It has been a long time since the Legal Aid Agency made any changes to the way means eligibility for legal aid is calculated. The rates and figures and calculations used for financial eligibility have not changed for many years, and with ever rising house prices, a capital cap of £8,000 for civil legal aid precluded a vast majority of house owners from accessing legal aid whether or not they were actually in a position to access the capital held in their properties.
From that perspective 28th January 2021 is an exciting date, as it marks a far reaching change to the eligibility criteria, with removal of the mortgage cap as a part of the means test for civil legal aid is taking place. It makes it more realistic for more people.
Up until today the amount of any mortgage debt that was deducted from the overall house value was capped at £100,000. This was irrespective of the actual mortgage debt. With house prices as they are, especially in the South of England, this of course precluded many from accessing civil legal aid.
From 28th January 2021, the £100,000 cap on the mortgage debt that can be deducted from the property’s value has been removed and therefore the entirety of any mortgage debt can be deducted from a client’s property value. It is hoped that many more individuals will pass the financial eligibility criteria for civil legal aid as a result.
For anyone who wishes to access civil legal aid, the first port of call should still be to undertake the eligibility calculator and have a conversation with an experienced legal aid practitioner.
At BH&O we are passionate about legal aid and civil injustice and we will be able to guide you through the complicated means and merits calculations of legal aid to establish whether or not you may be eligible for civil legal aid.