Housing Loss Preventing Advice Service
“From Tuesday 1 August 2023, the new Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) commences across England and Wales.
The service provides:
Early legal advice (legal help) on housing, debt and welfare benefits issues to those at risk of possession proceedings and loss of their home; and
On the day emergency advice and representation at court to those with a listed possession hearing
Individuals who require the above service do not need to meet legal aid financial eligibility rules as the service is means-free but they will be required to show evidence that they are at risk of losing their home.
Why is it happening now?
A total of 101 HLPAS contracts have been awarded to legal aid housing providers and most will begin today.
A small number of contracts will start on the 1 September 2023.”
A list of contract holders can be found at
Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Individuals who may require assistance under the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service can be referred to a contract holder on the above list or directed to
Legal aid for possession proceedings – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service launch – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
This service, meant to help tenants avoid eviction, is being provided at no cost to all, regardless of income, and not only to tenants – but it is also available to homeowners whose home is being repossessed too.
This is like sticking a plaster onto your chest to prevent a heart attack.
The sad state of affairs in the private rented sector at the moment is that many landlords are forced to evict good tenants because they need to sell their rented properties, largely because they are making a loss because of Section 24 (loss of loan interest tax relief) and because of the many increases in interest rates. The huge increase in the number of Selective and Additional Licensing schemes which have been introduced recently exacerbated an already difficult situation and the results of all this is the shortage of homes and fear of eviction that is now prevalent in the private rented sector.
Last month I wrote about my experience when supporting friends at two eviction cases and the lessons to be learned here:
In April I covered how to be prepared to evict a tenant in case you need to here:
Please read these articles because there are now even more potholes in an already difficult road and be prepared for a long haul before you are granted possession of your property even where you have done everything right and the law is “technically” on your side.
As landlords, we are more than aware of the importance of the private provision of homes in this country and most landlords are reluctant to give up and sell their investment properties. But if you do reach the decision to sell speak to your tenants and explain. Tenants may be angry or upset but I read a horrible post on my Facebook group last week where the tenant was asking for advice because a For Sale board had appeared in the front garden and no one had spoken to her about selling or ending her tenancy. She has children in local schools and has lived in the property, paying rent in full and on time for several years, you can imagine how fearful she was when she said that it was impossible to find a home locally. It was suggested that perhaps the landlord was hoping to sell to another landlord who would continue to rent to this family, and I really hope this is the case but that was not a reason for not speaking to this tenant.
Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service HLPAS
- Government-funded legal advice and representation (legal aid) is available to anyone facing possession proceedings.
- Help is available from the moment you receive written notice that someone is seeking the possession of your home. This might be an email from your landlord or a letter from a creditor.
- A housing expert (funded by the government) will work with you to identify what may be causing someone to seek possession of your home and recommend potential solutions. For example, they may be able to provide legal advice on matters such as:
- illegal eviction
- disrepair and other problems with housing conditions
- rent arrears
- mortgage arrears
- welfare benefits payments
In the event you are unable to resolve matters and you are asked to attend a court hearing, a housing adviser can also provide free legal advice and representation at the court. Please arrive at least 30 minutes before your hearing and speak to the court usher and they will direct you to the adviser.”
From my experience, these solicitors are focused on anything that can avoid that hearing ending in eviction, even where the tenant is totally in the wrong and has disobeyed a previous court order.
I went to the second hearing of Case 2 at the link above.
The tenant disobeyed the court order to pay his rent the day after the last hearing and an extra £20 towards the arrears and at the time of the second hearing had not paid another penny. He had harassed the landlord with threats and lies, he did not provide evidence of disrepair that had been alleged in the last hearing and was the reason why the Judge gave him time to prepare this defence. In a nutshell, he turned up brazen and expected, according to one of his nasty texts, to be given a further 42 days of rent-free living, followed by weeks before the bailiff would be available – he had obviously found out that the wait for a bailiff is growing all the time because of the pressure of cases they are asked to attend.
On the day a very competent legal aid solicitor spoke to him, I was watching from afar and I could see by her body language that she was going through the motions but that she had given up trying to help this tenant who had disobeyed the judge and had not provided the evidence to support his allegations of disrepair. I was right. She did try to get him 28 days, but she could not defend him and the judge gave him 7 days to move out, though he made it clear that he could have given him 24 hours. This is the judge making him aware: “Don’t waste court time and don’t disrespect the law”. A good result but this should have happened at the first hearing.
It didn’t end there the tenant continued to send nasty messages and to say that he would wait for the bailiff, but the landlord ignored him and eventually he moved out the day following the date that the judge had ordered him to, saving the landlord the expense of the bailiff and the stress of dealing with the tenant.
Unfortunately, tenants who are subjected to eviction are all treated the same in law until it is firmly established that they are at fault, Innocence until proven guilty in a court of law, “The presumption of Innocence” which is fundamental to the law in this country. This is not going to change and therefore we need to accept that we must be on the ball and even then, that a tenant may not always tell the truth in court.
