Tender for housing legal aid 2023: some points to consider before bidding
The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) will replace the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS) from 1 August 2023.
Under the new scheme, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is extending court duty scheme work to include early legal advice on housing, welfare benefits and debt from the point where the landlord or mortgage lender issues a notice of intention to repossess.
This work will be non-means and non-merits tested.
We’re pleased that welfare benefits and debt work has been brought back into scope for legal aid provided under HLPAS, having been largely removed from scope in 2013.
However, providers should consider their obligations under the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Codes of Conduct before bidding for debt or welfare benefits work.
How to bid for a HLPAS contract
The tender closes at midday on 19 December 2022.
You’ll need to bid using the LAA’s eTendering system.
Who can apply
The tender is open to:
- current providers in the housing and debt category who meet the tender requirements
- new entrants who would also need to apply for a standard housing and debt contract to perform HLPAS work
Bidding without a welfare benefits and debt specialist
The LAA is aware that specialist knowledge of welfare benefits and (non-mortgage) debt within the legal aid sector has significantly declined since 2013.
As a result, there will be no specific contractual legal competence standard for supervisors for welfare benefits and (non-mortgage) debt work undertaken under HLPAS.
Simply meeting the LAA contractual requirements will not necessarily mean that providers are compliant with the SRA rules on service and competence.
If you’re a provider considering a bid to offer HLPAS advice, and you do not have a welfare benefits and debt specialist, you should carefully consider your service and competence obligations under:
- section 3 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, and
- section 4 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms
As specialist welfare benefits and debt work will be new areas for many, providers should also check this work will be covered by their professional indemnity insurance.