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Tuesday 13 May 2014

Turn2us Benefits Awareness Month

Lots of talk in recent times has been of budget cuts, under-occupancy rules and benefit caps. However it is still the case that huge numbers of people miss out on what they are entitled to through a lack of awareness and clear information. Meanwhile, others know about what they might get, but do not apply for fear they will later be chased for overpayments.

My Money Steps offers free, impartial and confidential advice to help users help themselves out of debt and get back in control.

Advice is based around these four key steps:

  • Increasing income by exploring benefit entitlements and bill reductions
  • Working out a personal budget to see what is left over after paying essential bills
  • Dealing with priority debts – for example rent arrears or council tax
  • Dealing with non-priority debts, such as credit cards and catalogues

Maximising household income is where debt advice starts, so step one is where Turn2us is most useful. My Money Steps can give you general advice on the types of help you may be able to get, but it will also usually tell you to use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator.

Unfortunately more and more people are seeing their household budgets being squeezed tighter than ever. Many people simply do not have the luxury of being able to put anything away for emergencies and the unexpected. There are also more and more people with 'deficit' budgets - where there is simply more going out than coming in.

Certain types of debt are clearly linked to the increased difficulty in making ends meet. Payday loans are the most high-profile example. Others include hire-purchase agreements for household basics like furniture and fridges – there is even a growing market for borrowing money against such essential items and effectively pawning them. Such lenders thrive because they can advertise widely and are far more visible than information on benefits, trust funds and credit unions.

It is often a sudden change in circumstances that triggers a ‘debt crisis’– for example life events such as redundancy or relationship breakdowns. No matter why someone is in debt, every week My Money Steps gives people the advice and tools to get them back in control.  Start My Money Steps now.

Posted by My Money Steps

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Tuesday 13 May 2014

Citizens Advice launches scam awareness month

Scams are cruel crimes that damage consumer confidence and at worst blight the lives of victims and their families.

Scams Awareness Month is an important part of the fight-back. It aims to give consumers the skills and confidence to identify scams, share experiences and take action by reporting suspicious activity. Citizens Advice and Trading Standards Services are leading activities throughout the month of May as part of Scams Awareness Month.

Take their special quiz to test your scam-spotting skills!

Posted by My Money Steps

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Monday 12 May 2014

New bailiff rules from 6 April 2014

The changes to bailiff law brought in by the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 came into force on Sunday 6 April, but we are yet to understand their full effects.

As with any change to the law, what is important is not just the law itself but what happens in practice. Even the clearest of rules can sometimes be interpreted in different ways to suit someone’s arguments. Bailiffs have long been fond of statements such as “we will visit and remove goods”. What they often fail to mention is that in most cases, they need permission from the householder to enter their home.  

The new rules aim to make the rules bailiffs have to follow similar for different types of debt. This means that the main processes a bailiff follows for a county court judgment on a credit card debt is now the same as for council tax arrears under a liability order, or a penalty charge notice for parking on yellow lines.

For now, here are some helpful points to remember about bailiffs:

Before any visit

  • The bailiff must issue a written enforcement notice in every case – this must give seven clear days’ notice of any visit. These seven days do not include the date of the notice itself, or any bank holidays or Sundays.
  • The notice must include certain details, including those of the debt and who owes it, plus how and where to make payment, and the deadlines for doing so.
  • As soon as the notice is sent, it has a “binding effect” on the goods belonging to the person who owes the money. This means any goods you own at that point cannot be given away to stop the bailiff taking them.  As under the old rules, if you are worried about items which genuinely belong to other members of your household, it is a good idea to gather whatever evidence of ownership you can.  
  • All bailiff warrants now have a 12-month time limit which runs from the date the enforcement notice was issued. If a bailiff has not taken control of goods within the 12 months they must apply to court for an extension and show good reason for doing so. The 12-month time limit can be extended if you agree an instalment arrangement with the bailiffs before they take control of your goods.

The visit itself

This can take place on any day of the week but only between 6am and 9pm, with limited exceptions. In most cases it will probably be your home that the bailiff visits, unless you have trading premises that they know of. This blog post is about personal debt, but you can speak to our friends at Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026 if you have trading debts.

Forced entry on a first visit remains illegal except in cases of court fines. There are some rare situations where the court can give permission to force entry, but we do not expect this to happen very often. No force can ever be used against the person who owes money.

You may have seen words like “levy”, “walking possession agreement” and “seizure” in letters from bailiffs. The new rules mean these words will no longer be used. Instead you will hear references to “taking control of goods”. The word bailiff is also changing –in the future bailiffs will be known as enforcement agents. You will see that we still use the word bailiff on our website, as it will take some time for the change to take effect. In practice, what happens will be the same– bailiffs will make a list of any valuable possessions you have, but are unlikely to remove them immediately. This is usually because a repayment plan of some sort can be agreed.

Costs

Under the new rules, the fees that a bailiff can charge should become easier to understand. Unfortunately the new rules also mean the fees have gone up. The main costs to be aware of are as follows:

Compliance fee of £75 – this will apply to all cases (including High Court cases) as soon as the bailiffs are given the debt to collect.  

Enforcement fee of at least £235 (for non-High Court debts) – the bailiff can charge this fee once they start to try and collect the debt. This means they cannot charge this fee until they make their first visit to your home. They cannot charge any more fees unless they actually take away and try to sell your goods.  Further fees may be added if the debt is over £1,500. For High Court debts, the enforcement fees are different. If you have a High Court bailiff chasing you for a debt, contact us for advice.  

The increase in costs makes it more important than ever to try and deal with the debt as early as possible.

The rules are still very new.  You can help us to help you by getting in touch to tell us about any your experience with bailiffs – this will make it much easier to understand if the new rules are being followed and how.

Of course, we usually only hear about those bailiffs who behave badly as these are the ones who create the most stressful situations. There are doubtless many other bailiffs out there who operate totally by the book and carry out their work in properly and  fairly. Bailiffs carry out an important service for their clients.

This article cannot possibly cover every situation, so please get in touch if you have questions that aren’t answered here.

Dennis

@natdebtline

Posted by My Money Steps

Tagged: bailiif   legislation   enforcement  

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