be immediate investment in housing legal aid to help people stay in their homes.”
Notes to editors
- *Statistics taken from Mortgage and Landlord Possession Statistics: April to June 2023
- ** View our Housing Legal Aid Desert Map
- *** Even when providers for the HLPAS scheme are available, they are often out of the way. The closest provider in Hull is 16 miles, the next is 32 miles and the rest are located 40-50 miles away. Figures taken from the Legal Aid Agency tool to find a legal aid advisor in your region
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