Loophole penalises owners who win case
Crippling legal fees in battle for homes
By Stevie Gallacher
rights expert Mike Dailly (right) has called on the Scottish
Government to close a loophole that leaves those facing home
repossession with crippling legal bills.
Mr Dailly, the principal solicitor of the Govan Law Centre, has asked
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to change the law to ensure all
those served with repossession notices qualify for Legal Aid.
Mr Dailly argues the gap in the law could leave thousands
of families facing poverty at a time when home repossessions are rocketing.
He said, The vast majority of people served with a repossession
notice face a legal fight to keep their house.
On the one hand you face homelessness, in which case your legal
bill will be paid by the Legal Aid Board. Yet if you successfully
retain your property you have to pay your lawyers fees and
these costs can run into thousands of pounds.
Given youve faced financial problems serious enough to
have your home almost repossessed, how could you pay these fees?
The law presumes because the home has been retained people can
pay the bills when in reality its very difficult.
Ive spoken with the Legal Aid Board and theyre
sympathetic to the situation. Their hands are tied, so whats
needed is a change in the law.
Its vital this is addressed. Were facing a
recession and repossessions have already risen by 92 per cent. The
number of clients served with repossession notices who have come into
my practice in the last year has doubled.
Kenny MacAskill can address this situation by altering the
Scottish Legal Aid Act. It could be done within a few weeks and
prevent many Scots becoming trapped in a spiral of poverty.
Ive been in touch with Mr MacAskill but nothing has
happened so far.
A Scottish Government spokesman said, The Legal Aid system is
not failing vulnerable Scots. Ministers have agreed increases to the
income limits for civil legal aid so more than a million more Scots
can become eligible from this spring.
That means three-quarters of Scots will be able to get free or
subsidised help to protect their legal rights.
Extra £3 million
Ministers have also announced an additional £3 million
over the next two years to enhance and effectively target In-Court
Advice and other services for people facing repossession or other
problems such as debt.
Legal Aid provides help to enable people to defend actions
which could otherwise result in loss of their homes. It is not always free.
The contributions which a small proportion of assisted persons
have to pay towards the costs of the legal representation help ensure
Legal Aid remains affordable.
If someone keeps or wins their home as part of their case they
do not have to sell it to pay the amount due to the Scottish Legal
SLAB will either ask them to pay by instalments or may allow
them to delay payment until they decide to sell their house at a
We have no plans to make further changes to the rules governing
financial eligibility or recovery or preservation of property.