Monday, 25 February 2008

ARE THE BAILIFFS COMING TO YOU?

We all know them as bailiffs, but they are now officially called Enforcement Officers (England and Wales) or Judicial Officers (Scotland), but whatever you call them – do you know what to do if they arrive on your doorstep? Here’s a brief summary:

Don’t confuse a bailiff with your creditor’s representative. A creditor’s* representative (or a debt collector) does not have authority from the court. Always ask for ID, but you don’t have to let them in or discuss anything with them. You can ask them to leave and call the police if they will not.
*the person or business you owe money to

If it is a bailiff, then it will be that your creditor has been to court and the judge has authorised a warrant for them to visit you and try to collect the debt. They should be quite reasonable and if you make some sort of arrangement with them to pay, they should listen. You should have had advanced warning** that they are going to call on you. If you happen to be out when they call they will leave a letter with contact details – it is wise to contact them with some sort of offer to pay the debt. If you are in you don’t have to open the door to them, you can just tell them to leave their contact details and that you will be in touch (in writing) with an offer of payment – then do so.
**to stop the bailiffs coming after this notification
is issued, go to your County Court and fill in form N245, making an offer to settle the debt, by instalments if necessary, but make it in an amount that you can afford and will be able to keep on paying.

A bailiff cannot force an entry to your home unless they are coming to evict you (for non-payment of mortgage or rent) or you owe some kind of Crown debt (a fine, for example, or tax to HMRC or you are behind with Council tax payments). They can also force entry if they are trying to collect unpaid magistrates' court fines. But otherwise, you don’t have to let them in. Should they force entry by pushing in past you if you open the door to them, this renders the whole process illegal.

Do not sign anything – they may tell you that if you just sign a piece of paper, they’ll go. This could be an attempt to get you to sign a “walking possession order”. Warning - signing this paper can give them right of forced entry at later date.

If you possibly can, make an offer of a small amount (even £2 or £3 per month) towards the debt. Don’t let them in and don’t sign anything. If you do give them any money make sure you get a written receipt for it. If you later get a court summons you should attend to put your case and the judge may even reset the amount you’ve previously offered to pay –hopefully to a lower amount.

Be aware of some tricks that bailiffs may use to get entry to your property-
they may just walk in open doors or climb in windows, or they may be chummy and ask if they can use your loo or your ‘phone. Apparently they have been known to take vehicles or look through windows to try to ascertain what you own that may be taken in payment of the debt, so don’t park your vehicle in your driveway and close your curtains.

In the worst case scenario, if bailiffs have gained entry to your home and have a court order, they are not allowed to take any essential items like your clothes, cooker, bedding or fridge. Most furniture is classed as essential, so they cannot take that, or tools that you use for your living (e.g. plumbing, carpentry tools etc.) but they can take the contents of any unlocked garages or sheds in your garden.

More help and information:

National Debtline

Citizens' Advice Bureau

National standards for enforcement agents

Community Legal Advice

Saturday, 16 February 2008

SAVE £100s ON GROCERIES

1. Don’t bother to be loyal to one supermarket and don’t be snobby about going to one over another. If you want to know who is cheapest for your usual weekly grocery items, visit mysupermarket.co.uk, enter all your items and it will calculate the cost of them at the four main online supermarkets: Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda. You don't have to shop online, but it will give you an idea how much your shopping could cost elsewhere and where you can make the best savings.

2. Towards the end of the week do a stock check of your kitchen cupboards and try to be creative with what you find! Really look at what you have and write your list at the same time, planning some menus as you go – this should reduce your normal list and your spend for the week!

3. Try the basic ranges in the supermarket, in the main, it is often hard to tell the difference between these – and you could save upwards of 10%. Some of your favourites may, perhaps, be irreplaceable, but many could easily be exchanged for cheaper lines, which are often made by the same manufacturer and just packaged differently.

4. Always take advantage of the BOGOFs (buy one get one free) on your usual purchases, particularly if they are non-perishable items like toilet rolls, washing up liquid or freezable foods. Find out about the latest supermarket offers at www.fixtureferrets.co.uk

5. Look out for reductions on fresh and chilled foods. Many supermarkets will start reducing fairly early in the day, but better reductions can sometimes be had later in the afternoon. Meat and fish can be frozen straight away and fresh fruit and veg will often last another day in your fridge, if you can’t use it immediately.

SAVE MONEY ON EACH HOUSEHOLD WASH

After having some problems with my washing machine, the repair man advised me to use washing tablets instead of powder or liquid. What’s even better is that, although the tablets always come 2 in a pack, he said that it was really only necessary to use one tablet per wash! I buy the supermarket’s own brand and only use 1 tablet and it cleans as well as anything I’ve used before. Very frugal!

