If an assisted person gives VLA an equitable charge over their property, then they are giving VLA security for their future payment of a contribution.
The equitable charge does not give VLA any legal ownership of the property. Instead, the equitable charge gives VLA the right to be paid from either:
VLA may ask a person to sign an equitable charge as a condition of a grant of legal assistance in any of the following three situations:
VLA may ask for the equitable charge instead of, or as well as, requiring the assisted person to pay an initial contribution or a final contribution.
If VLA asks a person to sign an equitable charge as an initial condition to the grant of legal assistance, VLA will ask the person to sign the charge and return it to VLA in a form which enables VLA to register it.
If the person refuses to sign, then VLA will cancel the grant of legal assistance.
If an assisted person signs the equitable charge, then, usually, VLA will lodge a caveat on the title documents for the property.
If VLA asks a person who is already receiving a grant of legal assistance to sign an equitable charge, then VLA will grant further assistance on the condition that VLA receives the signed equitable charge from the person in a form which enables VLA to register it.
If the assisted person refuses to sign the equitable charge, VLA will tell the lawyer for the assisted person that any further cost of acting for the assisted person will not be paid by VLA. VLA will also suspend the grant of legal assistance and write to the assisted person and their lawyer to tell them that the grant of legal assistance is suspended.
The grant of legal assistance will continue if the person:
If the assisted person does none of these things, then VLA will permanently stop the grant of legal assistance.
If an assisted person failed to sign an equitable charge in relation to a current or finalised grant of legal assistance and the person then applies for a new grant of legal assistance, then VLA will grant assistance only if the person either:
The person must also, of course, be eligible for a grant of legal assistance (that is, the person must meet all VLA’s threshold requirements relating to type of matter, means and merit).
VLA will also require the person to sign an equitable charge for any new grant of legal assistance before it can begin unless the condition has been waived on reconsideration.
If the person refuses to sign an equitable charge to secure the payment of money they already owe VLA, then VLA can put a statutory charge on the person’s (or any relevant financially associated person’s) property in relation to any grant of legal assistance.