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Cost of living: Can I be evicted and will it affect my credit score? What happens if you can't pay your energy bills

Britain is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades and for many, not being able to pay bills is the reality of the biggest squeeze on household spending in 60 years.

An anonymous campaign urging people not to pay their energy bills this winter is gathering pace - but is it safe to do so?

Plans by Don't Pay UK have been called "highly irresponsible" by the government, and charities have warned against rushing to cancel your direct debit.

 

However, Britain is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades, and Citizens Advice said it supported more people who had been unable to top up their prepayment energy meter in June than it had in January 2022.

Cost of living latest: Former PM warns of 'financial timebomb'

So for many, the inability to pay their energy bills is more than just strike action, but a reality of the biggest squeeze on household spending in 60 years.

What happens if you don't - or can't - pay your energy bills?If you miss a payment, the supplier will first send you a reminder. If they still don't hear from you, they may try and visit you at home to work out the best way to pay - but some, such as SSE, will add the cost of this visit to your account.

If you don't agree to a repayment plan, they may try and force you to have a prepayment meter installed. This means you would have to pay for your energy upfront, as well as a weekly amount to cover any debt.

If you haven't paid your bill after 28 days, you may be threatened with disconnection of your supply. While this is rare - with Don't Pay UK claiming as few as eight people were disconnected in 2018 - it could still happen.

Your supplier must first give you a chance to pay your debt through a plan first.

If you can't reach an agreement with them, they can apply for a court warrant to enter your home to disconnect you. Those with smart meters could be disconnected remotely, but the energy company must first visit your home to assess your personal situation.

Paying by direct debit is normally the cheapest way to pay for energy, so you could face higher bills if you cancel.

If you have reached State Pension age your supplier cannot disconnect you between 1 October and 31 March if either you live alone or live with other people who have reached State Pension age or are children under the age of 18.

How it affects your credit score

Energy bills aren't a loan, so missing payments aren't guaranteed to affect your credit score - but they still can, and this could make it harder to borrow money in the future (for example, applying for a mortgage).

Some suppliers report missed payments to credit agencies, so it is possible these could show up on your credit report.

Will it affect my rent or mortgage?

If you are renting, you are unlikely to be evicted if you don't pay your energy bills - unless they are included in your rent.

If they are included and you stop paying, your landlord could evict you for being in rent arrears.

Your mortgage and monthly repayments are agreed directly with your bank or building society - so if you stop paying your energy bills it should have no effect on your mortgage.

But not paying your bills could make it harder for you to get a mortgage, or remortgage, so it's not advisable in the long run.

What help is available?

Earlier this year the government announced a new energy bill support package, which means almost all households will get £400, starting in October. Some may get as much as £1,000 to help pay soaring costs.

Citizens Advice offers help for anyone who may be struggling to pay their energy bills. You may be eligible for help from your local council.

You can find out more information online.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/what-happens-if-i-dont-pay-my-energy-bills-can-i-be-evicted-and-will-it-affect-my-credit-score-12668373

 

Two indicators slowdown already under way after Bank of England warns of 15-month recession

The bank rate is now at its highest level since 2008 as the Bank of England warns of tough times ahead - but signs of slowdown are already there.

Just a day after the Bank of England warned of a 15-month recession, there are signs in housing and recruitment that the slowdown is already well under way.

Figures out on Friday showed that house prices fell in July (in monthly terms) for the first time in more than a year, with warnings that the market is likely to weaken further following the bank's hiking of interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%.

 

The bank rate is now at its highest level since 2008, as the bank tries to fight inflation which is running at 9.4% - well above its 2% target - and is forecast to pass 13% later this year.

It comes as households face record-breaking increases in energy bills, and mortgage lender Halifax said that this rapidly-spiralling cost of living would have its effect on the market, as buyers look to rein in spending.

In July the average house price stood at £293,221 - down £365 or 0.1% from the previous month's record high. In annual terms, however, prices still rose by 11.8%, compared to the 12.5% seen in June.

Russell Galley, Halifax managing director, said: "House prices are likely to come under more pressure as those market tailwinds fade further and the headwinds of rising interest rates and increased living costs take a firmer hold.

