Holiday Rights and Consumer Law

Summer may have gone but holidays are still a hot topic, with constantly shifting headlines about travel cancellations and delays. It may feel like it’s getting harder to know where you stand if your holiday doesn’t go to plan or doesn’t go ahead at all.

It’s important to remember that the basic legal principles and laws surrounding this topic haven’t changed and, redress for holiday chaos is dealt with under existing legislation.

Package Travel Regulations

Usually, the starting point when considering your holiday rights is whether you booked a package holiday or something else. A package holiday has the protection of the Package Travel Regulations, where rights and routes to compensation are clear.

If you book the elements of your holiday separately, you’re more likely to need to look to your insurance cover for redress. But how do you know if you’ve booked a package?

These are all typical examples:

  • You booked 2 or more elements of the holiday (e.g. flights and accommodation) with the same company and paid one payment.
  • It was sold to you as a package or all-inclusive deal.
  • You bought all the elements of the holiday for a single price.

If anything goes wrong with your package holiday, it’s the responsibility of the company you booked with to put it right. If they can’t, you’re entitled to compensation. But you must let them know about the problem as soon as you can to give them an opportunity to fix the situation.

You won’t get the global protection of the Package Holiday Regulations if you’ve sourced and booked your own flights, accommodation, excursions, car hire, etc in separate transactions. Instead, you’ll have to look to the individual companies you’ve entered into contracts with. Or, more likely, to your insurance.

Remember that the protection you have from booking a package is not a substitute for travel insurance. There may still be times when things go wrong but your package company is not liable. In these circumstances, your travel insurance may be your lifeline.


If your package holiday is cancelled, the regulations entitle you to a refund within 14 days. However, given the volatility in the holiday market and the high volumes of cancellations, you might want to consider giving the company a little leeway over the timing of a refund.

If the result of the status change has a significant effect on you, you may be entitled to a refund depending on how significant the impact of the change is. The company may offer you an alternative date or destination, but the effect on you must be related to the holiday itself, not inconvenience to you when you get home.


There are several elements of compensation available for a claim where a holiday has gone awry:

  • Loss of value – the difference between what you paid for and what you got
  • Out of pocket expenses – reasonable expenses incurred due to the problem
  • Loss of enjoyment – a special category reflecting the essence of why people holiday, which covers disappointment and distress
  • Personal injury – compensation for physical or mental harm

It’s not necessary for every element to apply to your circumstances to make a valid claim. You’ll have heard about companies offering vouchers as alternatives to refunds, and for some people that’s an acceptable solution. However, it’s important to remember that a company can’t insist that you take a voucher if you’re legally entitled to be refunded.

Don’t ignore the T&Cs

Holiday companies can’t dodge their obligations under the Package Holiday Regulations via their terms and conditions. But it’s still important to take note of these, as there are many details of the contract between you and the company that you should be clear about before you agree.

Cancellation charges or changes to the price or elements of your holiday could all be examples of this. Remember, if you cancel your holiday because you can’t or don’t want to travel, and this is not anticipated in the terms and conditions, you are not ordinarily entitled to a refund.

The terms and conditions will tell you about when you may still be charged for a holiday you’ve cancelled. Any terms and conditions, including cancellation charges, must be ‘reasonable’. Unfortunately, there’s no easy definition of what is reasonable. However, it may be possible to cancel your holiday without incurring any cancellation charge if, for example, you cancel because of Foreign Office advice about travel to your intended destination. Or, if significant changes have been made to your accommodation, e.g. anything affecting its standard or facilities.

Other protection

Other forms of protection available to you include paying by credit card, giving you what is known as Section 75 protection, named after the relevant part of the Consumer Credit Act. This effectively makes your credit card provider jointly liable for a breach of contract.

The Chargeback facility available on debit card transactions works in a similar way, with your bank requesting your money back directly from the other party’s bank.

Holidays covered by ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) and ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) provide protection if, for example, your holiday company goes bust or you need to be re-patriated following a change in Foreign Office advice while you’re away.

If you’re not travelling on a package deal and have a flight cancelled, you’re entitled to a refund within 7 days – but again, if it’s your decision not to fly and you cancel your flight, subject to the terms and conditions of the carrier, you won’t be automatically entitled to a refund.

However, the reason for your cancellation might be covered by your travel insurance, e.g. the death of a relative or illness. But insurance companies are now often excluding COVID-related reasons, so it’s important to check your level of cover.

If your flight involves an airport in the UK or the EU and your flight is overbooked, delayed or cancelled, you’re likely to be entitled to a fixed amount in compensation. This is under either the European Community Regulation EC 261/2004 (which in some cases can still cover you even after Brexit), or the UK rules that replaced them: the Air Travel Organisers’ Licencing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations.

Managing Debt Part 2

In part 1 of our article we discussed how to address tackling debt concerns head on. Now that you have assessed your financial needs, created a budget sheet, and perhaps applied for some formal breathing space to help you do all that, you are ready to negotiate with your creditors.

Before you do this, think about what it is you hope to achieve, what remedy you want, and have your points clearly prepared. There are many potential remedies, all dependant on personal circumstances. We explore some of those below:

Out of time?

Under the Limitation Act 1980, creditors of unsecured debts – such as store cards, catalogue debt, personal loans or, in some cases, credit cards (check the terms carefully!) – have 6 years to enforce a breach of contract. This means they must take steps to recover the debt, usually by issuing court proceedings after sending out a default notice.

If you have not paid for 6 years after a default occurred, or if you have not admitted to owing the debt within 6 years of your last payment (known in legal terms as affirming), then the creditor is out of time to recover it – in other words, they are statute barred.

