While met with scepticism in some corners of the rental industry, the benefits of early intervention in the case of rental arrears and financial problems are well established – including in a meta-analysis of peer reviewed studies.
With homelessness impacting more than 200,000 people in England alone, and post-pandemic evictions still rising, central government is conducting a consultation (set to end on the 20th January 2022) on a proposed new model for delivering housing possession legal aid.
What the consultation is about
Aiming to preserve and broaden the ability for tenants to receive housing possession legal aid, the consultation is seeking to address the sustainability of the scheme. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar QC outlines the consultation as follows:
The key proposals in the consultation are:
- Allowing providers to claim for the court duty fee in addition to a Legal Help fee.
- Contracts to shift from larger geographical areas to individual courts.
- Expanding the legal aid HLPAS providers can offer to individuals facing procession proceedings.
- Remodelling and rebranding the current scheme, incorporating the existing service and adding early legal advice before court, become a new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS).
- The introduction of a set attendance fee for all schemes, replacing the existing nil session payment.
The consultation has received provisional backing from The Law Society of England and Wales, and Society President I. Stephanie Boyce has stated:
What this means for Wirral landlords
While the tightening of rules around eviction were met with disappointment and frustration by landlords, there’s little evidence to suggest it has been a major barrier to eviction since the changes were introduced. There are also no suggestions in the consultation documents that would indicate it is intended to make the process any more difficult – instead it seeks to reduce the need for eviction.
With earlier interventions, the consultation is aiming to tackle the root cause of eviction through earlier intervention and, therefore, should be a net positive for landlords who could – depending on the outcome of the consultation – find themselves needing to apply to courts less often for repossession of their property.
What this means for Wirral tenants
At this point, there is no further assistance for tenants – however, the consultation hopes to combat a growing eviction and homelessness problem through the provision of early intervention. For most tenants – as with the Law Society – this is a promising start but will need further augmenting to be most effective. While legal advice is useful, it fails to address the root problem of many evictions and needs to add social intervention and debt advice before it can genuinely be considered a step forward for tenants.
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