advice column
Our advice column features common queries along with advice and information about what you can do to resolve them. 
If you have an issue that you are trying to resolve and it is not covered below you can call us for advice on freephone 0808 278 7995 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm), or you can email us
Our latest advice columns:

July 2024

"I’ve got to move house and will be renting somewhere on my own for the first time. It’s exciting but there’s so much to think about and I’m worried things could go wrong. Do you have any tips or advice on what I should do when looking for a new home?"

Whether you’re renting on your own or with other people, one of the first decisions to make is whether you want to rent directly from a landlord or through a letting agent.

Renting directly from a landlord might mean you have less to pay before moving in, fewer references and you might not need to do a credit check. Alternatively, renting through a letting agent means that if they manage the property they’ll liaise with the landlord about any repairs that need doing on your behalf. However, if a letting agent behaves badly and you believe they’re at fault you can complain to their independent complaints body, known as ‘redress scheme’.

There are lots of websites you can use to find somewhere to rent but if you can’t look online, you could visit a local estate agent or ask friends and family to help you. When you’re looking, remember, never pay any money before you’ve seen the property and if you can take someone with you when viewing properties.

Avoid renting directly from an existing tenant, this is called ‘subletting’ and the tenant might not have the landlord’s permission to rent to you, which could cause problems down the line.

If a tenant is showing you around the property on behalf of the landlord they should give you the landlord's contact details.

To make sure the property you're going to rent is safe, affordable and meets your needs, ask the landlord or letting agent some key questions. For example, how much rent is and how it should be paid, if the rent includes any bills, how long the tenancy is, if there’s the opportunity to renew and if there’s a break clause in case you need to end the tenancy early.

Check if you’ll need to pay a holding deposit while the landlord carries out pre-tenancy checks, this can’t be more than a week’s rent and should be returned to you at the start of the tenancy. You should also ask your landlord or letting agent what documents you'll need to provide when you agree to rent the property including evidence of your Right to Rent.

Before you go ahead, ask how your tenancy deposit will be protected, if any furniture or appliances are included in the tenancy and, if relevant, whether you can have pets. You should also request any obvious problems with the property are fixed before you move in.

If a landlord refuses to rent to you because of who you are, this may be discrimination. For instance, because of your race, religion or sexual orientation. A 'no kids policy' or refusing to rent to you because you get benefits could also be discrimination. You only need to tell a landlord or letting agent you receive benefits if they ask. Some may then require a guarantor as security if you have no renting history, or if they feel you may have trouble paying rent. They can still refuse to rent to you if they think you won’t be able to afford it.

Remember, if you need any other pointers or advice on renting or you run into any problems, you can contact Citizens Advice for help.

Copyright Citizens Advice. 
For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

June 2024

The school holidays are about to begin and as a parent I’m already dreading September. School costs can quickly mount up - uniform, transport, trips and probably more I haven’t even thought of yet - I’m really worried I won’t have enough money to cover it all. How will I manage?

School costs can seem overwhelming, but if you're on a low income your local council might help you with some of the expense.

As any parent knows there are a multitude of opportunities and requirements that go hand-in-hand with school and many come with a price tag. For that reason, there is support available when it comes to paying for school uniforms, trips and essential equipment. Some extra curricular clubs such as music might also have funding available. You can find what your local council offers here

When it comes to uniform, schools have a responsibility to make sure they are affordable. A good starting point is the school website which will have the uniform policy, as well as how to find second-hand items.

Some schools will require branded items but these must be kept to a minimum in line with government guidance on affordability, available at If you are worried you still can't afford the required uniform you should speak to someone in the school office who might be able to help.

