New free legal advice for people facing eviction or repossession

A new government-backed scheme providing free legal advice to help 38,000 people a year at risk of losing their home has launched this month.

The advice will be available from the moment a written notice is received by a tenant or homeowner, which could be in the form of an email from a landlord or letter from a mortgage provider. They will also be able to have legal representation in court, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Legal support for housing, debt and welfare benefit matters will help with the wider issues individuals at risk of losing their home may face. It is part of an extra £10 million a year being pumped into housing legal aid by the government.

Justice Minister Lord Bellamy said:

“Having access to the right legal advice at the earliest point possible is crucial for those who face losing their home, to ensure they have the support and help they need.

We are creating this new service so that fewer people lose their home and can get help with their finances and resolve issues before they escalate.”

While many issues can be resolved with the help of free legal advice, government-funded legal representation will also be offered on the day of hearings for cases that do reach the courts.

The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service supports wider government work to reduce homelessness and improve the private rented sector for responsible renters and good faith landlords through the Renters’ (Reform) Bill.

Changes under the Bill, which is going through Parliament, will abolish the use of “no-fault” evictions, empowering renters to challenge poor landlords without fear of losing their home.

Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja said:

“In principle we support the HLPAS.

It is also a welcome recognition of the value of early advice and the need to address a client’s problems holistically. 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, we have continuing concerns as to whether the system will be effective, and about the increasing legal aid advice deserts caused by long-term underfunding of the system. The scheme is provided by solicitors and therefore contingent on the number of solicitors able to do the work. With rising legal aid advice deserts, there are fewer and fewer legal aid practitioners able to give legal advice. “

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