"Therefore a slowing of annual house price inflation still seems the most likely scenario."

It comes after a report from rival lender Nationwide which showed house prices rose in July, but at the slowest monthly pace seen in a year.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/two-indicators-slowdown-already-under-way-after-bank-of-england-warns-of-15-month-recession-12665852

Sweeping changes to rental market proposed - affecting pets, rent rises and 'no-fault' evictions

The government says the new blueprint for renters reform will "redress the balance" between landlords and the estimated 4.4million private tenants in England.

Plans to ban "no-fault" evictions and to make it easier for tenants to keep pets will be unveiled as part of the government's new deal for private renters.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is set to publish its fairer private rented sector white paper, which it describes as "the biggest shake-up of the private rented sector in 30 years".

 

Among the proposals to be unveiled on Thursday are a pledge to outlaw section 21 "no-fault" evictions that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving a reason.

More than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, figures suggest, including 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord.

These types of eviction notices are contentious and the government promised to ban them three years ago.

The department has also promised to change the rules to make it easier to own a pet in rented accommodation, with the white paper stating that landlords "must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse" requests by all tenants to keep an animal in their home.

 

The new deal will also extend the decent homes standard to the private sector for the first time, meaning homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair so renters have clean, appropriate and usable facilities.

source: https://news.sky.com/story/plan-to-ban-no-fault-evictions-unveiled-by-govt-and-it-could-get-easier-to-own-a-pet-if-youre-renting-12634583

Commercial Property Law

Commercial Property law:

*Property purchases and sales

*Leases acting for landlord and or tenant

*Forfeiture

*Licences for assignment/alteration

*Tenancies/Licences at will

'A long time coming': No-fault divorce law introduced in England and Wales

Previously, unless adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion could be proven, the only way to get divorced without the agreement of a spouse was to live separately for five years.

Divorce laws have been overhauled for the first time in 50 years, putting an end to the "blame game" for couples wishing to split amicably.

 

Married couples will be able to start divorce proceedings without having to appropriate the blame for the breakdown of their marriage as no-fault divorce legislation comes into force in England and Wales.

   

The change has been welcomed by experts who said it will aid couples to move forward and secure the best outcomes, eliminating unnecessary conflict and tension.

Previously, unless adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion could be proven, the only way to get divorced without the agreement of a spouse was to live separately for five years.

 

Sarah Gregory and her ex-husband, who she said was her "best friend and soul mate", went through the divorce system after 13 years of marriage

     

Ms Gregory told Sky News that what should have been a straightforward divorce ended up being complicated by the old legislation.

     

She said: "You were given five options and only one really was suitable for us which was the unreasonable behaviour and again it didn't really suit our needs because we simply fell out of love.

"It made things worse, knowing that one of us was going to have unreasonable behaviour on our divorce certificate. It delayed the process because it brought up some mixed feelings between us.

"We didn't have many bad things in our marriage so you're almost trying to exaggerate some of the not so nasty things that happened between us.

 

"I guess it just kind of created some kind of animosity between us both."

She thinks the no-fault divorce legalisation is "great" and would have made her divorce proceedings a much quicker process.

 

Kate Daly, the co-founder of legal services company Amicable, told Sky News: "We are delighted that the law has finally changed and that the blame game is ending.

 

"It's been a long time coming."

 

Ms Daly said that she founded Amicable after her divorce, which she described as a "train wreck" and left her financially and emotionally exhausted.

 

She added: "You hear so many stories of people coming out of divorce being utterly bereft with huge mental health issues, that can lead to debts and it can lead to the further breakdown of relationships within the family - whether that's extended family or whether it's the relationship between a parent and a child.

 

"If you have a more amicable way of approaching divorce you avoid all of those problems."

 

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) also allows couples to jointly file for divorce.

Under the new legislation, one spouse contesting a divorce does not stand in the way of the other filing for divorce.

 

However, there are calls on the government to implement further reforms.

