Sara Stephens and the legal aid working group have prepared a guide for HLPA members on legal aid for housing matters from 1 April 2013, covering scope, guidance and procedure.
The Guide can be found on the new ‘guides’ page in the members area.
The password for HLPA members to access the members area of the website will be changing on 20 April 2013.
The new password will be emailed to all 2013 members very shortly. Please ensure that the HLPA administrator has email addresses for all people in your organisation included in your membership.
After a long and sustained effort by HLPA, Shelter, ASA and LAPG, the MoJ has now concluded its review into appropriate hourly rates to pay to surveyors in disrepair cases. As you know, the current rate is £50 per hour.
A review of available data, including data supplied by HLPA, showed that the average hourly rate in London is £125 per hour and out of London is £95 per hour. As all experts’ rates (alongside solicitor and counsel’s rates) were to be codified and reduced by 10%, the new guideline hourly rates for surveyors in housing disrepair cases are:
Outside London – up to £85 per hour
In London – up to £115 per hour
The MoJ have advised that it is unlikely that these rates will be codified in a statutory order before April 2013. Therefore, we will need to make applications for prior authority to instruct surveyor’s at these rates.
The MoJ/LSC are going to issue guidance to caseworkers at the LSC so that they are aware of these new guideline rates. They aim to issue this guidance by 1st October 2012.
The MoJ/LSC are also going to advise us as to how best to make the applications for prior authority and whether this can be included as a standard paragraph in APP1s. Again, they should provide this advice by 1st October.
If you wish to instruct someone for more than these hourly rates you will need to justify this in an application for prior authority as before.
We will update members when the guidance or any further information becomes available.
The DCLG has published the new Allocations Code of Guidance for Local Authorities.
The Code of Guidance can be found here [pdf]
The member password for the site has been updated. The new password was circulated to members signed up for 2012 by email on 21 May 2012.
If you have not received the email and are registered for 2012, please contact Chandra_Rao@shelter.org.uk
The 2012 Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year nominations are open.
In this difficult time for legal aid, what better than to celebrate the passion and commitment of those working in legal aid practice? Do you know someone or a practice whose work should be recognised in the LALYs? Then nominate them!
The closing date is 27 April 2012
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill enters report stage in the House of Lords from 5 March. Any further amendments to the bill in the Lords must happen at this stage. It is likely that the social welfare provisions, including housing, will be debated from Monday 5 March onwards.
There is one single housing related amendment tabled, although there are others addressing social welfare more broadly. The amendment is at 75-77 of the marshalled list of amendments. The proposed amendment was drafted by Shelter and supported by HLPA, as well as Citizens Advice, Justice for All, the Law Society, the Law Centres Federation, Young Legal Aid Lawyers, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, the Housing Law Practitioners Association, the Bar Council, the Advice Services Alliance and the Salvation Army.
As drafted, LASPO would mean that benefits work would be out of scope even when involved in defending possession proceedings, thus making a successful resolution of many rent arrears or mortgage possession cases virtually impossible.
This amendment would ensure that, where the loss of the home is threatened due to nonpayment of the rent or mortgage, advice and casework can be provided to address an underlying benefits problem causing or contributing to the arrears.
If you are signed up to the Justice for All “pair up with a peer” scheme please write to them now to ask them to support the HB (and other) amendments. If you’re not with the scheme please contact Lib Dem or cross bench peers to explain why this amendment is so important- you can find out a list of the peers and their parties via this link (select search options as party and group – then search for
lib dem or crossbenchers):
Please send the Shelter briefing document with any communication with peers.
As of April 2012, all Civil and Family Courts will be changing the opening times of the court desks. They will be open only between 11 am and 1 pm.
According to HMCTS:
Court users attending the public counter with routine work that does not require a face to face service provision will be directed to a “drop box” or to the secure court postbox. Work that is considered will fall into this category include:
- -Making a payment
- -Case specific enquiries
- -General enquiries
- -Lodging documents
- -Issuing money claims or other civil applications
- -Issuing divorce proceedings
- -Issuing public or private law proceedings
- -Issuing enforcement proceedings
- -Collecting forms / orders
HMCTS further state that
These arrangements will not affect the courts’ ability to deal throughout the working day with any matters which should be dealt with immediately e.g. injunction applications. We would encourage you to continue to contact the court via e-mail or fax to alert us to any urgent matters so that we can then make the appropriate arrangements.
