Can I get Legal Aid for a legal housing disrepair claim?
Posted on 5th October 2018
Many people throughout the country are living in rented properties that are in poor condition. Common complaints include damp and mould, broken heating or windows, faulty plumbing or electrics. If you find yourself in such a position you should first report this to your landlord, if after a reasonable period of time they have still not carried out repairs, you may wish to consider taking further action.
Taking legal action against your landlord for disrepair may seem daunting but there is assistance available. It is possible in some circumstances to claim Legal Aid to assist with taking action on disrepair.
Below sets out the Eligibility Criteria:
Scope and Merits of your case
Legal aid for disrepair cases is limited to only those cases relating to the removal or reduction of a serious risk of harm to the health or safety of the occupiers. It is also limited to attempts to remove or reduce that risk and therefore does not cover a claim for damages. There is an exception to this, but only where the landlord brings a claim against you, funding for these cases are dealt with separately and comes with hazards of its own.
Therefore to actually bring a claim for disrepair using representation paid for, under legal aid, you will need to establish that there is a serious risk of harm to you or your family caused by the disrepair. If you believe your health is affected by the condition of the property, it is important that you make your GP aware of the conditions that you are living in and the effect that this is having on you. The health problems can be physical or mental. For instance, if you have damp in your home and you suffer from asthma, this may meet the threshold.
You will also need to establish that your case has more than a 50% chance of achieving your desired outcome (i.e. forcing your landlord to deal with the hazard to health).
Even if you are able to establish an impact on your health you will then need to show that you meet the financial test for eligibility. Legal aid in civil cases such as disrepair is limited to those who are on a low income, a person who is employed can be on a low income and someone who is on a ‘passported’ benefit such as Universal Credit will always qualify.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Legal Aid funding for Housing disrepair legal action.
The advantage of Legal Aid funding is that the Legal Aid agency will cover the costs of bringing the claim, such as surveyors fees and court fees. There is also an inherent risk in any litigation of orders to pay your opponents legal costs if any part of your claim fails, the legal aid agency offers you some limited protection against these costs orders.
A significant drawback of legal aid funding for making a disrepair claim is that it will not cover legal representation to pursue a claim for damages. This means that even if you have suffered stress, loss and inconvenience over many years, you will not be able to seek compensation under legal aid funding for your case. As a result, if you have experienced disrepair over a number of years or significant losses, such as damage to personal possessions, you may wish to consider an alternative way of funding legal representation to bring your claim for damages as well. You might do this by representing yourself through the small claims court (designed for claims under £10,000) or by looking into “no-win no-fee” arrangements as explained below.
An alternative to Legal Aid is a conditional fee agreement ‘No-win No-fee Agreement’
An alternative to seeking legal aid funding is to proceed under a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) or ‘no-win no-fee’ agreement. The terms of such agreements vary but the main advantage of most agreements is that you will be able to pursue a standalone claim for damages (if they are estimated at above £10,000), which cannot be pursued under legal aid funding. This will allow you to access some compensation for the stress, loss and inconvenience suffered due to the disrepair in the property. Additionally, you do not need to establish a risk to health and do not need to be on a low income. Many firms also provide protection against adverse costs orders or indemnity insurance as part of the contract.
Should you require advice or assistance from a housing disrepair solicitor to deal with your disrepair matter, you should discuss with them the various funding options that may be available for your case to determine which would be most suitable for your circumstances. If you would like to speak to one of our specialist housing solicitors contact is on 0800 437 0322 or request that one of the team call you back online.