 

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland told Sky News: "I very much hope that today's changes will be a milestone along the road to removing the confrontational aspect of divorce, there's still too much uncertainty about the financial arrangements that couples need to make when they separate and part, and I think more reform is needed there and generally across family courts."

source: https://news.sky.com/story/a-long-time-coming-no-fault-divorce-law-introduced-in-england-and-wales-12583282

Probate experts warn against online wills

The growing popularity of online will writing could lead to a ‘surge’ in contested probate cases down the line, probate experts have warned.

Funeral Solution Expert, a research and consultancy firm, analysed 26 online will writers and found that consumers are often mistaken as to whether their affairs are 'simple' or 'complex', and that the companies themselves ‘offer very little liability for something going wrong’.

‘There is no doubt that an online will can be a good solution if affairs are genuinely simple and can save money versus a more traditional solicitor route,' said Simon Cox, co-founder of Funeral Expert Solution. ‘But our research shows that 65% of consumers who rate their own affairs as “simple” subsequently reveal through questioning that their affairs are in fact “complex”.’

He added that the sector is storing up an ‘ever-increasing bank of wills’ that will be contested once those who made them have died.

The concerns were echoed by Michael Culver, chairman of Solicitors for the Elderly, who said: ‘It’s shocking that whilst solicitor are required to have professional indemnity insurance covering claims potentially as high as £2m or £3m (and many firms go for optional additional cover that can take this as high as £10m per claim), other professionals offering wills limit their liability to the cost of the will.’

The pandemic is believed to have fuelled a rise in will making, with Farewill reporting a 267% increase in the number of wills written at home between 2019 and 2020.

Farewill’s head of legal, Lorraine Robinson, said the business had long recognised, and campaigned for closing gaps in the protection of customers of unregulated firms. However she questioned whether the risk is posed only by the unregulated sector. 'As a solicitor myself, unfortunately qualification as a solicitor is not a guarantee of an individual solicitor or a regulated firm’s depth of understanding of a specialist area of law. For that, as an industry, we often look instead to qualifications such as those offered by STEP, which are open to regulated and unregulated professionals alike.'

She added that many businesses in the unregulated sector are members of voluntary organisations which prescribe minimum levels of indemnity cover. 'To suggest all unregulated will writers are uninsured undermines the diligence and responsibility of many in the sector.'

source: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/probate-experts-warn-against-online-wills/5110251.article

Code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel in England

We are pleased to introduce the revised code of practice for health and social care organisations in England, that are recruiting personnel internationally.

Internationally trained staff have been part of the National Health Service (NHS) since its inception in 1948 and continue to play a vital role. 16% of nurses and 36% of doctors in England trained outside of the United Kingdom (UK). Similarly, the social care sector employs 35% of nurses and 16% of all social care workers from beyond the UK. Our gratitude to all those who come from abroad to train, learn and work in our fantastic NHS and social care sector has never been greater, as we face the global COVID-19 pandemic together. Thank you.

Yet this government knows we need to do more so that our health and social care services continue to deliver world-class care. That is why we have committed to 50,000 more nurses and 50,000,000 more GP appointments. We are working hard to increase our homegrown supply of health and social care staff. We are training more, retaining more and encouraging staff who have left to return. But we know that ethical international recruitment is also crucial for achieving our commitments.

We are determined to be a force for good in the world, which includes supporting better health and care beyond our shores. This code of practice is part of the UK’s contribution to international health worker mobility that offers benefits to migrants, their country of origin and to the UK. With a projected 18 million more health workers needed to achieve universal health coverage in low and lower-middle income countries – we need to work on a global basis to support healthier and more resilient populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the reality that diseases know no borders. It is absolutely right that we work with the countries that have the most vulnerable health systems to protect their health and social care systems. It is also right that, alongside these safeguards, we draw on our strengths to help develop health workforces and health systems in other countries – and in doing so, help the world progress towards delivering universal health coverage and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Forming international partnerships is a great way to foster collective efforts across the world, and by working with international governments we can make sure everyone benefits.

We are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards in international recruitment and this new code implements the World Health Organisation (WHO) global code of practice. Through this we are ensuring the fundamental principles of transparency, fairness and promotion of health systems sustainability are fully embedded in all international recruitment activity undertaken in the UK.

