As a result of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), there have been some changes to the availability of Legal Aid. From 1 April 2013 Legal Aid is no longer available for debt problems or benefits problems. Legal Aid for housing problems has been cut back, and is therefore no longer available for issues and disputes regarding non-payment of boat licence or mooring fees that fall short of court proceedings.
However, where boat dwellers are threatened with homelessness as a result of inability to pay for their licence, mooring fee, insurance or boat safety certificate, Legal Aid is still available.
People threatened with homelessness for other reasons are still eligible for Legal Aid. Therefore, if your boat licence has been terminated and a Section 8(2) (of the 1983 British Waterways Act) notice served on you because of allegedly not complying with Section 17 3 c ii of the 1995 British Waterways Act (in other words, not moving far enough) you will still be eligible for Legal Aid.
If your licence has been terminated for another reason, for example you have a mooring but CRT claim that your mooring does not have their permission, or does not exist, you can still get Legal Aid to defend yourself against the Section 8.
If you have had problems with Housing Benefit that have led to a threat of homelessness, such as Section 8 proceedings being started against you by CRT, Legal Aid will cover advice and representation regarding the threat of homelessness and the Section 8 proceedings but not the original Housing Benefit issue.
Solicitors such as the Travellers Advice Team in Birmingham can still advise and represent you via Legal Aid if your case qualifies and your income and savings are low. They can also help to calculate whether you are eligible.
For more information contact the Travellers Advice Team, Community Law Partnership, 4th Floor, Ruskin Chambers, 191 Corporation Street, Birmingham B4 6RP, tel 0121 685 8595 or Travellers Advice Line 0121 685 8677, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To check your financial and other eligibility for Legal Aid, the government’s web site may help if your issue is simple www.gov.uk/legal-aid
You can download and print a leaflet with this information here Boat_Dwellers_and_Legal_Aid_July_2013