HLPA welcomes the announcement from the MoJ today that new evictions and new possession proceedings are to be halted during the crisis.
However more needs to be done to protect our members and our clients. HLPA members are contracted to deliver advice and representation on housing possession duty days in county courts up and down the country. The conditions under which this is undertaken varies from court to court and advisers can see up to 20 or even 25 clients in a day, sometimes in tiny cramped designated rooms, sometimes in court waiting rooms. They are handling clients’ documents and have contact with any number of representatives for landlords as well as court staff. They are in and out of the court room all day.
This represents an unacceptable risk to our members, to clients, to landlord representatives and to court staff. The same risks that have led to criminal trials being stopped are present and even exceeded on housing possession court duty sessions.
At the same time it is surely in the public interest that people are not evicted from their homes, are not forced to seek new accommodation, are not obliged to view properties or allow viewings of their home to take place, and as in the worst cases are not made homeless.
The Court Services and Ministry of Justice should immediately:
• Place an automatic moratorium on all ongoing residential housing possession cases and evictions, with all such matters stayed for a specified period of time with any outstanding eviction dates voided
• Agree payments of average fixed amounts to suppliers delivering duty advice to ensure their sustainability during this period and to ensure they are in place to take up the duty sessions when the moratorium is lifted