People on low income are among those facing homelessness due to a vanishing number of housing legal aid providers.

The Law Society said more than half of local authorities in England and Wales have no publicly funded legal advice available, revealing “catastrophic legal aid deserts” across the country.

Around 91 per cent of people in the East of England are living in a local authority or council with one or no housing legal aid provider.

The free advice could be for people facing homelessness to challenge rogue landlords, for instance.

The Law Society said “catastrophically low rates of pay” force legal professionals to withdraw from legal aid because the work is unviable for small solicitor firms.

According to the Society, Three Rivers, Hertsmere and St Albans have no legal providers, while Watford has just one.

Government fees for legal aid has not risen since 1999 equating to a 41 per cent real terms reduction and fees were cut a further 10 per cent in 2011.

The Law Society said a lack of legal aid provision can mean people facing poverty have to travel to another county for legal advice, single providers struggle to cover a large area, and a conflict of interest can arise when one law firm is called to represent a tenant and their landlord.

The Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “More than 21 million people live in a local authority without a single housing legal aid service, leaving pensioners, families with young children, people with disabilities or on low incomes struggling to access the legal advice they are entitled to when they are at their most vulnerable.

“Anyone trying to resolve a serious housing problem is likely to need face-to-face professional advice urgently – if the nearest legal aid solicitor is in the next county they might as well be on Mars.

“Homelessness is devastating for anyone who experiences or is at risk of it.

“The Government must ensure everyone who has a right to state-funded legal advice can actually get it when they so desperately need it. Legal rights are meaningless if people can’t enforce them.”

Leader of Three Rivers District Council Councillor Sara Bedford added: "Residents are able to receive advice and assistance relating to homelessness from their local council and this is provided free of charge. This includes dealing with issues such as rogue landlords and illegal evictions.

"The legal aid provider in Watford, Arkrights, generally challenge local authority decisions and we do get representations from them indicating that our residents are able to access their services. We also get direct challenges through the Citizens' Advice Bureaux.

"The location of the legal practice in Watford means that they are easily accessible by public transport to all Three Rivers residents. I’ve never been contacted by a resident unable to access legal aid for housing issues where appropriate."