Creditors of unsecured debts such as mortgages have 12 years before being statute barred.

There are free template letters available from the major debt charities to help you assert this.

Request a write off

You may be able to persuade your creditors to accept a lump sum payment to write off the whole debt. You may have to offer to pay a significant portion of the debt for them to agree. Occasionally though, it’s possible to persuade creditors to write off the whole debt without a payment. This is usually where creditors are satisfied that they’re unlikely to ever receive any payments – perhaps because the person cannot work again, or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or has no assets.

If a write off is negotiated, you must ensure that the creditors agree that it is a full and final settlement of the whole debt.

Debt consolidation

This involves combining your debts into one single debt. Putting your eggs in one basket is not for everyone. You will be taking out credit to pay off credit. This means that you will be making a larger regular payment, with potentially increased interest rates over a longer period.

Take specialist advice before giving this serious consideration, particularly if you can’t promise yourself that you won’t take out credit again until this debt is paid.

Re-mortgage your home

This is very similar to debt consolidation, but this time the debt is secured against your home. This means your home will be at risk if you cannot meet the new payments. It may be suitable for you if you can find the right mortgage product and take specialist advice.

Debt management plan (DMP)

You can either negotiate this personally or use an agency. Agencies will charge a fee, but there are charities who will do the same job and won’t charge you.

The agency/charity will negotiate with your creditors on your behalf for a longer repayment period, lowering your regular repayments. You then make the regular payments to the agency/charity, who then transfer the relevant amounts to your respective creditors.

DMPs are suitable for people who can make a regular repayment due to applying a budget. The creditors can still contact you as part of their debt recovery protocols.

Administration orders

This is a court application to request that the court manages the re-payment of your debt. You must owe less than £5,000, have at least 2 creditors and have one court judgement against you. There is no court fee for applying, but the court takes 10% of the amount that you pay to them to cover the cost of administration. Contact from creditors, such as debt collection and letters, should cease, and fees and interest on the debt are frozen.

The repayment arrangements will continue until all debts are paid off or unless you apply for a Composition order at the same time. If the judge agrees to that, the debts are usually written off after 3 years. This results in a county court judgement against you.

Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)

This is a form of insolvency, meaning you’ll need an insolvency practitioner (IP). As the fees can be quite expensive, it is important to take specialist advice first.

An IVA is an agreement to pay off your creditors in regular payments over a set period. It’s a legally binding arrangement and, if a combination of your creditors who together hold 75% of your debt agree to your proposal, their decision will bind any other creditors listed in the application regardless of whether or not they agree.

You must make regular payments to your IP, who then distributes that money among the creditors. Your creditors might specify conditions, such as requiring you to re-mortgage your home to release equity.

You can’t apply for more than £500 in credit without the permission of your IP, and your job may be affected if you need a particular license, e.g. lawyers, accountants, conveyancers or publicans.

You must meet the agreed repayments, because unless your creditors agree to a further extension, they may require your IP to make you bankrupt.


This is the most widely known form of insolvency and you can now make the application online. You’ll need to pay a large application fee.

Once you submit the application, an official receiver (OR) is appointed by the Insolvency Service. You must co-operate fully with them. They have the power to sell your assets to pay off your debts, but household items and any items that you need for work will be exempt.

If the OR assesses that you have enough surplus income after paying your essential bills, they may also require you to make regular payments into the bankruptcy to go towards paying off your creditors.

Whilst most bankruptcies last a year, sometimes they can last longer. If the OR assesses your surplus income to be high enough, they may require you to sign an Income Payments Agreement that lasts for 3 years.

Bankruptcy does not wipe out all debt and certain debts cannot be included in the application.

Debt Relief Order

If you don’t own your own home, owe less than £30,000 in debt, and have less than £75 left over each month after paying your bills, then a debt relief order may be a more appropriate remedy for you.

It’s like bankruptcy, in that it lasts 12 months, during which your creditors cannot pursue you to repay them and the interest is frozen on the debts. After the 12 months are up, if your circumstances have not changed, you are not expected to pay anything and the debts are written off.

The fees are cheaper than a bankruptcy petition. You must make an application through an authorised debt adviser. Again, certain debts can’t be included, and you can’t own assets over £2,000: for example, jewellery, valuable collectables or high-spec equipment such as a computer. However, tools of the trade that are essential for your work are exempt.

Always get advice

Most of the above remedies will appear on, or affect your credit file, for 6 years. Some debts cannot be added to the remedy application, and some may have a direct impact on your profession. It is always important to take specialist advice before embarking on a remedy that you believe is right for you.

Never pay for debt advice if possible. The key charities and organisations offering free assistance are:

National Debtline:


Money Advice Service:

Citizens Advice:

Managing Debt

The pandemic has been hard – not just mentally, physically and emotionally, but also financially. For many, the cost of the pandemic has taken a toll and there are enticing adverts on TV or social media suggesting little-known ways of becoming debt free, or advertising “government backed” debt schemes. But when looking for help, how can you pick out the right options?

There are many established ways of managing debt. Some are based on legislation, others are simply good, sound debt management practices that have become the norm over the years. If you’re worried about debt, take a deep breath and address your concerns as early as possible. If you earn less than your debt, or if you need a loan or your overdraft to get you to payday, then it’s time to be proactive.

If you find it difficult to know where to start, here are our step-by-step recommendations:

Assess your debts

Put them into “Priority” and “Non-Priority” categories. A priority debt is one where the creditor has increased powers to enforce the debt against you. Rent or mortgage payments are priority debts because you can lose your home. Utility bills (i.e. gas, electricity, water) are another, because ultimately those companies can apply to court to disconnect you. Other priority debts include court fines, council tax, TV licence, Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT, as well as hire purchases or loans for essential household items (e.g. a car).

