Housing - legal advice and support: Outline
County court housing advice and representation schemes aim to
provide free, independent and confidential advice and representation to
homeowners and tenants attending hearings in possession proceedings
brought on grounds of arrears, who either have not previously obtained
advice and/or are without legal representation.
Most schemes have been initiated by advice agencies and/or solicitors in private practice who attend court on a voluntary basis, but the impetus for some has come from the courts.
The way in which schemes are organised varies considerably. The main distinctions are:
- some deal with either mortgage or rent cases - others with both
- activities at court are commonly limited to dealing with repossession cases, but some also provide help with other matters, e.g. debt problems unrelated to housing
- most involve duty advisers attending court on a rota basis on set days when cases are listed for hearing - only a few have a permanent or daily presence at court
- some are staffed by advisers from only one advice agency, others by advisers from several agencies, including local solicitors' firms
As well as performing their core role, these schemes are well placed to identify other advice needs which might otherwise not be met. Few can meet clients' every need for advice, but duty advisers are often able to make referrals to agencies which can.