202. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will ensure that civil legal aid is provided to borrowers or tenants in difficulty to ensure that they receive adequate legal advice and are supported in any legal proceedings which may result in repossession or eviction. [12931/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can inform the Deputy that information in relation to access to Civil Legal Aid for borrowers or tenants in difficulty is as follows.
In relation to borrowers, the Legal Aid Board provides legal advice to eligible applicants who seek legal advice in relation to mortgage difficulties subject to the requirements set out in sections 24 and 28(2) of the Civil Legal Aid Act, i.e., the applicant is required to satisfy the merits test.
Under the new Scheme of Advice and Aid for Home Mortgage Arrears, the Legal Aid Board organises and facilitates legal advice in repossession cases and representation in the case of Personal Solvency Arrangement reviews. As part of this Scheme, the Board has established a panel of private solicitors who will provide advice. A Duty Solicitor will also be present in courthouses ahead of each repossession court list.
The Board treats applications to review Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIAs) as a priority. Where services are provided under the Scheme of Advice and Aid for Home Mortgage Arrears, there is no financial eligibility test to qualify for this service and no contribution payable but again the applicant must satisfy the merits test.
The position in relation to tenants is that applicants seeking legal services in respect of eviction or ejectment are provided with advice by the Legal Aid Board. Proceedings of this nature for eviction/ejectment are proceedings that concern rights and interests over land and, as such, may be a designated matter and outside the Board’s remit. While the Board may not be able to issue a certificate allowing for representation in court to defend these proceedings, applicants for legal services in such matters will be offered advice and correspondence and/or negotiations may be entered into on their behalf .
Legal aid and advice will be provided to assist tenants who claim an entitlement to a tenancy as a family member under Section 9(1) of the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act 1982 or on the basis of long occupancy under Section 13 (1) of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980 (as amended by the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1994). Similarly, legal aid and advice may be granted to tenants seeking to fix the terms of a new tenancy under Section 23 of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980 (as amended by the 1994 Act). Advice will also be given in respect of rights and obligations under the Residential Tenancy (Amendment) Act 2015.