LEGAL EAGLE: Can I get legal aid for eviction battle?

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Q I rent my house from a Housing Association. They have served me with a notice seeking possession a while ago and have now issued possession proceedings because of allegations of anti-social behaviour. The Court hearing is in a week’s time. I have nowhere to go and I cannot afford a solicitor.

A While there have been legal aid cuts, legal aid is still available for many housing matters and so long as you qualify financially it may be available in this scenario, or indeed if your landlord was seeking to evict you because of rent arrears. You should seek advice immediately.

 Legal aid is still available to cover advice on notices seeking possession, possession proceedings and warrants of eviction, as well as unlawful eviction, homelessness, some disrepair matters where there is a serious risk of harm to health or safety and finally and housing injunction matters.

 It is available to people with private landlords, and to council and housing association tenants as well as people who are homeless.

 Your landlord has to follow the correct procedure if they wish to evict you and you should seek advice to check that the notice you were served with is valid. If it is not then you would have a defence to the proceedings.

 Legal Aid can cover the cost of a solicitor checking your landlord has followed the correct procedure and to represent you in the Court proceedings if there is a defence.

 It is very important that you attend the first court hearing, and we recommend you are legally represented. If you do not attend then your landlord will get their possession order.

 If you deny the allegations, or if there are other good reasons why it would not be reasonable to evict you then at that first hearing the Court will set a time table to give you the opportunity to file a defence and then evidence to support what you say, and will subsequently set a date for a trial . Your solicitor can help you by preparing your case and ensuring you are represented at the 
trial.

 If you are evicted and so are then made homeless then you should also contact your Local Authority and ask for assistance.

 The amount of help the Local Authority has to give you will depend on your circumstances and again legal aid can cover the cost of legal advice on your situation and assistance in challenging the Local Authority’s decision if you think it is wrong.