From Tuesday 1st August 2023, the new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) commenced in England and Wales.
The HLPAS provides early legal advice on housing, debt, and welfare benefits issues to those at risk of possession proceedings and loss of their home; and the service also provides on-the-day emergency advice and representation at court to those with a listed possession hearing.
Individuals who sign up for the service do not need to meet legal aid financial requirements as the service is free, but they do need to provide evidence that they are going to lose their home.
Tenants will have to show the adviser written evidence of their risk of the landlord pursuing possession of the property.
Evidence of possession or loss of homes could include:
- Letter or notice from a landlord
- Letter before action under the pre-action protocols
- Letter from the court notifying the person that possession proceedings have been issued
We are pleased to see that the scheme covers early legal advice before the court, so we suggest landlords seek legal representation themselves too at these early stages to assist to settle before the court.
If the dispute cannot be settled at the early stages, then we are likely to see an increase in tenants being represented at hearings and cases becoming defended through the courts.
If a claim does proceed to court, then landlords need to be aware that one small error in their paperwork could result in a claim being struck out and liability for the landlord to pay the tenant’s legal costs. These costs can be in the region of £10,000-£15,000 for a full-day trial.
It is therefore incredibly important that all paperwork is spot on, and we recommend that landlords instruct solicitors to handle the dispute on their behalf to minimise the risk of an adverse costs order as much as possible.
If you have any queries regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact our legal partners Woodstock Legal Services on firstname.lastname@example.org.