Non-priority debts are, broadly, everything else. The most obvious examples are store card or credit card debt.

Work out a suitable budget

It might sound obvious but it’s important to realistically appreciate what your income and expenditure is, partly so that you can manage your personal life but also to explore if there is anything left over to offer your creditors. Try and create routines, such as a meal planner and stick to the shopping list to try and make it easier to monitor your essential spending.

Boost your income

Explore if there are any ways that your income can be increased. You may be eligible for tax credits, universal credit or other benefits. Explore if you qualify for a charitable grant – the charity Turn2Us can give you a list of things you might be eligible for. Go back to basics – can you save money by swapping energy suppliers, or broadband and TV packages?

Create a financial statement

This is a summary of your income and expenditure and is key to discussions with creditors. People frequently tend to recognise their regular spends, such as their travel costs to work, food or utility bills, but overlook sporadic spends. These are things like prescription charges, a dentist visit, replacing clothing, home repairs, or, if you have children, the costs of a school uniform. You should factor in all such things. If you’ve never created a financial statement before, then free specialist advice is available through a variety of charitable and government organisations.

Buy yourself time

If you need to time to take stock or seek specialist help with the steps above, you can ask your creditors for time. There are template letters available from charities and other organisations. Until recently his relied on your creditor’s goodwill – but not anymore.

The law changed in May with the introduction of The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 – also known more simply as “Breathing Space”.

If you qualify, you can apply for breathing space. Only recognised debt advisors can make this application, so you’ll need to talk to one first. If granted, any creditors named in your application can’t pursue you for your eligible debts, or charge you interest on them, for 60 days. They’re also not allowed to make any contact with you, unless it’s about any other, ineligible debts that you may also have.

For example, a mortgage is not an eligible debt for breathing space, but any historical mortgage arrears are. So, if you have mortgage arrears listed in the application, the mortgage company cannot discuss those, or any charges or interest linked to them. But they can still contact you about continuing the mortgage payments that you are still expected to make.

The regulations also introduced a new Mental Health Crisis Breathing Space. This allows for the same respite as above, but if you’re eligible due to your poor mental health, the breathing space lasts for the length of your mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days. As well as recognised debt advisors, a wider group of people can make the application for you, including approved mental health professionals, your carer, or certain other professionals.

Breathing space gives you a legal period to take stock of your situation and seek out specialist debt advice before exploring the most appropriate remedy for you. You should still try and make payments on debts that are not covered under the scheme.


Once you have had time to take advice, offer a solution to your creditors. The most practical approach is to attempt to renegotiate the level of repayments to something more affordable. Offer your financial statement as evidence that you’re making a reasonable proposal. Whatever is agreed should be backed up in writing to create a paper trail of your efforts to take responsibility of managing your debt. Take control and confirm your understanding of the negotiated payments; don’t wait for your creditors to write to you.

If your creditors are not willing to negotiate then consider if you are eligible for a Debt Management Plan. This is where you make one payment to a third party such as a charity, who then distributes the money among your creditors on a pro rata basis.

If this offer isn’t accepted, then a more formal remedy may be appropriate, such as an administration order, a debt relief order, an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) or bankruptcy. Other possible non-formal options can include equity release or consolidating debts into one debt. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which you should weigh up very carefully. You can read more about these options next time in Part 2 of our article.

Every person’s circumstances are unique, so it’s important to get specialist advice before making any final decisions. There are a number of charities and government bodies that offer information and help, and it’s a good idea to explore their services first before paying a company advertising the offer of debt help.

They key charities and organisations offering free assistance are:

National Debtline:


Money Advice Service:

Citizens Advice:

Turn2US: (for checking benefit eligibility and to search for a charitable grant)


Consumer Rights in the Age of Online Shopping

A notable feature of the coronavirus pandemic has been the surge in online purchases. The demise of high-street retail giants would seem to indicate that this trend will continue. So, what are your rights if you are making purchases online?

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013

The Consumer Contracts Regulations deal with purchases you make where you are not physically present at the point you enter into the contract. This will include some other types of transactions but for this article we will be talking specifically about online transactions.

Before you buy

The online retailer is required by the Consumer Contracts Regulations to provide you with the following information up front (before you conclude the contract):

  • Their trading name
  • The main characteristics of the goods
  • The total price of the goods including all taxes (no hidden charges allowed)
  • Delivery/any other applicable costs
  • Your rights to cancel, time limits and procedures for cancellation

Think of this as the who, what, when and how (and how much!) of the agreement. Consider when you are purchasing whether have you been told who you are dealing with, what exactly you are purchasing, when can you expect to receive it and how much will you be paying.

Changing your mind

The Consumer Contracts Regulations recognise that you make online purchases without the benefit of being able to test an item’s feel, scale or quality in the way that you would if you were in a conventional retail environment. That’s why cancellation or ‘cooling off’ rights are an important feature of the Regulations. You are entitled to cancel an online order simply because you have changed your mind – you don’t have to give a reason, although for internal monitoring purposes, a seller may ask you.

If the reason you are returning your goods is because they are faulty, then different regulations apply. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) deals with rights to return goods that are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described.

Your cancellation rights apply from the moment you place your order online, giving you up to 14 days from the day you receive your goods. You must notify the seller of your wish to cancel within this ‘cooling off’ period. If you do, you will have a further 14 days to return the goods, starting from the date you notify them of your cancellation. Some retailers will give you enhanced time periods for returns under their own terms and conditions, so it pays to read them carefully.

