Tenants could get guidance on debt and welfare benefits before eviction or repossession court hearings as part of new proposals being considered by the government.
It has launched a consultation into a new approach to delivering legal aid that would provide holistic advice to those most in need.
The current Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, which offers free on-the-day legal advice to anyone in danger of being evicted or having their property repossessed, would become the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service, incorporating both the existing service and representation at court but also early legal advice before court.
Other key changes include contracts for individual courts rather than larger geographical areas and allowing providers to claim for the court duty fee in addition to a legal help fee for follow on work.
Some of the proposals were part of an abandoned consultation due to the Covid pandemic which been well-received by legal aid providers and other stakeholders, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The Law Society of England and Wales says it would welcome non-means tested legal advice for those facing repossession to be available prior to court hearings and for that advice to include guidance on welfare benefits and debt.
However, vice president Lubna Shuja (pictured) adds: “There are serious sustainability issues in legal aid housing, as proven by the extent of the housing legal aid deserts. Those facing repossession will not be able to access vital legal advice if there is no provider in their area. Considerable investment is still needed to tackle these issues.”
The eight-week consultation ends on 20th January.