This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Legal Representation

This content applies to England & Wales

Legal Representation covers solicitor's representation for a party to proceedings or for a person who is contemplating taking proceedings.

It includes litigation, advocacy, steps preliminary or incidental to proceedings.

Application process

An application to the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is made by the solicitor on behalf of the client. If the LAA authorises funding, it will grant a certificate determining the scope of the representation required and a maximum amount that it will pay on behalf of the client to assist her/him with legal costs.

If the case requires more work to be carried out, the solicitor must apply for an amendment of the certificate and an increase of the cost limitation.

Form of Legal Representation

In housing cases, Legal Representation can take the form of either Investigative Representation, Full Representation or Emergency Representation.

Investigative Representation

This is only available where the prospects of success are unclear and covers only the cost of investigating a potential claim or defence.

Full Representation

This is available where prospects of success are clear and covers reasonable work in legal proceedings.

Emergency Representation

A solicitor can exercise delegated functions and grant an emergency certificate when there is no time to apply to the LAA and wait for its decision about funding. The relevant criteria must be satisfied (see below).

Steps before action

The LAA will usually not accept applications for Legal Representation unless all the steps before action have been met and a letter has been sent to the other party. In particular:

  • where the client is applying for Full Representation, the application may be refused unless the other party has been notified of the client's complaint and given a reasonable opportunity to respond and put matters right, unless this is impracticable. Giving notice will be treated as impracticable where the case is genuinely urgent, or where any delay would cause serious prejudice to the client's case
  • in cases of harassment and unlawful eviction, Legal Representation may be refused if there has been no letter before action or other prior contact with the landlord or agent with a view to resolving matters without the need for proceedings (unless the matter is so urgent or so serious that this would be inappropriate or would have no effect).
  • in cases of Protection from Harassment Act 1997, a warning letter must first be sent (unless the circumstances are such that this would be inappropriate) and the police should be notified. An application for Legal Representation may be submitted only if the police fail to provide adequate assistance. Legal Representation is unlikely to be granted for enforcement proceedings unless the need for enforcement has been notified to the police and they have failed to provide adequate assistance having regard to the police's powers under the Act
  • in cases regarding homelessness, Legal Representation will not be granted unless the client has exhausted all reasonable remedies and the housing authority has been notified of the proposed litigation and given a reasonable opportunity to respond. A letter before action should always be sent,[1] and/or faxed in urgent cases.

[1] R (on the application of Wenman) v Horsham DC [1994] 4 All ER 68.

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