Search

Article Index

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 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or for advice in person, visit your local Citizens Advice or you can email us
 

February 2020

Small business money worries

I run a small business. It’s been a very difficult six months for us, we lost a contract with one of our major clients and I just haven’t been able to replace it with new business. Now I’ve just received a huge energy bill. It feels like the last straw and I'm really stressed.  

I’m sorry to hear about your problems. The first thing to do is to call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. They can often help to resolve problems with energy suppliers.

It’s particularly important to do this quickly if you’re on a business contract and you’ve been told you’re going to be disconnected. If this happens an extra fee can be added to your bill, and then there’ll be another charge for being reconnected.

If you think the bill is wrong, get in touch with your energy company. If you are a microbusiness you can only be charged for gas or electricity you’ve used in the last 12 months - they can’t send you a new bill dating back longer than a year.

If the bill is correct, but you just can’t afford it, your energy supplier might agree to a payment plan. Work out a realistic budget so you know you’ll be able to afford the payments. Here at Citizens Advice we can help sole traders and individuals, but for other businesses there’s the Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026.

Moving forward, if your bills are being estimated you might be paying more than you need to. Set up a reminder on your phone to send monthly meter readings to your supplier or see if you can get a smart meter installed.

You may also find switching energy companies will save you money. You could also try energy efficiency measures such as switching off computers and other equipment overnight, using energy efficient light bulbs or making sure your premises are insulated.

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


January 2020

Applying for Settled Status

I’m from Poland and I know I need to apply for Settled Status as the UK leaves the European Union. But I’m really confused about what documents I need in order to apply for me and my children. We’ve lived in England for six years and I’m worried that if we don’t apply before the end of the month, we might have to leave.

You don’t need to apply by the end of the month - your rights won’t change until 31 December 2020. However, you should apply as soon as you can in case of any delays. After the transition period ends on 31 December you might be asked to prove your right to do things like get a job or use a service like the NHS. Having your status sorted will make this more straightforward.

To get settled status, you need evidence that you’ve lived in the UK for 6 months out of every 12 months for 5 years in a row. As you say you and your children have lived in the UK for six years, you should be eligible for this.

In order to apply, you’ll need to have a few things. These include a passport or national ID card, a digital photo, your National Insurance number or proof of how long you've lived in the UK, a mobile number and an email address.

If you’ve been working, you can find your National Insurance number on your pay slip. If not you can contact HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 to help find it.

It may be easier to make your children’s application after you’ve made your own. This way you’ll be able to ‘link’ your child’s application to yours, using the application number you got when you applied for yourself.

You can do this at any time after you’ve applied - you do not need to wait for a decision. And if your own application is successful, your child will get the same status as you.

In order to apply on behalf of your children, you will need to have proof of your relationship - for example a birth certificate.

If you need any extra help with your application, your local Citizens Advice is on hand to help.

You can also find more information about what Brexit means for you on the Citizens Advice website

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


December 2019

Parcel delivery problems

I bought my mum a Christmas present from an online store. I paid extra for next day delivery but it hasn't arrived. I tried to contact the delivery company but wasn't able to speak with anyone. The online store has said my parcel is with the delivery company and should arrive soon.  If it doesn't arrive soon, I won't be able to give it to my mum for Christmas. What can I do?

You paid for next day delivery so your goods should be delivered on the agreed date.

Because you bought something from a business to be delivered to you, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered.

As the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.

If you want the item:

Under the Consumer Rights Act, you can ask the seller to deliver the item again if the item wasn’t delivered by the agreed date.

Other steps to take if you want the item could be:

●     Cancel your original order and reorder it again from the same or a new online store

●     Check if a local store stocks the item(s)

●     Keep trying to contact the delivery company via tracking tools/phone/email

If you want to cancel your order:

You can cancel and ask for your money back because you haven't received your goods on the agreed date. Tell the seller that what has happened to your order is "a breach of contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015" - as the delivery date was essential and they didn’t meet it.

You can find useful template letters and your rights on the Citizens Advice website.

Alternatively you can call our consumer service on 0808 223 1133. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and provides advice on consumer issues.

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


November 2019

Keeping the cost of your bills energy down

I live with my two children and partner in a small semi-detached house. During the winter we use more heating and electricity as we’re home more. Do you have any tips on how I can keep the cost of my energy down during the winter?

There are a few things you can do to save some money during the winter period. Check when your energy contract is due to expire. If you're at the end of your contract use energy compare by Citizens Advice to see if you could save money by switching supplier or tariff.

If you're on a prepayment meter you could save money by replacing your meter with one that lets you pay after using energy rather than in advance. Most suppliers won’t charge you for removing a prepayment meter, though many will run a credit check or ask you for a deposit.

You may also be eligible for certain grants and benefits, these could include Warm Home discount or help with energy debt. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help with the application.

Here's a few practical tips to help keep costs down:

  1. Using a timer for your heating, lowering your thermostat and using radiator valve controls could save you over £100 per year
  2. Changing light bulbs to an energy-efficient one could save £50 over the lifetime of the bulb
  3. Turn appliances off standby mode to save around £30 a year
  4. Seal cracks in floors, skirting boards and add draft excluders to letterboxes, doors and windows.

Some energy suppliers also offer grants to allow improvements to your home, like insulation or a new boiler. What help you can get depends on your circumstances and what would help your home. You don’t need to be a customer of one of these suppliers to apply but you’ll need to check your eligibility.