SAVE MONEY ON CALLING “08” NUMBERS

If you have ever have to ring a number beginning 08 – have a look at this site! With the exception of 0800 numbers (which I think are only free from landlines) all these numbers cost quite a bit more than regular call costs – and what’s worse - the company you’re calling is often getting a cut of the money charged for your call! This site lists many companies and their geographical ‘phone numbers for you to use.

www.saynoto0870.com

Saturday, 9 February 2008

EARN SOME ON-LINE CASH

Small amounts of cash (or other rewards) can be earned from completing on-line surveys. These can take anything from 10 -25 minutes to complete and can be done from anywhere; home, work, college or uni. They email you when there is a survey to do and all you have to do is just log-in to the survey site with your password and username and you’re away! They often tell you how long each survey will take - really useful if you are doing it in your lunch break.

These surveys are about all kinds of things; your shopping habits, new advertising campaigns, the kind of drinks you like, etc. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes not so interesting, but if you just keep doing them, the cash or vouchers can add up.

Firstly, here’s one just for all you students out there!

Opinion Panel Research (strictly students only)
Calling all students: Opinionpanel Research have teamed up with Amazon to offer giftcertificates in return for the completion of short web-surveys. You get £10.00 just for registering and a further £1.00 to £2.00 per survey thereafter. Once you've reached £25, you receive your Amazon gift certificates by email.

To qualify you must have a valid email address issued by your university (i.e. ending in ac.uk). The certificates continue to roll-in after you've graduated, as you are automatically transferred to the Graduate Panel when you finish your studies.

Click here to register.

Here are two others that I like:

You Gov
I’ve just done a really quick survey with them of half a dozen questions – took a couple of minutes and earned me 50 pence. Okay, it’s not a lot but, particularly if you’re time rich and cash poor, then when that £50 cheque* comes through the letterbox – it will all seem worth it!
*You Gov automatically pays out when your balance reaches £50.
Click here to register:

Sunday, 3 February 2008

MILLIONS OF PENSIONERS ARE MISSING OUT ON STATE BENEFITS!

Age Concern says that £4.6 billion of state benefits remains unclaimed and this is contributing to pensioner poverty. Here’s a quick rundown of what you, or someone you know, may be missing out on.

Over 60 years
Winter fuel Payment

Your household will normally automatically receive £200 if you are aged 60-79 and £300 if you are aged 80 or over. Moredetail HERE.

Free or half price travel on public transport - contact your local council for details.

Free Eye Tests – more here

Free NHS prescriptions – more here

Over 60 years
Pension Credit

If you have an income under £119.05 (single person) or a joint income of £181.70 (couple) then this payment will make up the difference between the stated figures and your income. Check here

If your income is too high to qualify for Pension Credit, you may still qualify for help with Council Tax and/or rent if you have less than £16000 in savings.

Other Pension Credit related benefits -If you receive Pension Credit it qualifies you for free NHS dental care, reimbursement of the travel costs for going to hospital for treatment, vouchers towards the cost of spectacles, free fabric supports and wigs and a Cold Weather Payment of £8.50 per week if the average temperature falls below 0ÂșC for a week, which is paid automatically for those who qualify.

You may also qualify for the “Warm Front Scheme” (England) which provides between £2700 and £4000 for insulation and central heating (depending on your needs and your property). More here

Over 60 for women and 65 for men
(But this is slowly changing – check your predicted retirement age here)

State Pension
http://www.thepensionservice.gov.uk/
You need 30 “qualifying years”* to get a full pension – check this here
Changes brought about by The Pensions Act (26 July 2007) will affect you if you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010.
*This a year in which you have paid enough National Insurance contributions (or qualified for them in some other way - e.g. by receiving a benefit of some kind, including Child Benefit).

Over 65 years
Savings Credit

This rewards you for having some savings. If your total weekly income (including income from savings, any investments and pension) is £167 or below (single person) or £245 or below (couple) then you can receive £19.05 (single person) or £25.26 (couple). More here

Over 65 years
Attendance Allowance

Between £43.15 and £64.50 a week.
For those with a mental or physical disability or a terminal illness who need help to dress and wash themselves. More here

Over 70 years
Free Home Insulation

As part of a Government scheme, British Gas will offer to install home insulation free of charge to anyone aged 70 or over, regardless of whether or not they're a British Gas customer. Contact your local council to enquire if they have any similar (or better) schemes. More here.

Over 75 years
Free TV licence
– more info here

Over 78 years
Free 10 year passport.
more info

For more general information go to the Age Concern website where you can download the More Money in Your Pocket booklet for free.