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This page is no longer updated, for the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

December 2018 advice column

Money worries

I’ve got three kids, and as usual, my finances are not in good shape ahead of Christmas. I’m on a low income so had to put some purchases on a credit card. I have been trying to pay it off but I’m already behind on other bills. I haven’t been able to pay my council tax in three months and received payment reminders from my energy provider. What should I do?

First things first, work out how much you owe - make a list of who you need to pay each month and how much. If you don’t have your most recent statements, you can contact your creditors to find out.

Make sure you are getting all the income that you are entitled to. For example, you may be entitled to tax credits to top up your income or help with child care, housing costs or school meals.

Create a budget by adding up essential living costs, such as food and housing, and take these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. Citizens Advice’s budgeting tool, found on its website, can help.

Your council tax, rent or mortgage, and energy are priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These must be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.

As you’re already in arrears with your council tax, you must act quickly and contact your council to arrange an affordable payment plan. You can also contact your energy supplier to help you sort out a payment plan that works for you. They must help you do this and you can get help from your local Citizens Advice if they don't. To cut your future bills you should make sure you're on the best deal you can get. Use a price comparison tool to check.

For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice by phone, online or face-to-face.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk


November 2018 advice column

Problems when buying from an online marketplace

'I bought a pair of trainers from a private seller on an online marketplace. The advert said they were Asics but when they arrived the branding said Basics. They are clearly not what was advertised, are terrible quality and not fit for purpose. Do I have any rights? What can I do?'

 If you’re shopping online from an individual seller, the principle of “buyer beware” applies - which means you are purchasing subject to all defects, and the seller does not have to declare problems.  

However, the seller must not misrepresent the goods, for example, by claiming they’re a certain popular brand when they are not.

Because your trainers are not as described in the advert, you may have grounds to ask for your money back.

First, try to fix the issue by contacting the seller to explain the problem, let them know your rights and that you would like your money back.

Should this get you nowhere, check to see if the online marketplace has its own protection and disputes resolution system.

Finally, if neither of these work for you, consider making a claim to the court, known as a small claim. There is guidance on how to do this on the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

 


Autumn advice column:

What to do if you're falling behind on your bills

I recently become a carer for my partner who I live with and can no longer work. We’ve started falling behind on our bills and I’m worried our debts are only going to get worse. I’m on Carer’s Allowance but what else can I do to turn things around?

A change in circumstances can often trigger financial problems. It’s good to see you taking action now as this will stop you from sliding into further debt.

See if you can make any savings on your household bills by switching suppliers, or changing deals. You may be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill - speak to your local authority directly.

Try to boost your income too. You may be able to apply for benefits jointly with your partner to be paid alongside Carers Allowance. 

You should contact your creditors and ask if you can reduce your repayments until you’re back in work. They can also freeze any interest and charges so your debts don’t go up while you pay less. Check to see if you have payment protection insurance to cover giving up work to become a carer as well.

If you’re still struggling to cover your outgoings, it’s important to prioritise paying your household bills like your council tax and rent or mortgage.

For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 


September 2018 

Problem neighbours

A family has moved in to the house next door and is being a nuisance, yelling late at night over a loud television and leaving bin bags strewn over the front of the house. I don’t want to antagonise them in case they become threatening. What can I do?

 

It’s best to try to resolve problems by speaking with your neighbour, if it’s safe to do so. Explain the effect their behaviour is having and ask them to stop. If the problem continues, keep a record of incidents, which will come in handy if you decide to take the matter further.

A mediator may help you and your neighbour find a solution. If you’re a council or housing association tenant, they may have their own mediator you can use. If not, you’ll need to find one yourself and pay a fee.

Ask your neighbour’s landlord to speak to them on your behalf. If your neighbour lives in social housing, their landlord should have a policy for dealing with antisocial behaviour.

If the landlord can’t help, or you don’t know who it is, your council might be able to. Visit its website for information on the types of complaint it deals with.

If you’ve tried everything but the problem persists, ask for a Community Trigger. The council might work with the police and others to create an action plan. As a last resort, you can go to an ombudsman if you’re unhappy with how your council or social landlord has handled it.

If your neighbour becomes threatening or violent, you should tell the police.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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