More information about scams and what you can do can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

October 2019

Blue Badge scheme 

My mum has a non-visible disability, which causes her walking difficulties. I heard something on the news about how she may now be eligible for a blue badge. How can I find out about this and help her apply? 

On 30 August, the Blue Badge scheme was extended to people who live in England and have non-visible disabilities or conditions which affect their ability to walk. As a result, your mother may now qualify for a badge.

Your mother will be automatically eligible if she gets certain types of benefits. These include some categories of Personal Independence Payment and the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance.

If she’s not automatically eligible she can still apply for a badge. Her local authority will use evidence from doctors and other healthcare professionals to determine whether she qualifies or not.

Your mother can check her eligibility and apply for a local authority-issued Blue Badge at gov.uk/apply-blue-badge. If she can’t do this herself, you can apply on her behalf.

You’ll need a recent digital passport-style photo, proof of her identity, address, details of any benefits she receives, her National Insurance number, and evidence of how her non-visible disability or condition affects her mobility.

More information about whether you're eligible for a blue badge to help you park more easily, how to apply for and use a blue badge, and what to do if you're refused one can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

June 2019

Scams

About five years ago my father-in-law was the victim of a scam artist who fleeced him out of £5,000. Once he realised, he was devastated and we were able to work with his bank to get some of the money back. We thought it was all in the past but in the last six months he’s received numerous calls, letters and texts from what look like other scammers. We want to try and keep him safe as his memory isn’t the best, what can we do?

Unfortunately, falling victim to a scam once can increase exposure to further scams. Citizens Advice has found that, once someone has responded to a scam, their personal details can sometimes be sold onto other criminals. This then opens the door to more scam mail, emails, phone calls or home visits.

If you recognise a pattern of unsolicited calls, talk to your father-in-law’s telephone provider and see if you can get these numbers blocked or if you can get something called a ‘standalone call blocker.’ If not, register your father-in-law’s number with the Telephone Preference Service who can help you to handle unwanted marketing calls.

If your father-in-law is receiving texts it’s important that he never replies, as sometimes there can be costly hidden charges. He can report the texts to his mobile phone provider who will be able to block the number. If he’s already been stung and call cost information wasn’t given, he should report it to Phone-pay Plus.

Mail scammers can often impersonate banks, the local council, or other established and legitimate organisations. You should advise your father-in-law against responding unless he’s sure it’s legitimate and was expecting a letter. If in doubt he should contact the organisation directly to check the letter’s legitimacy. He should be careful to not just ring up the number on the letter as it could be a bogus call centre.

In addition, to safeguard your father-on-law from unwanted marketing material or junk mail, register his name and address for free with the Mailing Preference Service which will take his name off some mailing lists.

Doorstep scammers can often be intimidating, and unfortunately they commonly target older and more vulnerable people. Your father shouldn’t be embarrassed turning people away and shouldn’t let them in unless he’s expecting them. If someone comes to the door saying they are from one of his utility companies for example, he should ask to check their credentials. If in doubt, he should phone the company they represent or check online, but once again make sure to not just use the contact details they provide.

More information about scams and what you can do can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

April 2019

Council tax arrears

My first council tax bill of the year has come through and I know I’m not going to be able to afford it with so many other important bills to pay, let alone food. What should I do?

Council tax arrears is a “priority debt”, which means you need to address it before paying off other non-priority loans like credit cards.

Once you’ve missed a council tax payment, you’re in “arrears” and so owe money to your council. You should receive a letter from your council - it’s important not to ignore this as after 14 days your council can take you to court and request you pay your entire year’s bill at once.

It’s important you speak to the council straight away if you don’t think you can pay. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation.

You’ll probably be asked to commit to paying a regular amount each month. If you're not sure how much you can afford, use the Citizen Advice budgeting tool or talk to one of our advisers.

If you're on a low income, you might be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill. You might also be able to qualify for your council’s Hardship Scheme. You can read more about getting help with your council tax on the Citizens Advice website.

If you fail to pay your council tax arrears you’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill.

If you’re struggling with multiple debts you can contact your local Citizens Advice

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


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

December 2018 advice column

Money worries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


November 2018 advice column

Problems when buying from an online marketplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Autumn advice column:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


September 2018 

Problem neighbours

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact us
Please use this form to contact us, or to get advice by email.

We are not able to book appointments using this form but we can give advice or direct you to other advice links. We aim to respond to your enquiry within 5 working days.

To contact us for advice by phone, call: 03444 111 444 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Closed on bank holidays).

Or you can drop in to one of our local offices.

Fields marked with ( * ) are required.
1000 characters left
Your personal information

When you provide us with personal information, for example, when using this form to contact us, we take steps to ensure that your information is treated securely.

We need to record information about you to help with your enquiry. We have a legitimate interest to do this.

We keep what you tell us safe and confidential and you always decide what you share with us. You can read more about how we handle and store your data in our privacy policy (this will open in a new window, so that any information you have already added to this form will be kept in this window)

We need your explicit consent to keep some information, including your ethnicity, religion, health conditions, sexual orientation, and trade union membership.

If you agree, we’ll use this information, which is known as ‘special category personal data’ to:
● give you advice
● help us gather data to improve our service
● support our research in a way that you can’t be identified

For example, if you need advice about claiming certain benefits, you may want to tell us about health problems you have which may be relevant to your enquiry.

By ticking the boxes below you consent to Citizens Advice recording the special category personal data you choose to provide Citizens Advice.

We’ll make sure all your information is kept safe and secure.

Yes, I consent to you holding information on my (please tick all of those you agree to):

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.