Returning your item and getting your refund

Assuming you have notified the seller within the time limit, you will usually be expected to pay to return the goods. However, the seller may agree to pay, for example by enclosing a prepaid returns label. Note that if you’re returning faulty items under the CRA, you should not be required to pay for their return.

You should take care to get proof of postage to prevent the seller from claiming that the item was never returned.

The refund the seller gives you under the Consumer Contracts Regulations should include any postage costs you paid when the item was first sent to you. The refund must be paid to you within 14 days of the goods being returned or the evidence that the goods were returned if that is earlier.

Depending on the nature of the goods, the seller may collect them from you. If so, you are not expected to wait until they have been collected to receive your refund. You should receive it within 14 days of the date you informed the seller of the cancellation, not 14 days from when they collect the item.

If you can, it is always worth considering paying by credit card for items over £100 in value as you will receive the additional protection.


Finally, there are several exemptions from the Consumer Contracts Regulations. Some of the more significant exemptions from the right to cancel include:

  • CDs, DVDs or software if seals and packaging are broken
  • Perishable items
  • Tailor-made or personalised items
  • Items sealed for health and hygiene reasons where those seals are broken.

Passenger transport services are also not covered by the Regulations and so holidays booked online will be subject to different legislation and are an article for another day!


This article is for general guidance purpose only and not intended as legal advice.

The benefits of having a Will

Should I write a Will?

Yes, without a valid Will you have no control over what happens to your possessions when you die or who will benefit from them.  When a person passes away intestate (with no will) the Law decides what will happen to their estate.  Your estate is everything you own including personal possessions, family heirlooms and even pets. The Intestacy Laws may not reflect your wishes or the best interests of your loved ones.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that dictates how the deceased’s estate should be distributed upon their death. Your estate can include property, cash money, investments and personal possessions.

What are the benefits of having a Will?

Having a Will can make the process of managing your assets much easier for your family or friends.

Having a Will ensures that your loved ones are provided for once you are gone. It is especially important if you have a partner but are not married or in a civil partnership. Partners are not officially recognised by the law which favours blood relatives.

If you have children having a Will is essential to ensure that they are properly provided for. A Will is used to designate your children’s Legal Guardians if they were to be orphaned. It can also provide instruction on how and when their inheritance should be used. As well as conditions for inheriting when they reach adulthood.

A well written Will can help to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that would be payable upon your estate. Simply choosing the right beneficiaries can help to reduce or completely eliminate your Inheritance Tax liability. Distributing your estate wisely can also affect how much inheritance tax is payable upon a spouses death.

In certain circumstances, having a Will can remove the need for your executors to apply for a grant of probate. This is only in cases where the estate is either held in joint names or consists of low value liquid assets. For example cash amounts held with financial institutions. A lot of institutions reduce their threshold (the value they will release without a grant of probate) when there is no Will . Having a valid Will means that a greater amount can be released which in turn may result in a grant not being required. (Although it is good practice to obtain a grant of probate just in case)

What happens when I don’t have a Will?

When you die without a Will, known as dying intestate, you have no choice over what happens to your possessions. Your estate will be distributed according to a predefined set of Rules established by the state called the Rules of Intestacy. These Rules favour your next of kin, starting with spouse, then children and so on. If no relation can be found your estate will be collected by the crown. As of October 2018 there are 8893 estates on the Governments Unclaimed Estates list.

Things to think about when writing a Will

Before sitting down and committing to writing your Will it’s important to have an idea of what you want to achieve. As everyone’s estate is different a well written Will can guide the way to a smooth estate administration. It will also ensure your beneficiaries are well looked after.

When writing your Will there are a few things you should consider.

How much your estate will be worth. – This means giving a monetary value to everything you own. This includes property, cash and investments, vehicles and chattel. Having a good understanding of your financial holdings can also allow you the time to “tidy up” your assets. In turn making your executor’s job a little bit easier. Also knowing the value of your estate gives you the opportunity to distribute your estate in a way that best takes advantage of any exemptions that are available.

Who you want to inherit your assets and how they should be split. – For some people this may be a simple case of splitting everything equally but for others it can be a lot more complicated. By writing a Will you are able to leave your estate to whomever you want. This gives you the opportunity to dictate who will receive what and how much. Choosing the right distribution can reduce inheritance tax liability. As well as the possibility of disputes and contention.

How to protect your wishes if your circumstances change. – No one can be sure of the future so it is important to think about how to express your wishes in a way that will reflect changes in your life. It is suggested that you update your will every 3 years but according to the telegraph more than half of UK adults don’t have a Will so this may not be a realistic expectation. Therefore it is even more important that you have a well written will that reflects your basic wishes as well as be able to stand up to the test of time. This may mean including some specific clauses or setting up trusts whilst you still have the opportunity. However a current Will is always the best option when you face dramatic life changes. For example getting marriage, getting divorced or having children.

How to protect those who are dependent on you. – If you have children or are a care giver to a vulnerable adult having a Will is your final way of ensuring they are going to be protected and provided for in the way you would want. A Will is used to designate who you want to look after your children (their Guardians) if you were to pass away. You can also set out terms for how and when their inheritance should be accessed.

What type of Will do I need?

There are a few different types of Will. However your circumstances will dictate which one is best suited to your needs.

Single Will

A single Will is for an individual. This will expresses an individual’s wishes independently of anyone else’s. This type of Will is most commonly used by a person who is unmarried or not in a civil partnership. It is also useful for people who have children from multiple relationships. As it can be used to ensure that all of their children are equally accounted for.

