What is legal aid?
Legal aid is a scheme which helps with the cost of legal advice and representation in court.
Whether you get help depends on your financial situation and the type of case.
Legal aid can help with your housing situation. It can also cover family mediation, legal paperwork and representation in court. Legal advice is available by telephone, email or face-to-face.
You may have to pay something towards your legal costs, depending on your financial situation.
Eligibility for legal aid
You can only get legal aid if all of the following apply:
- you are on a low income or receive certain benefits
- you don't have much money in savings, investments or property (in May 2014 the savings limit was £8,000)
- your housing issue is covered by legal aid
- you have a good chance of winning the case
Use the Gov.uk legal aid eligibility calculator to check if you are likely to qualify for legal aid.
Cases legal aid can help with
Legal aid is only available for specific types of case. Shelter's legal aid advisers say the most common relating to housing are when:
- you are homeless and the council refuses to assist you, legal aid can help you challenge their decision.
- you are being evicted, legal aid can help you take court action against it.
- your landlord is refusing to remedy serious disrepair which is putting the health or safety of you or your family at risk
- the council or landlord has taken action against you for antisocial behaviour
- you are being harassed by a private landlord or they are threatening to evict you illegally
- you are appealing a tribunal decision about your benefit entitlement
How to apply for legal aid
You can apply in the following ways:
- Contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. The lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 12.30pm. Calls cost 4p per minute from a BT land line (more from a mobile)
- Text 'legalaid' and your name to 80010. An adviser will call you back within 24 hours
- Use the Civil Legal Advice callback service to ask that an adviser calls you back
- Visit a local advice centre
- Call Shelter's London advice line on 0344 515 1540 for free housing advice in any London borough.
When you call Civil Legal Advice, you are asked questions to see if you are eligible. You are then allocated to an adviser. You can ask to be put through to a Shelter adviser if you want.
What to do if you are not eligible for legal aid
There are a number of organisations that provide free legal advice such as Shelter, Citizen's Advice and Law Centres.
Use our advice services directory to find your nearest Shelter or Citizen's Advice.
Law Centres provide free legal advice for local people who cannot afford it. Find your nearest Law Centre.
Free help from lawyers
Some solicitors offer their services free of charge to people who can't get legal aid and can't afford to pay for legal help. This is called 'pro bono' work.
LawWorks provides free legal help from solicitors.
The Bar Pro Bono Unit provides free legal help and representations in court and tribunal cases from volunteer barristers. You need to be referred for help from a solicitor or advice service.
What is the difference between a lawyer, solicitor and barrister?
A lawyer is the general term for either a solicitor or a barrister. A solicitor is usually the first person that a member of the public will go to with a legal problem. They will advise and represent a client in a county court. A solicitor might involve a barrister if the case is very complex or if the client needs representation in a higher court.