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The Harrington Brooks Blog

News, comment and views from the team at Harrington Brooks.

Complaints Against Credit Broking Websites Doubles

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

More than 10,000 people have complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) since the start of 2014 regarding middleman websites that take large sums from customers for credit deals that do not materialise.

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Ask Finance advise avoiding any credit brokers that charge upfront fees.

In some cases, the consumer’s bank details were passed on to other credit broking websites, resulting in their bank accounts being debited multiple times without warning.

Many people were unaware that they were on a credit broking website, instead believing that they were applying for a loan directly. In a third of cases the fees had been refunded, and in the remainder the ombudsman agreed that the consumer had been treated unfairly.

Senior ombudsman Juliana Francis commented:

“It’s disappointing that people who are already struggling to make ends meet are being misled into thinking that these websites will get them a loan.

In too many of the cases we sort out, no loan is provided and people’s bank accounts have been charged a high fee, often multiple times.

If money has been taken from your account unfairly or without warning, the good news is the ombudsman is here to help.”

This kind of case is not uncommon, as Amanda Smith of Ask Finance describes:

“Sadly we hear stories of these practices on a daily basis. Consumers are duped into thinking they are directly on a lenders website and think entering their bank account details will be safe. It’s not until they have been charged a fee, sometimes multiple times, they realise their mistake.

These companies are very clever with their websites often showing the relevant licence numbers. Consumers need to check those numbers on the regulated bodies website before proceeding.
These are appalling practices which can leave consumers in a desperate situation. Taking the last funds from a persons’ account leaving them unable to pay important bills, such as mortgage or rent.

At Ask Finance we always advise consumers never pay any upfront fees. Any reputable company will be able to source you a loan without the need for you to make any upfront payment.”

Customers Still Owed Billions in PPI Compensation

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The amount still to be claimed from the scandal surrounding payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling could run into the tens of billions, according to Financial Claim Services (FCS) which officially launches its new website today.

Recent analysis of PPI redress in recent FOS and FCA publications revealed that approximately £50 billion of PPI polices has been sold over the last 10 to 15 years. With £15.1 billion already paid out to claimants, and estimations for eventual redress believed to total approximately £24 billion, there is still so much more to be claimed.

In launching its new website, FCS, a subsidiary of Castle Keep Law Ltd, will be better placed than ever to ensure that consumers are compensated for what was wrongly sold to them. To date, FCS has helped nearly 5,000 people claim back over £14 million in PPI claims, with the average amount per claim for its customers totaling £2,900.

Concerned that the vast majority of paid for package banking solutions were mis-sold in some way, since January 2014 FCS has been helping customers make claims against mis-sold packaged bank accounts. Its average claim value is around £1,000. Though, the banking industry is still reticent to accept claims, with eight out of ten claims that have been denied at first stage going on to be upheld by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Darren Smith, Head of Financial Claim Services commented: “The number of people we have helped since the launch of Financial Claims Services clearly shows the level of support that we can offer to consumers who have been treated badly and been sold a product that they never needed or wanted. The new website will mean that consumers will have access to an easy-to-use portal to ensure that they can seek redress for the bad behaviour of the institutions they once trusted.”
Notes to editors

Part of Castle Keep Law Ltd, Financial Claim Services is fully authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Being part of a law firm, FCS complies with much higher standards of professional conduct than other claims management companies are required to.

FCS is also part of a bigger group of companies, the One Advice Group, which employs over 650 people in the North West of England. The service offered by FCS adds to the comprehensive suite of professional financial services offered by the Group, which includes debt management services through its Harrington Brooks brand and legal services through Castle Keep Law.

For further information please visit:

http://www.financialclaimservices.co.uk/

Or contact:
RalphJ@lansons.com
Tel: 020 7294 3667

Renters and Landlords Ripped off by Agents

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

New research has revealed that “double dipping” – charging landlords and tenants for the same services – is a common practice among letting agents.

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Direct Line For Business recommends shopping around to get the best rates from letting agents.

One letting agent was found to have charged a landlord £670 to change the date on a contract, alongside charging £90 for the same service to the tenant.

The figures, published by Direct Line for Business (DL4B) showed a staggering disparity between charges set in place by agents, including inventory charges ranging from £65-£300 and property visits at £20-£100.

Fees for landlords also vary markedly, from 5% to 17%. Whilst the average is 11%, charges take the annual expense much higher.

Direct Line comment:

“Taking into account agents’ fees, taxes and unbudgeted costs such as emergency property repairs, landlords can easily pay out expenses of 25% of their annual rental income for a property.”

Additional research from website Spareroom has found a renting costs around 10% more than 5 years ago, whilst renters’ budgets are down by 0.5%. This gap is even wider in Scotland, where rents have risen by 24% but budgets have shot down by 22%.