A single Will with Trust

A trust document can be included in a Single Will if the testator wishes to make provision for a minor or vulnerable dependent. A trust will designate a Trustee as well as set out guidelines for how it should be created, managed and wound down.

Mirrored Wills

Mirrored Wills are for a couple who wish to reflect similar wishes.  These are most often used by married couples, couples in a civil partnership or unmarried couples. These types of Wills express similar wishes for both partner often leaving their estate to the survivor. They will also include clauses to account for how the estate (now combined together) should be distributed upon the second death.

Mirrored Wills with Trust

A trust document can be included in both Wills and can either be created upon the first or second death depending on what the trust is for. Trusts can be a useful instrument for reducing exposure to inheritance tax or protecting your assets from your partner remarrying or their future care costs.

What are the costs?

Lifetime Legal offer a variety of Legal Services including Wills, Trusts, LPA’s and Inheritance Planning all provided by our in house Will writing team.

Lifetime Legal Members receive a Free Standard or Mirror Wills which can be updated whenever you need for free! Read more about our Will service here as well as the other benefits you will receive as a Lifetime Legal Member.

Call 0344 880 2087 to speak to an adviser about becoming a member and receiving your free standard Will or Mirror Wills.

Renting a home: what every tenant should know

By Penny Anderson
Read the Full article on The Guardian Website

During my seven years of blogging as Rentergirl – and decades renting – I have experienced the joys and woes of the UK’s broken private rental sector – from soggy sofas to sudden eviction. Here’s what I’ve learned…

I‘ve been a tenant my entire adult life, which is hardly unusual. After all, there are currently nine million renters in the UK. We all rent property at some point in our lives: as students; when saving to buy (which, for many, is rapidly transforming from stopgap to permanent); while on holiday; and, finally, when we are elderly, in sheltered housing.

For seven years I’ve written a blog about this vast, fascinating subject. I began Rentergirl as a lodger, after a landlady who regularly drank three bottles of wine per evening, and who roundly admonished me for using the lounge, gave me one hour’s notice to “get out of her house”.

My weekly posts about the experience of being a tenant proved extremely popular, consulted by owners and tenants, charities, academics, councils and even parliament.

I have experienced the various joys and woes offered by the UK’s broken private rental sector: revenge eviction, disastrous shared homes, being a lodger and social housing. I suffered in the buy-to-let boom and subsequent crash, when my rented home was repossessed because my landlord went bankrupt, and, in common with many tenants, have occasionally been homeless (once, just hours away from the street).

As a result, I loathe the inappropriate, semi-aristocratic terms “landlord/lady”. Given the servile nature of renting, “Your Majesty” might be more appropriate. I prefer the term rentier.

Now I’m ending Rentergirl. There are several reasons: one of which is that I plan to write a book about it, but also because renting is now firmly on the political agenda. Campaign groups such as Hackney Renters, Edinburgh Private Tenants Action group and, nationally, Generation Rent argue that renters could sway election results in several marginal constituencies next May. Wise politicians will court the renter vote.

During my rollercoaster years of writing Rentergirl and decades renting, here’s what I have learned:

London is property’s wild west

It is where common abuses and scams are born. Supply is limited, causing rents to soar out of control (reintroducing council rent officers who set fair rents would be useful). Scandals such as beds in sheds (greedy owners place beds in fire-hazard, freezing outhouses), rent-to-rent (property is divided then re-let for more money, perhaps without the owner’s permission) and sealed bids for rented flats all begin in London (but are less lucrative outside such a cut-throat and febrile market). London renters routinely suffer from having no communal area, because all rooms are converted into more profitable bedrooms. Tenants dry laundry in minuscule bedrooms, while eating meals and entertaining guests in that same, tiny, damp, inadequate space. Worst of all are the accompanying insecurity and overseas buyers snaffling all the new buildings. I’ve lived there. It was hell.

Wear and tear is inevitable

Letting agents and owners expect renters to float like fairies on gossamer wings or else dangle, suspended on wires, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, never touching the floor so we don’t erode the carpet. We must not ruin the incongruous white carpets certain villains insist upon, likewise cream sofas that invite coffee stains. A portion of our rent pays for use of the furniture, which could never be returned in pristine condition. One of my friends had their deposit withheld when ancient, decaying velvet curtains disintegrated after being dry-cleaned as mandated in their post-exit cleaning regime. Owners, you need to accept something. There will be fraying. There will be stains. Just like there would be in your own home – if you were foolish enough to put cheap, white carpet in the kitchen.

Tenants and owners hate letting agents

Bad blood festers mostly because nobody is entirely sure what letting agents do. If tenants request repairs, they are usually referred straight back to the owner, and owners wishing for help with delinquent tenants are left to cope alone. Growing animosity is fuelled by the enormous fees paid by both tenants and owners, sometimes for the same service, such as £300 for photocopied contracts. I know from contacting previous landlords that expensive references are frequently not pursued, and yet we still pay for them. I’ve paid a “continuous affordability assessment fee” – that is, the agency charged to see if I could afford the rent I had been paying. Thankfully this was in Scotland, where charging fees to tenants is illegal, so I swiftly reclaimed the money. My favourite ever charge by a letting agency: the “finance fee”. It was a fee for collecting all the other fees. Seriously, the nerve of these people.

Furnished flats are the pits

Consider what the reality entails for tenants, lumbered with kitchen cupboards crammed with chipped glassware, and the owner’s treasured collection of string, or half-empty paint tins blocking what storage space remains. Then there are biohazard mattresses. When I recoiled in revulsion at one especially decorative and lively example while viewing a house, the owner shrugged: “Yes, I know – art students.” I’ve endured saggy sofas with troubling damp patches, wonky tables and white plastic wardrobes. One friend’s landlady supplied (and so she had to keep) two rickety hostess trolleys, both sprayed gold.