Under the new system, the solicitors will be looking for any legal reason to prevent the eviction and so it’s important that we have evidence to prove that we have acted in good faith and documented audit trails of our communications with tenants including:
- Dates of inspections and result
- Dates of reported faults and dates of repair
- Emails from other tenants, if it’s a shared property, stating that there is no disrepair
- Documents to show deposit protection and evidence that this was given to the tenant within 30 days of the deposit being paid
These are the easy hits that the legal aid solicitors will be looking for because the first hearing is usually only 10 minutes and by raising one of these issues, they know that the judge will need to schedule another hearing to give them time to look at the issue, this will be a least a month later depending on court time.
Having said all of this, have a mindset that you are in the right and that you should win if you are fully confident that you’ve done everything the law requires. Make sure that you have documents and information with you and that you can easily pull it up and hand it to the judge including:
- The total amount of arrears at the date of the hearing
- Your daily rent rate – the judge will usually award you outstanding rent and will add the day rate to the order to cover any days where the tenant stays passed the date of possession
- travel costs and any legal fees and court costs. Have this itemised list and total prepared
When is a Landlord not a Landlord and who should pay the penalty in a tenancy deposit claim, the landlord or the agent?
Deposit protection or the lack of it has caused problems since it was first introduced in the Housing Act 2004 and now I am going to share with you the findings in this recent case where the landlord believed that the letting agent had protected the tenant’s deposits and was therefore responsible for compensation to the tenants when the deposit was not protected as they should have been
“Background to the Claim
Both the First and Second Claimant rented rooms in a property owned by Mr M I. However, they were provided tenancy agreements naming R Lettings Limited as their landlord and were both asked to pay a deposit of £250 and £300 respectively.
The First Claimant took up occupation on or about 6th February 2021 and she was given an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) by R Lettings for 2 months. At the end of the 2 months, a further AST was entered into followed by a further AST. Upon the expiry of the third AST, the tenancy became a Statutory Periodical tenancy.
The Second Claimant took up occupation on or about 10th May 2021 and she was given an Assured Shorthold Tenancy by R Lettings for 3 months after the expiry of which the tenancy became a Statutory Periodical tenancy.
The claim was issued against R Lettings Limited, named as the Landlord on each of the tenancy agreements given to both Claimants. R Lettings acknowledged the claim stating that as the tenancy agreements were renewed and they did not take separate deposits for each tenancy, only one deposit at the outset, there was only one claim for each claimant and that their failure to protect the deposit was an error which they had rectified by protecting the deposit, albeit late.”
The landlord, in this case, tried to sack the letting agent and get the tenants to pay a new agent during the proceedings, the tenants did not pay the new agent and their solicitors asked for evidence that the landlord actually owned the property. When this evidence was provided the landlord’s name was added to the claim as the second defendant.
District Judge Sterlini found that both the Landlord and Agent were responsible in terms of the agent for not returning the deposit and the landlord for not ensuring that the deposit was protected.
Judgment given as follows:
Judgments for the 1st Claimant against the 1st Defendant for £250 (being the deposit)
Judgments for the 1st Claimant against the 2nd Defendant for £3,000
Judgments for the 2nd Claimant against the 1st Defendant for £300 (being the deposit)
Judgment for the 2nd Claimant against the 2nd Defendant for £1,800
All the above sums are to be paid by 4.00 pm 25 January 2023
1st and 2nd Defendant shall pay the costs of the 1st Claimant and the 2nd Claimant to be subject to detailed assessment if not agreed”
Full details here:
The reason that I am sharing this case is to emphasise that the landlord is always responsible and cannot devolve his/her legal responsibility to an agent who is only working on behalf of that landlord. “I thought that the agent had done this” is not an acceptable excuse.
Note that the deposits in this case were only £250 and £300 (total £550) and yet the eventual cost of the oversite cost the landlord and agent a grand total of £5,350 plus costs and the landlord paid the lion’s share, the compensation, despite the agent having collected the deposit and set up the tenancies. To find out why the compensation payments were considerably more than 3 times the deposits (£1,650) you need to read the details of the case and bear this in mind when taking a deposit from a tenant. Not only does not protecting the deposit and serving the correct documents on the tenant at the correct time mean that it could cost you a lot of money it could also leave you unable to remove a tenant because you cannot serve a valid section 21 and legal aid solicitors will also bring it up in defence of a section 8.
Finally, if you have disrepair in your property, deal with it before you attempt to evict a tenant because this will be another factor for their defence, It may not prevent the eventual eviction if you have a strong case but it will undoubtedly delay it because judges are not given time to deal with disrepair at the first hearing. As in the case I sat in on the tenant can allege disrepair with no evidence or fact, but the point is to buy more time and that is what we must avoid.
If you feel that you need the support of an Eviction Specialist remember that only a qualified solicitor is allowed to speak on your behalf in court or to give you legal advice and before entrusting someone to act on your behalf check them out with other landlords for whom they have acted, don’t just assume that they know what they are doing because many do not.