If rising living costs and personal circumstances have driven you into difficulty, Harrington Brooks are here to help. Our advisers can help you find the best financial solution for your debts, whilst our legal team are on hand to help you deal with any contractual disputes you might have with your landlord or letting agent.

CCJs Up 40% from Last Year

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The number of County Court Judgments issued has risen from 245,424 to 344,109 over the past year, Registry Trust Limited (RTL) statistics confirm.

The total value of consumer CCJs now stands at £797.9m. However, the average value of a CCJ has dropped to £2,319. Chair of the Registry Trust Malcolm Hurlston puts this seeming paradox down to lender and collector behaviours:

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Chair of the Registry Trust has linked the rise in CCJs with the increase in the amount of debts sold to collection companies.

“Lenders have increasingly been selling debt to specialist companies who are more likely to go for judgements, even for smaller sums. As a result the average judgement value has fallen while the number of judgements has leaped.”

Conversely, the number of CCJs against businesses has dropped by 10% compared with the same period last year, with total value of £194 million. This, Hurlston argues, is more demonstrative of the wider state of finances in the UK:

“The number of CCJs against businesses has halved in the five years since the recession bit. The economy appears to be set fair.”

If you have received a CCJ or are worried with your personal debt, give our advisers a call today. Our financial advisers are on hand to help you make sense of your financial circumstances, and to help you decide the best course of action for you to take.

Should Your Children Be Included In Financial Discussions?

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

A recent study by family support charity Home-Start has revealed 31% of adults felt general money discussions were inappropriate for children to be included in. But is keeping quiet healthy for your household?

Making money a taboo subject can have a negative effect on your child's financial abilities in the future.

Making money a taboo subject can have a negative effect on your child’s financial abilities in the future.

75% of children aged 5-10  don’t think so, instead believing they should be involved in decisions about what their family spends money on, yet  29% of adults said they would feel awkward discussing their earnings with friends and family.

Whilst you don’t need to let your 10 year old read your old bank statements, it can be very beneficial to make money an open, safe topic in the home.

However, it can be daunting to discuss money matters as a family. For a lot of people, keeping quiet about money is learned behaviour, with half of those polled admitting they never had discussions about personal finances with adults during their own childhood.

Managing Director of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Glenn Kurlander calms the fears of parents worrying that talking about money is opening Pandora’s Box:

“If we try to force the lid down, we’re really teaching our kids that there is something inside the box to fear; something so dangerous and harmful that we don’t even talk about it. If that’s the lesson we teach our kids, we’re not starting them off on the road to forming a healthy relationship with wealth.”

The Money Advice Service concur:

“Some parents worry about exposing their children to money too early because they want to protect them from adult pressures. But helping your child to understand and respect money from an early age will help them manage it better when they’re an adult.”

Children are naturally very inquisitive and perceptive, so your financial circumstances are probably evident in your lifestyle. If your children go to a private school and you drive a new Audi, they certainly won’t be oblivious to the fact you are wealthy. Equally, if you are struggling to make ends meet and have a lot of contact from creditors, chances are they will notice.

Talking with your children is a good way to gauge what their thoughts are on finances, and take control with how they handle their own accounts in the future. For example, you might live a lavish lifestyle, but are worried your children won’t know the value of money. Or, you might be struggling to make ends meet and panic that your child is going without, or will feel afraid. Unless you take action, you can’t be sure that your anxieties won’t become real.

There are simple ways to involve your children in money making decisions. For instance, if you’re on a tight budget, let your children be involved in money saving. When you go to the supermarket, let them help you work out which is the cheapest cereal, or bread, and see if you can beat your “score” next time you do a shop. If you’re worried they don’t appreciate the luxuries they are allowed, make them manage their own budget on a trip – give them a set allowance (£10 for example), and make sure that’s all they spend that day.

Walk the talk?

A crucial piece of advice from Kurlander is to “walk the talk”. Learning by example is a key part of a child’s development, so it’s essential that what you want to teach your children about money lines up with how you behave – otherwise the sentiment is meaningless. Sometimes this in itself can make it challenging to bring up the topic of finance, but for some it can be the very mirror needed to make us take action and iron out our bad habits.

For more tips on opening up the lines of communication with your children, read our guide to teaching your children about money.

If you’re struggling with your finances and want to talk to one of our friendly, professional advisers, give them a call today.

Another Price Hike For TalkTalk

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Telecoms provider TalkTalk has increased the cost of its value line rental for the second time this year, and the firm say they have not ruled out additional increases.

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Harrington Brooks’ switching service ensures our customers always get the best deals.

Their initial price rise in April took their costs from £126 to £141 per year. This has now risen to £172 per year – a rise of almost £50 in 4 months.

