Housing law is complex and time-consuming, most solicitors will no longer be able to afford to take on housing issues. Legal aid for housing and homelessness cases – already unavailable in some parts of the country – is set to be ended.
Poor and vulnerable tenants will lose the chance to take their landlords to court when new government rules on legal costs come into force next year, experts are warning. The result is that even tenants who have been illegally evicted and lost their possessions, or who are living in dangerous conditions such as extremely damp properties which damage their health, will have no recourse to justice. Only those who can afford to bear the legal costs themselves will be able to pursue such a case.
Eleanor Solomon, a partner and housing law specialist at Anthony Gold Solicitors, described the policy on costs as “extremely damaging”. She said: “Legal cases are funded for tenants through legal aid or no win, no fee: both models rely on the rule in English law that the loser pays the winner’s costs. [Now] it’s either not financially viable, or you wouldn’t be able to do that work properly, which wouldn’t be acting in the best interest of the client.”
The new rules on fixed recoverable costs are set to come into force in April 2023. Housing policy experts and solicitors working in the field say the measure poses an “existential threat” to housing justice.
The government is seeking to strengthen tenants’ rights through the renters’ reform bill but campaigners have warned that there is no point giving tenants new rights while also taking away the legal support they need to exercise them.