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Too many tenants facing eviction lack access to legal aid, say lawyers

legal aid evictions

The government’s failure to increase housing legal aid has weakened the justice system and robbed those who face eviction and repossession of help, warns the Law Society of England and Wales.

Quarterly statistics from the Ministry of Justice for October to December 2023 show that mortgage possession claims increased by 39% and landlord possession claims increased by 14% compared with the same quarter in the previous year – up from 20,457 to 23,382.

All landlord possession actions, including eviction orders, have increased compared with the same quarter in 2022; 31% of all landlord possession claims were private landlord claims.

Losing home

Law Society vice president Richard Atkinson (pictured) says the rising number of evictions and repossessions remains a significant worry during the cost-of-living crisis when many people are struggling with rent and mortgage payments. For those at risk of losing their home, access to housing legal aid becomes vital.

“Yet our research has found that 25.3 million people (42%) do not have a local legal aid provider for housing advice,” explains Atkinson. “More and more firms can no longer afford to offer this service, as legal aid rates have decreased by almost 50% since 1996.”

It means that those on low incomes can’t receive the advice they are legally entitled to, while those who are unable to access legal aid will be forced to represent themselves, putting additional pressure on the courts and exacerbating court delays.

“We urge the UK government to immediately invest in housing legal aid to ensure that people are able to access the legal help needed to stay in their homes,” he adds.

The government data also reveals that the median average time from claim to landlord repossession has increased to 23.7 weeks, up from 21.7 weeks in the same period in 2022.

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