Helen Whately MP Minister of State for Care

Wendy Morton MP Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

read more - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-international-recruitment-of-health-and-social-care-personnel/code-of-practice-for-the-international-recruitment-of-health-and-social-care-personnel-in-england

Settled status: EU citizens urged apply to stay in UK now or lose rights

EU citizens living in the UK have until Wednesday to apply to stay or lose their rights, under post-Brexit rules introduced by the government.

More than 5.6 million applications have been received, but around 400,000 cases are still waiting to be processed.

Ministers say anyone who applies on time will have their existing rights protected while their case is heard.

Labour says many vulnerable people risk losing access to public services and the deadline should be extended.

Under the terms of Britain's departure from the European Union, EU citizens and their families living and working in the UK no longer have an automatic right to do so as freedom of movement has come to an end.

Instead, they have to apply for legal permission to remain under what is known as the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

People from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as Switzerland are also affected.

Once granted status, applicants can continue to use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.

2px presentational grey line

What is settled status?

EU nationals living in the UK have until 30 June to apply to stay in the UK.

They can apply for:

  • Settled status - on offer to anyone who can prove that they had been in the UK continuously for five years or more before 31 December 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.75 million people.
  • Pre-settled status - on offer to anyone who had been in the UK for less than five years by the end of 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.28 million. They can apply for settled status in future, but there is no guarantee they will get it.

2px presentational grey line

According to provisional Home Office figures to the end of May, 5,605,800 applications have been received since the scheme opened in March 2019 and 5,271,300 have been finalised.

The countries whose nationals have made the highest numbers of applications are Poland (975,000) and Romania (918,000).

Of the concluded applications, more than 2.7 million were granted settled status, allowing them permanent leave to remain in the UK.

A further 2.2 million were given pre-settled status, meaning they need to reapply after living in the country for five years to gain permanent residence.

Some 94,000 applications have been refused, 72,100 were withdrawn or void and 74,900 were deemed invalid - where the Home Office decides someone is not eligible to apply or has failed to provide sufficient proof of residence.

Concerns have been raised that thousands of people could fail to register and lose their rights as a result.

Miklos Flora, who lives in Worcester but is originally from Hungary, told Radio 4's PM programme that he has struggled with his application.

He said he applied for himself with his Hungarian ID card but then realised his wife's card had expired and he could not proceed with their application as a result.

"With my kids, the problem is they don't have any kind of ID cards so I have been advised from the Citizen's Advice they are going to send me a form that is around 39 pages that we have to fill out and then send by post," he told PM.

2px presentational grey line Analysis box by Dominic Casciani, home and legal correspondent

Come Thursday morning, most experts agree that it is highly likely there will be tens if not hundreds of thousands of EU citizens who have suddenly become illegal immigrants.

So, at its worst, the relatively straightforward scheme could become a second and larger Windrush scandal - despite it being designed to avoid a repeat of that injustice in which the Home Office failed to recognise the rights of people who had long been living legally in the country.

So who's not registered? Children could be a huge group because their parents may not realise they are not British.

There may be 130,000 in the benefits system too - and there is anecdotal evidence that even some of the well-heeled may be affected if they are unwittingly relying on an old form of permanent residence.

The impact of Brexit on all these people, and others more vulnerable, may only become clear when they go for a job or treatment on the NHS - and find they've got no right to be in the UK at all.

2px presentational grey line

Labour's Paul Blonfield, who raised the issue in the House of Commons earlier, said there are "several potential problems" not least a significant number of late applications, including from those who cannot get through on helplines.

Speaking to Radio 4, he said he has heard from people who have been holding for eight hours for advice and face losing their status and their rights.

And he said there are particular concerns about children about in care with applications not made for about 1200 young people.

"I pressed for the government to do what other European countries have done in relation to UK citizens and that's recognise that we are going through a global pandemic and extend the deadline so these issues can get sorted out," he said.

"We need to actively reach out" to those people who have not applied he said "because they are the hard to reach groups - those people with language difficulties, perhaps people in care, young people in social care," he added.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said "the overwhelming majority" of people have now applied and "there are provisions for late applications where people have reasonable grounds for making one".