Urgent applications are defined as an application or document which needs to be issued or seen by a member of the judiciary within 24 hours
It is not clear yet what the arrangments for urgent matters will be. We understand that courts are considering this on an individual basis.
HLPA is concerned by this move, which seems likely to have a particular impact on vulnerable tenants seeking to make urgent applications in person, for stay of eviction or for an injunction in unlawful eviction cases. HLPA members are urged to respond to any local consultations (for the London Region see below) and to seek clarification on arrangments for urgent matters from Court User groups.
As a further detail, Willesden County Court is dealing with urgent matters on an appointment only basis, so we are told people should phone or email for an appointment time, assuming that there are any available.
There is a consultation form for Court users in the London region. The letter and form can be downloaded here [doc]. The consultation ends 2 March 2012, so an urgent reponse needed.
The period for a 10% discount for renewing membership for 2012 has been extended to 29 February 2012. New members or those who are returning to HLPA and were not members in 2011 receive a further 10% discount, 20% overall, if joining before 29 February 2012.
The members password for the website will be changing at the end of February and the new password will be emailed to 2012 members shortly beforehand.
In what is going to be a challenging year, HLPA is working hard to provide members with information, support and training, and also to make HLPA’s voice heard in policy and funding decisions. We hope you can join us.
For the full news archive see here.
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I was one half of a seminar at Garden Court Chambers on Thursday last week on the bedroom tax for housing advisors. The excellent Liz Davies of Garden Court tackled the Court of Appeal decisions in MA & Ors and the benefit cap judgment in SG & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Ors  EWCA Civ 156. Then I tried to cover the 1996 exemption and what was happening in the First Tier Tribunals and Upper Tribunal.
As an overview of what has happened and where we are on the bedroom tax in the tribunals, I thought the notes might … Read the full post
A couple of bits and pieces.
The DWP has issued a circular in the wake of the Court of Appeal judgment in MA & Ors, R (on the application of) v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 13 (Our report coming soon, honest). The Circular, U2/2014, contains what is effectively an admission that it is only the increased DHP funding that is keeping the bedroom tax from being unjustified discrimination:
The Court of Appeal also noted that the DHP scheme was different from the one considered by the Court in Burnip as the fund had been increased, the guidance had been altered and the Secretary of
We reported the ECtHR’s decision on the merits here. There now follows the Chamber’s decision on the claim for just satisfaction. The Applicants’ claim for the breaches of Art 6 and Art 8 broke down into 4 parts: 1. the purchase costs of a new flat (150K Euros); 2. the costs of maintenance and repair of their former accommodation (17K Euros); 3. temporary accommodation costs following eviction (3K Euros); 4. loss of belongings and ancillary costs (20K Euros); 5. non-pecuniary losses (170K Euros).
The Court noted that this was unlike other cases where the State had thwarted claims against private parties and where it was … Read the full post
We have been asked to circulate the following. Given the difficulty people face in accessing housing advice and representation in this area, we are very happy to do so.
This is for anyone who lives or works in the borough of Lewisham.
You will know that the Law Centre closed down some time ago. There is presently substantial unmet need for free legal services in the borough. I’m presently volunteering at a once a month informal advice clinic with some follow up work, mostly referrals to organisations who might be able to provide advice and assistance, especially in areas of law other than housing. My experience from this clinic clearly … Read the full post
I was reading the report from the Senior President of Tribunals (here) and came across some interesting little bits:
(a) The President of the Lands Chamber in his report notes that he now has a power to make a protective costs order in cases where there is a significant disparity in resources between parties – does anyone know where this power comes from? I confess that I’d not heard of it.
(b) The Lands Chamber is moving buildings in 2014 as well – it’ll have a permanent home in the Royal Courts of Justice.
(c) The President of the FTT(PC) notes that her Tribunal received 10,311 “residential property” … Read the full post
The Applicant was separated from his partner in 2006, when their daughter was seven. He then lived in a one bed flat for two years before securing his current two bed property. Relations were amicable and a usual pattern of shared parenting was established with the daughter staying with the applicant and sleep at the property at weekends and over school holidays. This was the applicant’s primary purpose in seeking a two bed flat originally, … Read the full post