In terms of food, children in infant school - reception, year one and year two -  automatically get free school meals. If your child is in junior school - years three to six - you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits.*

In some cases free transport is available. If your child is aged five to 16 your local council might help with free or lower-cost transport if you don't live near school or your child's unable to walk there. And for older children in a sixth form or training as an apprentice, there may also be support available. You'll need to ask your local council if they can help. Unfortunately we can’t help with homework, but there is more information on financial support that’s available for school costs and general budgeting advice on the Citizens Advice website -

*Not applicable in Wales

Copyright Citizens Advice.
For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

May 2024

We’re booking a summer holiday to Spain. It’s been a while since we’ve gone on holiday and we really don’t want anything to go wrong. What can we do to protect ourselves and prepare for the unexpected?

The chances are you’ll have the relaxing holiday you deserve, but there are a few things you can do in advance to help your holiday go smoothly. That includes the golden rule of getting travel insurance and brushing up on what your rights are if something goes wrong.

The first thing to do is check if your passport is in date. Renewing can take several weeks so you don’t want to leave this until the last minute. You can check the validity of your passport for your trip on GOV.UK by seeing the entry requirements of the country you’re travelling to.[1]

This is especially important if you’re flying to Europe as EU countries no longer accept passports that are more than ten years old. If your passport was issued pre-Brexit then the expiry date might be more than ten years from the issue date, but if it’s older than ten years, you’ll need to get it renewed for EU travel - even if it’s still in date.

Flight delays and cancellations could happen to any of us, so it’s worth knowing what your rights are if this happens.[2] If your flight is delayed long enough, your airline has to give you access to food and drink vouchers, phone calls and emails, and accommodation if you’re delayed overnight. If your flight is cancelled, you have a legal right to a full refund or replacement flight to help you get to your destination.

Bags going missing is another classic holiday nightmare. But you do have a right to compensation if your airline delays, loses or damages your checked-in luggage. The Citizens Advice website shows you how to do this.[3]

You might also get compensation for other things, like a day trip getting cancelled, or if you paid for a deluxe room but only got a standard one. This will depend on whether you booked a package holiday, made ‘linked travel arrangements’ or organised the holiday yourself as an independent traveller, so it’s worth checking to see what compensation you can get.[4]

Finally, Citizens Advice says you should get travel insurance, as it can cover many of the things already mentioned, like flight delays and lost luggage, but also things like a holiday cancellation and medical emergencies. You should get insurance as soon as you book a holiday to make sure you're covered from the get go, but check first to see if you’re covered for what you need through an existing insurance policy or through your bank account.






April 2024 
I’ve just got my first payslip from a new job, I’m slightly embarrassed to say I don’t understand what all the different sections refer to. How do I know what each means and if it’s correct?
Congratulations on the new job, hopefully you’re settling into the new role.
There’s no need to be embarrassed about not understanding your payslip, it contains lots of information which can be tricky to get your head around but it is important to understand. Your payslip shows your pay, deductions and tax information. All employers are required to give their employees a payslip and it’s a good idea to keep them for as long as possible.
The top left corner of your payslip is where you’ll usually find your employer’s details. Opposite this, in the middle or top right corner, should be your details. This is also where you might find your payroll or employee number, this is what your employer uses to identify you for payroll purposes.
Next, you’ll see lots of different numbers and codes. The payment date is when your pay will normally arrive in your bank account, it can be monthly or weekly and fall on any day of the month.
Your National Insurance (NI) number refers to your unique number. You must have a NI number to work in the UK.  It’s used to make sure all your NI contributions are recorded and so you can get any state benefits you’re entitled to, including state pension later in life.
Your payslip might show a tax period, the tax year starts in April and ends in March. The number here corresponds to the period in which you’re being taxed, eg. if you’re paid monthly, 01 will represent the tax period in April, while 12 would mean March.
Next is your tax code. This is decided by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and is used by your employer or pension provider to work out how much Income Tax to take from your pay. Your tax code is made up of several numbers and a letter. The numbers refer to how much tax-free income you get while the letters can mean different things depending on your circumstances. You can find out what they mean on the government website.
Make sure you’re not on an emergency tax code otherwise you’ll be taxed more than needed.
Now to your pay and deductions. Gross pay, means how much you’ve earned before anything is deducted. Deductions are amounts taken from your gross pay, common ones include: income tax, national insurance, pension or student loan payments. Income tax is the tax you pay on your earnings to fund public services, this is something you have to pay but the amount will vary depending on your earnings. You pay National Insurance so you can be entitled to certain benefits, and it also contributes towards the NHS.
Most payslips will add up all the deductions from your pay into a single amount to make it easier for you to see how much is taken from your pay each month. Your net pay is the amount of money you will receive after all the deductions have worked out.
Lastly, taxable pay is the amount of your salary, to date in the current tax year, that has been subjected to tax. This will usually appear next to your net pay figure.
Copyright Citizens Advice.
For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

