Legal aid needed as evictions rise

Evictions and repossessions are on the rise – as the Law Society of England and Wales warned that housing legal aid must be made available to tenants in need.

Quarterly statistics from the Ministry of Justice for October to December 2023, show that mortgage possession claims increased by 39% and landlord possessions (evictions) increased by 14% compared to the same quarter last year.

Richard Atkinson, vice president of the Law Society, said: “The rising number of evictions and repossessions remains a significant worry, as we are deeply concerned about the state of the housing legal aid system.

“With the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates, many 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. More and more firms can no longer afford to offer this service, as legal aid rates have decreased by almost 50% since 1996.

“This means that those on low incomes cannot receive the advice they are legally entitled to. Furthermore, those who are unable to access legal aid will be forced to represent themselves, which will place additional pressure on the courts and exacerbate court delays.

“The government’s failure to increase housing legal aid has weakened the justice system and robbed those who face evictions and repossessions of assistance which may enable them to avoid becoming homeless.

“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.”

All landlord possession actions, including eviction orders, have increased compared to the same quarter in 2022.

Some 36% of all landlord possession claims were social landlord claims and 31% were private landlord claims.