A new government-backed scheme providing free legal advice to help 38,000 people a year at risk of losing their home launches today (1 August).
People facing eviction or repossession in England and Wales will be able to receive expert legal advice free of charge, helping them to keep their homes and avoid lengthy, costly court proceedings.
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.
This wrap-around care is expected to help tens of thousands of families a year to keep their homes, improve their finances and gain access to support to improve their health and life prospects.
A dedicated webpage has launched today for anyone looking to access the free advice.
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.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Felicity Buchan, said:
“I want to ensure we are giving households all the help and support they need to stay in their homes.
That is why we are spending £1 billion through the Homelessness Prevention Grant which can be used to work with landlords to prevent evictions. At the same time our Renters (Reform) Bill will give tenants more security in their homes by abolishing Section-21 ‘no fault’ evictions.
This new service allows us to go even further and ensure tenants are getting the right legal help and support – all part of our wider work to prevent homelessness before it occurs.”
Funding legal support in the early stages of a housing dispute, also helps to reduce the volume of cases going through the courts, freeing up crucial judicial capacity as well as time and money for those involved.
Rhys Moore, Executive Director of Public Impact at the National Housing Federation, said:
“It’s positive to see the government providing legal support for people facing eviction or repossession which is particularly important in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Access to advice and support as early as possible is crucial to helping people navigate the legal system at a time of immense stress and difficulty. Alongside this, we welcome the government’s commitment to end no fault evictions and improve security for people living in private rented homes.”
Further information on the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service can be found on GOV.UK.