Debt • Many lenders use debt collection companies to collect debts on theirCollectors behalf because it works out cheaper for them. This is a normal part of the recovery process and you shouldnt worry if you are contacted by a debt collector for money you owe. • Debt collectors dont have any extra powers but you may find that theyre more persistent. • Dont let debt collectors pressure you into making arrangements you cant keep up. Treat debt collectors in the same way as you would any other creditor.
Debt Collectors continued…• Some debt collectors may pretend to have more legal powers than they really have. For example, they may say that they can take your goods away, when in fact only a bailiff can do this and they need to get a court order first.• If a debt collector does this you should complain to them or to the creditor whose debt they are collecting. If you are still not satisfied or the complaint is not sorted out you can complain to the Office of Fair Trading.• There are other guidelines that debt collectors have to follow. For example, a debt collector must be very careful when dealing with someone who has a physical or mental illness. A debt collector should not continue with a home visit if it is obvious that someone is suffering from a mental illness.
Bailiffs• If you owe money, your creditor has various options to try and get their money back. For example, they could apply to the court for an order to take money out of your wages to pay back your debt.• Instructing the bailiffs to take your things away is another option. The goods are usually sold at auction. The money raised goes towards the bailiffs’ fees and charges and what is left over goes to your creditor.• There usually has to be a court order before bailiffs can come to take your things away. Even when the bailiffs have got authorisation to act, it may be possible to negotiate with the creditor to call the bailiffs off.
Bailiffs can be used to make youpay the following debts:•council tax arrears•business rates arrears•county court orders (CCJs)•High Court orders (judgments)•child support arrears•parking/road traffic penalties•fines in a criminal case•income tax arrears•VAT debts•rent arrears.
Bailiff advice• If the bailiffs haven’t got into your home before, the basic rule is that they can’t come in unless you or another adult lets them in. You can choose not to let them in.• However the bailiffs can get in without your permission if they can do so without using force. For example, if they can get in through an unlocked door or open window. This is called peaceful entry (or sometimes peaceable entry).• Once they have gained peaceful entry through an outer entrance, they can break open the doors of other rooms or locked cupboards.
Bailiff advice continued….• Sometimes, bailiffs are allowed to break in to your home, even if you don’t give them permission. This is the case where:• the bailiffs are collecting unpaid fines. They can force their way into your property whether or not theyve been in to seize goods [link] before. However they must only do so if this would be reasonable. In practice, they only break in as a last resort• the bailiffs have already gained peaceful entry before. They can force their way back into your home to take away goods that theyve already seized if your trying to stop them from entering
Bailiff advice continued….• the bailiffs are collecting income tax or VAT and they have permission from the court. This may be allowed if they have previously failed to gain peaceable entry.• Debts are personal (exceptions: partnerships, joint accounts etc). Addresses cannot be ‘blacklisted’!• Please seek legal advice immediately if you have any debt problems, it is best to be pro-active and try to negotiate a repayment plan in the first instance.
Housing Benefit & HomelessnessUnder 35’s & Housing Benefit/ Local Housing AllowanceFrom 1 January 2012, if youre single, under 35, and haveno dependent children, your housing benefit is based onthe rent for a single room with shared facilities.However, some people are exempt from this, for example,care leavers under 22, some disabled people and peopleaged 25 to 34 who have been living in a homeless hostel.** Previously this only applied to under 25’s
Non-dependent Deductions• Non-dependants are people like grown-up sons or daughters and elderly relatives. If you have non-dependants living with you, your HB and CTB may be affected.• Any non-dependants who normally share your accommodation could affect the amount of HB and CTB you get whether or not you are also getting Income Support, income-based JSA or Pension Credit.• No non-dependent deduction in certain circumstances• Currently if your non-dependent is in receipt of Income Support, income related ESA or income based JSA, the weekly deduction is £11.45 for Housing Benefit purposes.
Local Authority Homeless ApplicationsIn assessing whether or not they have a duty to accommodate you the councilwill look at the following factors:• Are you eligible? This relates to your immigration status in the UnitedKingdom.• Are you homeless or threatened with homelessness?• Are you in priority need? This relates to whether you have children, adisability or vulnerable for some reason e.g. drug dependency.• Do you have a local connection? This means do you have a connection withthe borough whose council you are applying to for assistance with housing.• Are You Intentionally Homeless? You will be found to be intentionallyhomeless if you choose to leave your home when you could have remainedthere or if you deliberately or knowingly did something or failed to dosomething that caused you to become homeless. If you are being evicted donot leave before you have been served with eviction notice.
Permanent Council or Housing Association AccommodationLocal authorities are required by law to have an allocations policy andscheme governing the allocation of social housing.If you wish to secure permanent council or housing associationaccommodation you must join your local authority’s housing registerscheme.Housing register schemes often consists of individuals being placed ina band or awarded a certain number of points based of their level ofneed. They are then required to bid regularly for housing.Individuals are not automatically given permanent housing if theypresent as homeless to the council.
Private Sector RentingThere are advantages:-• Choose where you live• You can still bid on housing register for permanent social housing whilst living in privately rented property.• New laws mean that now likely to be offered social housing with a fixed term tenancy and disadvantages: -• Housing Benefit Cap• Finding a landlord willing to accept tenant in receipt of benefits• Raising deposit – Discretionary Housing Payment schemes, local authority bonds, rent deposit schemes• Your landlord can serve you notice to quit after fixed term ends – minimum 6 months Assured Shorthold Tenancy.
BAIL CONDITIONSMain bail conditions that could affect you as a family member:-Bail Act 1976• Residence (with/without electronic tagging); tagging requires an active phone line and curfew may apply.• Surety – promise to pay an agreed sum if the defendant fails to attend Court; need to prove source of money (eg. Can’t be paid into account day before!); duty on the person to ensure defendant attends Court• Security – payment into Court account of an agreed sum, to be returned at outcome of case regardless of outcome; relinquished if defendant fails to attend; duty on person to ensure defendant attends Court
SEARCH WARRANTS/RAIDSPolice and Criminal Evidence Act 1984• Search with warrant; for specific items; within 1 month of date on warrant; only authorises entry on 1 occasion• Entry without warrant; many reasons, including to: – arrest someone – execute a warrant of arrest – recapture a person who has escaped from lawful custody – arrest a child/young person who has been remanded/committed to local authority accommodation – to save life or limb or prevent serious damage to property• Police should leave a copy of the warrant and a list of the items seized.• If Police enter lawfully then it is very difficult to get repairs paid for by the police or housing association. Police only have to ensure that property is secure.
MISUSE OF DRUGS ACT 1971 (s.8)• Criminal offence for occupiers/managers of premises knowingly to ‘permit or suffer’ those premises to be used for the following activities: - Production or attempted production of any controlled drug, or - Supply or attempted supply of any controlled drug, or - Preparing opium for smoking, or - Smoking cannabis or prepared opium.• Penalties available for Section 8 offences• Maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment or a fine or both
Please feel free to contact Release’s team of drugs experts, legal advisors and policy staff at any time. Release 124-128 City Road London EC1V 2NJ Helpline 0845 4500 215, firstname.lastname@example.org (open 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, Monday-Friday) Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 2989 Fax: +44 (0)20 7324 2977 Find a Solicitor: http://legaladviserfinder.justice.gov.uk/AdviserSearch.do