"We will take a practical and compassionate approach to those who haven't applied particularly where there may be vulnerabilities or obvious reasonable grounds such as children whose parents may not have applied for them."

He said if people have any concerns about their status come the 1st of July "the message is simple - don't delay, apply today".

There is "a range of grant funded support organisations that will help people apply and we have an assisted digital service that people can use if needed" he added.

Source: - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-57657520

 

Right to Buy: buying your council home

Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Discounts
  3. Applying
  4. Your landlord's offer
  5. Appeals
  6. Delays
  7. Selling your home
  8. Help and advice

Overview

Right to Buy allows most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount. Use the eligibility checker on the Right to Buy website to find out if you can apply.

There are different rules for WalesScotland and Northern Ireland.

You can apply to buy your council home if:

  • it’s your only or main home
  • it’s self-contained
  • you’re a secure tenant
  • you’ve had a public sector landlord (for example, a council, housing association or NHS trust) for 3 years - it does not have to be 3 years in a row

Joint applications

You can make a joint application with:

  • someone who shares your tenancy
  • up to 3 family members who’ve lived with you for the past 12 months (even if they do not share your tenancy)

Ex-council homes

If your home used to be owned by the council, but they sold it to another landlord (like a housing association) while you were living in it, you may have the Right to Buy. This is called ‘Preserved Right to Buy’.

Ask your landlord if this applies to you.

Other ways to buy your home

If you were not living in your home when it was sold by the council you may still be able to buy it through the Voluntary Right to Buy pilot.

source: https://www.gov.uk/right-to-buy-buying-your-council-home

Covid: What are my money-back rights for holidays abroad?

The government is expected to lift some restrictions on overseas holidays in the next few days.

But with Covid still widespread, tourists will have to think carefully about their financial protection.

Where will I be able to go on holiday?

England will soon release a list of "green list" destinations, where people can travel without having to quarantine on their return (although they will have to take tests).

All other countries will be rated amber or red, and travellers will still need to quarantine after visiting them.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not said when they might allow foreign travel.

Can I cancel my holiday if I would need to self-isolate?

There is always a risk that a green-list country could move to the amber or red list, although the government says it will give notice.

If that happened you would need to quarantine after the holiday - something that could be difficult for many people.

Operators do not have to refund you if this happens and you unexpectedly have to self-isolate on your return.

It is best to study their policies before booking, or see whether they can offer some support if you have already booked and want to cancel.

Will I be refunded if my holiday is cancelled?

If the government announces that travel to a particular country is not advised, then airlines and travel companies are likely to cancel any pre-booked flights or holidays there.

If this happens, you are entitled to a full refund, and you can choose to receive that refund in cash.

An airline should refund the money within seven days, although some people have had to wait longer.

A package holiday should be refunded, in full, within 14 days.

What if I make a decision that it's too risky to travel?

This is far less clear-cut. If you cancel, rather than the travel provider doing so, then you have no automatic right to a refund.

In this situation, it is worth contacting the airline or holiday provider to see what options you have.

Some may allow you to transfer to another date or destination, they may give you a voucher, or they may allow you to cancel and get a refund.

Will travel insurance cover me if I get Covid?

Travel insurers are offering different levels of cover. In part, this depends on how much you pay for a policy.

The majority will pay out if you test positive for Covid and have to cancel before you travel.

In most other Covid-related scenarios, only a minority of policies will give you financial cover, according to analysis by data specialists Defaqto.

For example, if a positive or missed Covid test stops you from boarding a flight back to the UK, only about one in 10 policies will cover you for costs.

If the Foreign Office advises against travel to a country, then all but a handful of travel insurance policies would be invalid.

Graphic - travel insurance policy cover during Covid

Why is this so complicated?

The rules are going to be fairly complex, given that the risk of Covid varies so much between different countries.

The government says it will publish a charter "that clearly sets out consumer rights and responsibilities when booking travel while Covid-19 measures remain in place".

It also says it expects travel operators to be "flexible" with customers given the circumstances.

 

source:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51615412

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