Homeowners and renters at risk of eviction to receive free legal advice under new reforms

housing estate homes

Free legal advice will be provided to help the 38,000 people a year who are at risk of losing their homes as the government looks to bolster rights for tenants and homeowners.

The new government-backed scheme launches today in England and Wales – and is aimed at those facing either eviction or repossession.

The advice, which will be free of charge, will be available once a tenant or homeowner receives a written notice, such as an email from a landlord or a letter from a mortgage provider.

The support is part of an extra £10m a year that is being put aside for housing legal aid, the Ministry of Justice said.

Those affected will also be able to receive legal representation in court, regardless of their financial situation. Government-funded legal representation will also be offered on the day of hearings for cases that do reach court.

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.”

Felicity Buchan, the minister for housing and homelessness, said: “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.”

The move was welcomed by the National Housing Federation, which said legal support was “particularly important in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis”.

Rhys Moore, executive director of public impact at the National Housing Federation, said: “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.

The launch of the new service comes as recent statistics laid bare the hardship faced by households who are struggling with the rising cost of living.

Government data released last week showed 104,510 households were in temporary accommodation to the end of March this year – the largest figure in the 25 years since the data started being recorded.

The total number of children in temporary accommodation reached its highest level since records for that measure began in 2004 – at 131,370.

Households needing assistance from local authorities because they were homeless or had been threatened with homelessness by March this year also rose 5.7% on the same period last year, to 83,240.

The government has been under pressure over the Renters (Reform) Bill, which had its first reading in May but has not been given a date for a second reading.

Under the bill, no fault evictions – which allow landlords to take back possession from tenants without giving a reason – would be banned, a proposal that has been supported by campaigners.

Homelessness charity Crisis welcomed the latest government move, but urged politicians to “work together to address the main issues at hand to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place”.

Francesca Albanese, the charity’s director of policy and social change, said: “With rents and living costs continuing to increase at pace and housing benefit frozen for three years, thousands of people simply cannot afford to keep a roof over their head.

“We urgently need the Renters Reform Bill and investment in housing benefit to protect people at risk of losing their home.

“Failure to do so will see thousands more households facing the uncertainty of eviction and be at risk of homelessness.”

Source:  Sky News news.sky.com

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