Article written by Demi Akande
A new government-funded legal advice and representation service formed in early August to support tenants and homeowners at risk of being made homeless. The Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) is available to anyone facing possession proceedings and offers expert legal advice that is free to tenants and homeowners who have received written correspondence from their landlord or creditor requesting possession of their home. The scheme does not request disclosure of your financial circumstances and individuals who use this service are not required to meet legal aid financial eligibility requirements. The HLPAS is a non-means tested scheme. However, the scheme expects individuals to evidence that they are at risk of losing their home.
The Housing Loss Preventions Advise Service provides:
The in court duty scheme also offers free legal advice to anyone in danger of eviction or having property repossessed.
The HLPAS offers legal help and advice in person and remotely to individuals at risk of possession proceedings and loss of their home due to housing matters, debt matters and welfare benefit matters.
In order to be eligible for this legal advice service, written evidence of a risk of possession proceedings or loss of home is mandatory for support in the areas of Housing, Debt and Welfare Benefits. Suitable forms of evidence to demonstrate possession or loss of home could include:
(a) Letter or notice from a landlord (which may include a family member) where an informal licence exists;
(b) Notice to quit from a landlord where a renting arrangement lacks security of tenure;
(c) Letter before action as required by the Rent Arrears Pre-Action Protocol For Possession Claims or Home Purchase Plan Arrears regarding residential property;
(d) Notice seeking possession served by the landlord under the Housing Act 1985,1988 and 1996;
(f) Letter from the court notifying the Client that possession proceedings have been issued.
The HLPAS in court duty scheme covers possession proceedings that fall within the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
An individual can expect to receive on the day emergency advise and advocacy for:
(a) Private rented possession proceedings;
(b) Public/registered social landlord rented possession proceedings;
(c) Mortgage possession proceedings;
(d) Applications to stay/suspend execution of warrants of possession;
(e) Clients with charging orders relating to property whereby the client is at immediate risk of losing their home through a forced sale.
This support is available across all courts in England and Wales where the above possession proceedings are listed, except where a court offers independent funding arrangements. The individual must have a relevant listed hearing, including a review hearing and a substantive hearing, as well as any hearing that is adjourned. An individual with a listed hearing can expect to receive legal advice under the HPLAS In Court Duty scheme regardless of their financial circumstances. Moreover, clients can be assisted repeatedly if there is a genuine need, where an individual with a review hearing can be advised at the substantive hearing and again at any further substantive hearing where the case has been previously adjourned.
This service is a great initiative as it enables anyone at risk of losing their home to get free legal advice and representation in court, regardless of their financial circumstances.