Flat-shares are hell

They are. Tense bathroom rotas, passive aggressive notes about “borrowed” carrots and rows about musical differences (one former flatmate was an ardent Barry Manilow fan) will be with us for ever. Where renting used to be a rite of passage, it has now become permanent for many people, affecting tenants into their 50s and 60s (if they can find anyone share with). Mortgage restrictions, benefit cuts, lack of supply and the decline in social housing compel desperate people to share homes. Renters could queue for the bathroom next to abusive bullies with chaotic lives and severe behavioural problems, subsequently threatened or even assaulted. There’s nowhere to turn for advice or mediation, and the only remedy is to move out. Sometimes, communal living works. But it’s no way to live when homelessness is the only alternative.

Landlords should be licensed

Anyone can become a rentier – people with a bad credit rating might be refused finance but could still let inherited property, while tenants buckle under the weight of the references they must provide. I’ve been fortunate with landlords who are kind, supportive, and diligent; my current rentier is a star. Elsewhere, they’ve been negligent and threatening. Remember: these occasionally dubious strangers possess the key to your home. They could be convicted sex offenders but can let themselves in whenever they please (I’m not being melodramatic – rentiers could be violent ex-offenders). A properly funded, efficiently enforced register would solve this. As happened with the man in Edinburgh who threatened to shoot his tenants, and was eventually banned.

Owners should stay away

Renting is a form of temporary ownership. Rentiers must not, as happened to my friend, let themselves in and cook breakfast because their own kitchen is crowded one busy Saturday morning. Let it go.

Buy-to-let flats are a nightmare

Buildings designated “ideal for investment” are often precarious hovels (nicknamed euroboxes or “twat-flats”). They dominate cities across the UK, and are practically identical. Containing no more than two bedrooms, they’re tiny, sometimes with hardly enough space for a double bed. These flats are insulated thoroughly by law for heat, but not so carefully for sound (one developer omitted double glazing in flats on a main road, since the fine for not doing so was cheaper than the windows). In the block I christened Dovecot Towers, I could hear the man upstairs every time he coughed.

Buy-to-let owners are the worst

They sometimes live hundreds of miles away. Consequently, many struggle to organise repairs and supervise problem tenants. Often, they are the most resentful of all, regarding tenants not as the poor souls subsidising pension plans, but as vermin infesting their delicate, porcelain piggy bank.

We need long-term tenancies

Renting spawns parasites

It is a profitable, growing and unregulated industry, with many attendant businesses including “tenant eviction specialists” – AKA thugs. They are often former nightclub bouncers, and intimidate renters into vacating quickly and without resistance. Elsewhere, specialist firms supply buy-to-let owners with furniture, and there are inventory checkers. Next, we have costly removal firms, storage centres and hostels used if we act on the advice: “If it’s so bad, why not move?”

Discrimination is rife

Not overtly – few letting agents or owners are stupid enough to shout: “We don’t want your type living here.” But bigotry, prejudice and unreasonable, capricious aversions affect the housing of not just lesbians (one correspondent met a leering potential landlord who liked “to watch”), gay men and black or other ethnic minorities, but also: disabled, working and unemployed claimants, single parents, manual workers (why? just because) part-time employees and students (for or against). See also applicants with a less than spotless credit record (just one late-paid utility bill), freelancers, people with beards (one correspondent was told he looked like “a bloody hippie”), the armed forces. People just back from living abroad. Older people. Younger people. Couples with children; couples without.

The list is endless; it’s a wonder anyone can find a home. Tenants must pay for references from employers, banks and previous landlords. We are often required to supply a guarantor (no matter how old we are, and those in their 60s can hardly ask their parents.) It used to be that we would view a place, decide if we liked it, pay the deposit then move in (and yes, I know tenants are not always perfect).

Occasionally, the system works

Many tenants are content – or I suspect subdued by the futility of their predicament. Others are fortunate, blessed with angelic rentiers who are well-funded, responsible, compassionate, reasonable and just. The homes they let are spacious, warm and well-furnished. Renters can stay securely in long-term homes, permitted (indeed encouraged) to decorate, and rent is fair. Flat-mates are quiet and peaceful but friendly. The birds sing, church bells chime, and it’s sunny all the time.

I’m dreaming, aren’t I?

It’ll all add up: the house buying fees you might not have budgeted for

By Felicity Hannah
Read the Full article on 

Saving up a big enough deposit, securing a mortgage and getting your offer accepted may feel like the end of an expensive, stressful process, but there’s more to come.

Make sure you’ve budgeted for fees, taxes and moving costs too, or the next phase may be even more stressful.

The last thing you need is to misjudge how much it will cost and end up with an unexpected bill that gouges a hole in your decorating fund or plunges you into debt.

Being realistic about the cost of buying a property and moving — on top of the deposit and mortgage — is important.

Here’s what you need to know about who will expect payment and when.

Mortgage Fees

On top of your deposit you will need to consider any fees and charges that your mortgage provider will demand to process your application.

These can range from valuation fees of a couple of hundred pounds to booking fees and even mortgage arrangement fees from anywhere between £99 and £1,999.

Not every mortgage adviser charges arrangement fees so it’s essential you factor them into your sums when comparing deals.

Also, bear in mind that you may be offered the chance to add these costs to your loan rather than paying them up front. That might make the move more affordable, but it means you’ll pay interest on those fees for potentially decades.

