Saturday 18 November 2017

Free legal queries are dominated by housing

Around 22pc of the 15,866 calls received by the legal rights organisation Free Legal Advice Centres were seeking advice on housing or landlord/tenant issues. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Around 22pc of the 15,866 calls received by the legal rights organisation Free Legal Advice Centres were seeking advice on housing or landlord/tenant issues. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The housing crisis and the ongoing impact of austerity dominated requests for free legal advice last year, according to a new report.

Around 22pc of the 15,866 calls received by the legal rights organisation Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) were seeking advice on housing or landlord/tenant issues.

FLAC's annual report for 2015, being published today, said calls relating to the housing crisis jumped by 62pc year on year.

The main queries were on rent issues - such as ending a tenancy and over-holding, where a tenant stays longer than agreed. More than half of calls were from a landlord.

Family law queries accounted for a fifth of calls, while credit and debt issues accounted for 6.8pc and employment law for 6.6pc of calls.

In calls about family law, one in every three was regarding divorce or separation, a quarter on custody, access or guardianship of children and 17pc on maintenance.

One quarter of all debt-related calls were in relation to mortgage arrears, while a fifth were about problems with personal loans.

FLAC chief executive Eilis Barry said austerity measures were having a "disproportionate impact" on vulnerable groups. She singled out the high rate of successful appeals of initial refusals of applications for social welfare as an example.

"The appeals office's own annual report for 2015 shows nearly 60pc of the total of 25,406 appeals on welfare applications were successful," she said.

"That indicates a pressing need for better first-instance decision making. With appeals still taking, on average, almost five months to process, people are experiencing real hardship."

Irish Independent

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