March 2024
My council tax bill is coming out in March and I am dreading opening it as it always goes up. My income has stayed the same but everything else seems more expensive and I have hardly anything left over - how will I cope if my payments for this year go up?
Many of us are feeling overwhelmed as we see our basic bills and essential costs go up. You’re not alone in finding things difficult and, crucially, there’s support available.
First off, there are discounts available to some people depending on their circumstances. You can check your bill or contact your council to find out if you might be eligible for an automatic reduction to your council tax.
If you're not getting a discount, you might still be entitled to one. It depends who lives in the property. So, if you're the only adult in your home, you’ll get a 25% discount on your council tax bill.
When working out how many people live in a property, some people aren’t counted - they’re called ‘disregarded people’ and include under 18s, a student nurse or someone on an apprenticeship scheme and many more. Check the government website for more details. If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded, you will still receive a council tax bill, but it will have a 50% discount. However, if everyone in your home is a student or severely mentally impaired, you won't pay any council tax.
Additionally, if someone has moved out, tell the council as this might change your eligibility. If you are entitled to a discount as a result, it will be valid from the date when the person moved out, even if you told the council after the event, and the reduction may be backdated.
If you think you might be eligible you should apply to your local council for a discount as soon as possible. You can find your council's contact details on GOV.UK.
You mention that your income hasn’t increased. If you are on a low income you might be able to get your council tax reduced. If you get benefits or have other people living with you, this might affect how much your council tax is reduced by.
Your local council will ask you details about your income and your circumstances, so they can work out if you’re entitled to a council tax reduction. They will then calculate your new bill and tell you how much council tax you need to pay.
If you have other people living with you who are aged 18 or over, you might all be responsible for paying council tax. Only one of you needs to apply for a council tax reduction. The council will make a decision and reduce the amount of council tax you have to pay accordingly.
You may also be eligible for additional support if you’ve reached State Pension age which you can check on the government website GOV.UK  If you’re under State Pension age, the ‘working age rules’ apply and if you've reached State Pension age, it depends if you or your partner get certain benefits.
The working age rules still apply if you've reached State Pension age and you or your partner get:
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
If you've reached State Pension age and don't get any of these benefits, the 'pension age rules' apply.
Even if none of the reduction criteria applies to you, your local council can still reduce your council tax bill or cancel it altogether, this is called ‘discretionary reduction’. They’ll normally only do this if you can show that you’re suffering severe hardship and can’t afford to pay council tax.
If you’re in this situation you should ask your local council for help. You’ll need to show them evidence of your circumstances. If your immigration status doesn’t let you claim public funds, you can still apply for a discretionary reduction. A discretionary reduction doesn’t count as public funds.
We know that times are incredibly tough and council tax is a priority bill so it’s important to keep in contact with your council if you can’t keep up payments. Citizens Advice is here to help you find a way forward, without judgement, working with you side by side.
To speak to an adviser call us on freephone 0808 278 7995 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. Closed on bank holidays.

