Legal aid and free legal advice

Find out how to get free legal advice and representation for housing problems.

What is legal aid?

Legal aid helps people on a low income with free advice and court representation for some legal problems.

Housing problems covered by legal aid include homelessness, possession proceedings and eviction. 

Help through legal aid is available by phone, face-to-face and at court.

Who qualifies for legal aid

Legal aid is means-tested. This means your income and savings have to be below a set level to qualify. 

You qualify automatically if you receive any of these benefits: 

  • universal credit
  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • pension credit guarantee

In all other cases, your income is assessed to see if you qualify. Allowances are made for certain housing, employment and childcare costs.

Check if you can get legal aid on

You won't usually qualify if:

  • your total monthly income before tax is over £2657
  • you have savings or assets of £8000 or more
  • your home is worth more than £208,000 (or £308,000 if you're facing mortgage repossession)

Civil Legal Advice national helpline

You can get legal advice over the phone if you:

Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345

Ask the service to call you back if you don't want to pay for the call. 

An operator will check that your problem is covered by legal aid and that you qualify financially. You'll then be put through to a legal adviser.

Your legal adviser can give phone advice and provide written representations if you need help with your landlord, the council or at court.

If you're facing mortgage repossession, you can only get legal aid over the phone at first. The adviser will decide if you need face-to-face advice or representation.

If you're homeless or facing eviction from rented accommodation, you can choose whether to get legal aid over the phone or from a local face-to-face service.

Face-to-face advice in your area

Face-to-face advice is provided by different organisations including:

If you can't find a local adviser, Civil Legal Advice may be able to find you one.  

Some advice agencies will give free advice even if you don't qualify for legal aid so it's worth checking.

Court duty schemes

You might be able to get advice and representation at court from a duty adviser if you've been unable to get legal advice before the hearing and you're facing:

  • eviction for rent arrears
  • repossession because of mortgage arrears

Because of the emergency nature of the schemes, the usual legal aid qualifying rules don't apply and you can get advice regardless of your income. 

You should arrive at court at least an hour before your hearing and ask for the court duty adviser. 

It's best to get advice and representation before a court hearing if you can. A duty adviser won't have much time to look at you case and not all courts have a scheme. 

Check if there's a court duty scheme at your local court:

Find contact details for your court on

If you can't get legal aid for your problem

You won't be able to get legal aid for your problem if:

  • it's not covered by the legal aid scheme
  • your income or assets are too high
  • you don't have a strong case 

You might still be able to get free advice in the following ways:

Legal advice clinics

LawWorks network provides free initial advice on a variety of areas of law including housing, benefits, debt, employment and consumer issues. 

The clinics are often run by university law students supervised by a solicitor. 

Search for a legal advice clinic on LawWorks

Conditional fee agreements

A lawyer helps with your case and represents you and you pay a fee from your compensation if you win. It is often described as 'no win no fee'.    

You might be able to find a lawyer prepared to act on a 'no win no fee' basis in disrepair claims or tenancy deposit compensation claims against your landlord.

National helplines

Lots of organisations provide advice on various legal problems over the phone: 

Check the LawWorks website for specialist helplines.

You can sometimes get free legal help through your trade union if you're a member.

Going to court without legal representation

Advice Now have lots of information about going to court without a lawyer.

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person

Last updated 26 June 2018 | © Shelter

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