Stamp Duty

Stamp duty is a tax on purchasing property and the amount you pay depends on how much you are paying for the home.

As of November 2017, first-time buyers purchasing a home of £300,000 or less will be exempt from stamp duty. Those buying a home costing up to £500,000 (which is likely if it’s in London) will have their payment reduced, paying only five per cent on the portion of the house price above £300,000.

For anybody else buying a primary residence (not buy-to-let or second homes, which are liable for an additional three per cent stamp duty) the following rules apply.

If your home costs more than £125,000 you will be required to pay stamp duty, with a higher percentage charged progressively with the price of the property.

Property price Stamp duty rate
Up to £125,000 Zero
£125,001-£250,000 2%
£250,001-£925,000 5%
£925,001-£1.5million 10%
The remaining amount 12%

As an example, if you buy a house for £275,000, the SDLT you owe is calculated as follows:

  • 0% on the first £125,000 = £0
  • 2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
  • 5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250
  • Total stamp duty = £3,750

Surveyor’s Fees

This is not an area where you want to skimp so it’s important to spend some money on having a surveyor check the property. That way you understand whether the home needs any extra work, making it less likely you will move in and suddenly have to pay for a new roof.

You can get a basic survey for as little as £250-£300 but it is a really good idea to pay extra for a homebuyer’s report or a full structural survey, which may cost between £400 and £1,000.

If anything is discovered then you may be able to renegotiate the price with the seller to reflect the extra work you will have to do.

Legal Fees

You’re likely to use a solicitor to deal with the legal checks and paperwork. This is likely to cost between £1,000 and £1,500, although it can be less.

A solicitor will also carry out searches on your property (designed to tell you if there are plans to build a high speed railway through your garden, for example) and bill you for those. These will not usually cost more than £250.

Estate Agent Fees

As a buyer you won’t pay anything to the estate agent overseeing the sale of your new home. However, if you are selling a property as well then you will need to include them in your budget.

Prices are negotiable but are typically between one and three per cent of the final sale price, with VAT on top. If there is a lot of demand in your area then you might be able to haggle, perhaps to as low as 0.75 per cent of the sale price.

Another option is to look at online estate agents, which typically charge lower, fixed fees. However, they may not do as much to help you sell.

Electronic Transfer Fee

It doesn’t seem fair but you will also need to pay the lender for the cost of moving so much money around. This is often about £50 although, as always, it can vary.

Moving Costs

Unless you want to rent a van and move all your stuff yourself, you will need to pay some professional movers.

They often charge between £400 and £600, although obviously that may be higher if you are moving particularly valuable belongings and need a specialist.


Inheritance News – Millennials to secure ‘inheritance boom’

By BBC News UK
Read the Full article on the BBC News Website here.

Millennials will benefit from the biggest “inheritance boom” of any post-war generation, but it will be too late to solve housing struggles and wealth inequality, a report says.

Those who have parents and grandparents in the “baby boomer” generation will be left record sums of wealth, the Resolution Foundation said.

But they will have to wait – until, on average, the age of 61, it suggests.

The think tank defines millennials as those currently aged 17 to 35.

The Resolution Foundation said that inheritances were set to more than double over the next 20 years, and this will peak in 2035, as the generally high-wealth baby boomers progress through old age.

Almost two-thirds of young adults have parents who own property, which they may get a share of in the future, the report said.

By comparison, only 38% of adults born in the 1930s received an inheritance.

‘Not silver bullet’

The report also noted millennials were only half as likely to own their home at 30 as baby boomers were.

Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Older generations have benefitted hugely from the big increases in household wealth in Britain over recent decades.

“While the millennials have done far less well in accumulating their own assets, they are likely to benefit from an inheritance boom in the decades ahead.

“This is likely to be very welcome news for those millennials, including some from poorer backgrounds who in the past would have been unlikely to receive bequests.

“They have the good fortune to benefit from the luck of the baby boomer generation.”

But she said inheritance was “not the silver bullet” that will get the generation on the housing ladder or address growing wealth gaps in society, as it was unlikely to come when they are trying to buy a family home.

25-year-old Rachel Hosie, a lifestyle writer for the Independent, says the proposed inheritance boom is not much comfort to her generation.

“We have student debts, we don’t have guaranteed pensions, and we’ve had tricky financial times to have been entering the world of work.

“We were really told for a lot of my generation that if we were ambitious and worked hard then we’d get a good job after studying hard, then we’d earn money and be able to buy a house and settle down – and we’d have this life that we saw a lot of our parents have, and now we’re struggling,” she said.

However, Cari Rosen – who’s the editor of Gransnet, an online community for the over-50s – says the report misses out an important factor.

“Half of women and a third of men are going to have to pay for care at some point. And actually one in four people who pays for care runs out of money,” she said.

“So we have said to our own millennial there might well be nothing left for you,” she added.

She said: “Of course we want to give our children an inheritance, the thought that what we’ve worked really hard for doesn’t go to our children to help them through their lives is a really terrible one – but we don’t know and there is no way of preparing for that or insuring for that.”

Family News – The financial implications of divorce

By Kevin Peachey

Read the Full article on the BBC News Website here.

The emotional upheaval of divorce can be difficult to deal with, but so too can the financial implications.

The process, were it to go all the way to a contested final court hearing, can in itself cost more than £30,000, money experts suggest.

On top of that, the settlement may come with its own financial pressures.

Lawyers and charities say that there are ways to keep the cost down, but that irreconcilable couples must also go into a divorce or dissolution of their civil partnership with their eyes open to the potential financial squeeze.