The value line rental allows customers to pay a year’s bills upfront in order to get a cheaper deal. Thus, existing customers will only be affected when they come to renew their deal, though for new customers the effects of the price hike are immediate.

No other packages are affected by the change in price as yet, but TalkTalk say they have not ruled out increases for other packages in the future.

We know a rise in bills can be tough when you’re on a tight budget, and it can be confusing working out the best deal for your needs. That’s why at Harrington Brooks we offer a free comparison and switching service for all our customers, to save you money and time while you work towards becoming debt free.

Solicitors for the Elderly Acceptance for HB Legal Service

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Kerry Blackhurst Head of My Care Claim and Director of Harrington Brooks’ in house solicitors Castle Keep Law has been accepted as a member of the national association ‘Solicitors for the Elderly’ (SFE).

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

Castle Keep Law provides a variety of specialist legal services at reasonable prices.

Within Castle Keep Law is My Care Claim, who specialise in legal issues for the elderly, particularly the reclamation of fees that should be covered through the NHS.

Kerry’s membership of SFE will provide clients with the assurance that Castle Keep Law has wide ranging expertise in providing legal services for older people.

Kerry said:

” I have been specialising in legal services for the elderly for (several/many) years, and am looking forward to continuing my development in this area so that I am able to give my clients and colleagues first class legal advice in a field of law which is constantly evolving, as the requirements of the elderly population change.”

Money Worries Worse for Relationships Than In-Laws

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

30% of couples say most of the stress in their relationship is caused by finances, with 9% citing their children and just 4% blaming their in-laws, according to a survey by American Express. 45% of couples say that discussions on household finances result in arguments.

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Most couples avoid discussions about finances.

When asked who spends more outside of household expenditure, 40% of people believed their partner spent more, and the same number felt they were more diligent than their partner when it came to budgeting and saving money.

More than half of couples feel that they have made a mistake with money since being in a relationship, and would change the way they manage their cash if they could go back in time, including spending more responsibly and putting more into savings.

A massive 91% of people avoid talking about finances with their partner, with less than a third knowing how much debt they carry as a couple. 80% of couples share their debt with their partner, though this drops to 57% among young professionals.

If debts are putting a strain on you, or you are concerned about a joint debt, contact Harrington Brooks today. Our friendly advisers are trained to help you assess your circumstances and select the best financial solution for your needs. For more information on joint debts, go to IVAs with joint debts.

IVAs At Highest Ever Level

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The amount of individual voluntary arrangements registered has increased by over 20% in the past year, with 14,571 registered in the April-June quarter of 2014. This has lead to a 5.1% increase in the number of people who became insolvent compared to last year, despite the number of bankruptcies and and debt relief orders decreasing.

The number of company liquidations, administrations, receiverships and and company voluntary arrangements also decreased over the last 12 months.

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Visit harringtonbrooks.co.uk/iva for more information on what entering into an IVA involves, and how it compares with other financial solutions. You can also view the full Insolvency Service statement and report.

Coronation Street Bailiffs Storyline “Disgusting”

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Bailiffs hit the cobbles in Coronation Street this week, as the Windass/Armstrong clan watch their possessions seized after failing to pay their debts. The scenes were not easy watching, and certainly tougher for those viewers struggling with arrears. But how much of the drama could become reality, and what happens if you find yourself facing repossessions?

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The soap’s portrayal of debt collection has left many viewers angered.

Defenders of soaps argue they are purely dramatic and created for entertainment. But it is a shame that an institution such as Coronation Street could not deal with a topic which affects thousands of its viewers with the same sensitivity it has dealt with other social issues, such as the recent Hayley Cropper euthanasia story line.

 

Whilst creative license is always presumed in Soapland, glaring inaccuracies like the ability of 12 year old Faye to give bailiffs access to the property when it was otherwise vacant, only fuel the myths and scaremongering used by less scrupulous creditors.

Living with debt can be a daily struggle, and adding to a culture of fear can only spread denial and inaction, particularly if it leads viewers to wrongly believe the only possible result of debt issues is bankruptcy. In reality, there are a number of options available to those struggling with repayments, including a debt management plan or IVA.

Viewers vented their frustrations online, commenting that the episode was “disgusting”, “nonsense” and “very poor”.

What can be done if repossession becomes your reality?

Know your rights and the process that creditors follow to gain payment, so you can act accordingly if a bailiff or debt collector behaves in an inappropriate manner. If you are concerned about legal action, our solicitors at Castle Keep Law are friendly, professional experts who can guide you as to what to do in your circumstances.

Addressing your debts is the main course of action to take when faced with bailiffs and repossession. Our financial advisers will talk through your debts and income, and help you decide on the best financial solution to your problems.