Or contact us directly for advice by email
Copyright Citizens Advice.
For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

February 2024
Damp and mould is building up in our house as the winter goes on. Our living room is the worst and there’s a strong smell, so we’ve stopped having friends round. We’re also concerned about our health. We’ve reported it to our landlord, but they haven’t done anything. With six months left on the tenancy agreement, we’re running out of options. What should we do?
You’ve done the right thing by bringing this to your landlord. To work out if they are responsible you’ll need to find the cause of the damp and mould, but this can take time unless there’s a clear cause, like bad insulation or a leaking roof.
Damp is when an area of your property doesn’t dry out, often because it’s cold. The main types are rising, penetrating, construction, and condensation damp. It can lead to mould, which is a fungus that grows in areas where warm damp air condenses on cold surfaces, like window frames. Information on our website can help you work out what type of damp you have, who is responsible and what you can do. You should also check your tenancy agreement for mentions of repairs and damp.
Your landlord is responsible for fixing a damp problem if it’s making your home unsafe to live in. For example, this could be if it’s affecting your health or the health of those you live with. Your landlord will also be responsible if the damp is related to repairs they should have carried out, like if the window frames are rotting. They would have to cover the cost of repairs to any items damaged by the damp, including carpets and furniture.
Condensation is a key cause of damp we’re all familiar with. Keeping homes well-heated and well-ventilated is the best way to prevent this, but for many of us today, high heating costs and cold weather are making this very difficult. If you’re finding it hard to insulate and heat your home, check our website to see if you’re eligible for support.
Always avoid doing anything that can make damp worse, as it may affect whether the landlord takes responsibility for repairs. Our website has advice on what to avoid, like drying clothes on heaters, blocking air vents, or using portable gas heaters.
You may reach the point where you just want to get out of your tenancy agreement early, but remember this can be very tricky and there might be things you haven’t tried yet.
For example, if your landlord is responsible for the damp in your home but doesn’t do anything, there are steps you can take, like reporting them to the local authority. And as a private renter, if you’ve got evidence from a health professional that damp is making you ill, you may be able to get free legal advice through Legal Aid.
If you’re feeling stuck, you can always speak to your local Citizens Advice on 0808 278 7995 for personalised support.
Our phonelines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm), or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice.
For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

January 2024
I’ve built up a bit of debt and I am panicking. Even though I cut back, Christmas was expensive, my rent has gone up and my paycheque just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. I’m doing everything I can but it’s not enough - what can I do?
First of all, it’s important to know you’re not alone in finding things difficult and, crucially, there’s support available.
You say you’ve built up a bit of debt. The first step is to collect all the information you have about your debts, this might include contracts, bills and statements.
Next, make a list of your debts and write down the details of each. This could include whom you owe the money to (this person/company is your ‘creditor’); when you first missed a payment; and how much you now owe. You’ll also need to make a note of your account or reference number and what steps the creditor has taken to get the money back, eg. sending you letters.
It might feel overwhelming when you see all of your debts written down - but try not to worry, the important thing is that you're sorting them out.
If you’re behind on household bills, prioritise paying your rent or mortgage, plus energy bills and Council Tax first. Not paying these bills has the most serious consequences. You should speak to the person or company you owe money to, to see if there are any manageable steps you can take to start reducing your debt.
Once you’ve got these debts under control, you should look at any other debts like credit card or store card debts, payday loans or missed Buy Now Pay Later payments.
While you’re looking at the money going out, do remember to consider money that could be coming in. It’s always worth checking if there are any benefits that you’re eligible for, including support with your energy costs and living costs. There’s a benefits calculator, advice on how to reduce living costs  and information on other ways to increase your income, on the Citizens Advice website.
There’s also emergency support that you may be able to access, such as a food bank or fuel vouchers. You could also contact your local council to see if they can offer support.
We know that times are incredibly tough but please remember, you don’t have to face this alone, do contact us at Citizens Advice Wiltshire to help you find a way forward:  
To speak to an adviser over the phone call us on freephone 0808 278 7995
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm. Closed on bank holidays.

Or contact us directly for advice by email

Copyright Citizens Advice.

For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

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