“For anyone embarking on this journey, there’s no nice way to put this: it’s likely to be a rough road ahead, which takes its toll both emotionally and financially,” says Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Even with careful planning and a sensible approach, it won’t be comfortable.”

Research by insurer Aviva suggests 16% of couples who separate also buy a new home, spending an average of £144,600. Money matters take an average of 14.5 months to settle after a split, it adds.

A do-it-yourself divorce

The most obvious way to keep down the cost of a divorce or dissolution is to come to an agreement without the use of solicitors or other professionals, particularly if it is an amicable split.

In Scotland, the do-it-yourself option is set out in law and called “simplified” divorce or dissolution. Only certain couples can use this procedure. For example, it is not available for those with children aged under 16.

In Northern Ireland, couples have to appear in person before a judge in either a county court or a High Court. However, they can appear in court as a “personal petitioner”, without having to use a solicitor.

In England and Wales, couples can do it themselves or use a low-cost online service.

However, Katie O’Callaghan, of Boodle Hatfield lawyers, warned that anyone failing to get final, legal approval on their financial deal from a court – known as a consent order – can find themselves subject to a claim from their ex-partner in the years ahead.

“It is not enough for couples to agree between themselves on a handshake and think that this will protect them in the future,” she says.

Avoiding solicitors

Legal costs can easily stack up, and even solicitors when first consulted will check whether separating couples have tried cheaper alternatives.

The most popular of these is mediation.

This is not relationship counselling. It can help people to agree on how to divide assets such as money, property, savings and investments. Legal aid is available to help those on low incomes with the cost.

Following mediation, a solicitor can draw up the consent order.

Couples with more complex issues, or who fail to agree, will go to a solicitor.

The costs involved can range from £2,000 to £3,000 for a negotiated financial settlement up to £30,000 plus VAT if a contested case goes through court, according to the Money Advice Service.

Couples in the process of a divorce or dissolution can apply to a court, at a cost of £255, for a financial order.

This covers areas such as a lump sum payment, ownership of a property, regular maintenance payments to help with children or living expenses, and a share of a partner’s pension payments.

Ultimately, in many cases, a judge will decide how the couple’s assets are divided between the couple.

The decision will be based on the length of the marriage or civil partnership, the ages of the parties involved, their ability to earn, their property and money, their living expenses, and their standard of living.

The roles played, such as breadwinners or primary carers will also be considered.

The judge will make arrangements for any children first, especially their housing arrangements and child maintenance, if there are not enough assets to go around.

There can be tax implications following these rulings.

Common issues

Ms O’Callaghan, of Boodle Hatfield, suggests that after a split it is important for couples to maintain the financial organisation in the household that they had prior to the separation.

So, for example, if the husband pays the mortgage, he should continue to do so. That is because keeping the same financial arrangements will make the court proceedings simpler.

She adds that courts have wide-ranging powers to find any hidden assets, so individuals should not squirrel those away, however acrimonious the split.

Individuals can also find themselves worse off than they expected if they cohabit with a new partner. If they are living together, the finances of the new partner can be taken into account during a divorce settlement with the ex-partner. If they are not cohabiting, then such finances will be ignored.

Ultimately, if a couple’s finances are more complex, it is likely to cost more – in both time and money – to reach an agreement.

Inheritance News – Two heterosexual Irish men marry to avoid inheritance tax on property

Author Pádraig Collins

Read the Full article on the Guardian Website here.

Matt Murphy, 83, intends to leave his house to his carer Michael O’Sullivan, 58, but it would have left him with a €50,000 tax bill

Two Irish men have married in Dublin to avoid paying €50,000 in inheritance tax on a house.

Best friends Matt Murphy and Michael O’Sullivan are both heterosexual, but decided to get married when they discovered how much tax would have to be paid on the house Murphy, 83, intended to leave in his will to O’Sullivan, 58, who is his carer.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Ireland following a referendum in May 2015.

“I’ve known Matty for 30 years. We became very friendly after my second relationship broke up,” O’Sullivan, a father of three, told the Irish Mirror.

“I have been bringing Matt out in my car to various parties and all that kind of thing. He became friends with all my friends, they all loved him.”

Each man went through some tough times, with O’Sullivan becoming homeless and Murphy suffering from giant cell arteritis, which affects the optic nerve.

“I stayed over with him for a while and eventually Matt said ‘Why don’t you come and stay here?’ I would go over and stay with him the odd time but never full time.”

Murphy could not afford to pay O’Sullivan as a carer. “Eventually Matt said the only way he could pay me was to leave me the house. He said he would give me the house so I have somewhere to live when he goes.”

However, O’Sullivan knew that would mean a huge tax bill and the house would have to be sold to pay it. He said Murphy “was chatting a friend down the country in Cashel, Co Tipperary, and she jokingly said we should get married.

“Then one night he turned around and said it to me and I said I would marry him.”

O’Sullivan paid tribute to Ireland’s LGBT community. “The equality gay and lesbian people did for this country, that they fought hard for, they were discriminated against for most of their lives, they got equality for themselves but also for everybody else.”

The couple got married in a former hospital on Dublin’s Grand Canal Street, followed by a meal for five at the nearby Gasworks bar.

O’Sullivan was previously married to a woman. It is Murphy’s first marriage.

During the wedding ceremony O’Sullivan spoke of his husband’s great kindness, the Irish Times reported, while Murphy sang Willie Nelson’s Let the Rest of the World Go By: “With someone like you, a pal good and true / I’d like to leave it all behind and go and find / A place that’s known to God alone.”

O’Sullivan said after the ceremony: “I love Matt and he loves me, as friends.”