Various

Is your tenancy deposit really protected?

Did you know...

By law, if you pay a deposit to your landlord or letting agent then they must protect it in a government-authorised tenancy deposit protection scheme. It applies to all landlords and agents in England and Wales who have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement (the contract) with their tenant.

It was introduced to ensure that you are able to get your deposit back from your landlord or agent when you move out.

These sentences are copied from one of the 4 Tenancy Deposit Schemes in the U.K.

Great words indicating it will put a stop to obnoxious Estate Agnets and Landlords/ladies. Until you realise these schemes do not hold your deposit, this is (still?) the estate agent or the landlord/lady. So they not only hold your deposit, they also hold the strings.

Then if you don't agree with the proposed deductions from the deposit and you raise a dispute with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the estate agent and/or landlord/lady doesn't agree with the arbitrage of this scheme. And nothing happens, because they (still) hold the strings (and your deposit). The only way then to get your money back is going to court, because the schemes can only arbitrage if all parties agree to it.

This happened to us. Two months before our moving date we informed the estate agent of this. The property we rented from them (Hobbs Parker in Ashford) was the worst of all the properties we’d lived in, but no matter how often we reported various issues, nothing ever happened. So when during this January’s storms roof tiles dislodged we reported this and decided not to pay the last month’s rent until the landlady (who also lives in Great Chart – and keeps horses) took some action to repair the roof. This, obviously, didn’t happen, not even when we reported noticeable moist stains started to appear on the living room’s (old) wall paper.

In the end the estate agent sent us an email with various proposed deductions from the deposit – including the last month rent arrears – and “threatened” to increase these deductions if we didn’t agree with them. We contacted TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) to start a dispute about this – officially any rent arrears cannot be deducted from the deposit - and got nowhere at all when the agents told them the landlady didn’t agree to any arbitrage.

PiggybankSo it pays to hold the strings yourself especially at the “moving-out” period to get your “protected” deposit back if (and only if) you are dealing with obnoxious estate agents and/or obnoxious landlords/landladies.

In our opinion the only way to hold those strings it to make sure you owe the agent and landlord/lady money. Stop paying rent until the outstanding amount is higher than the deposit, normally this amounts to a bit over 1 month’s rent – so you’ll have to stop your standing order two months before the moving out date.

This is a breach of contract, you’ll have to have some guts and (written) evidence of breach of contract by the estate agent and/or landlord/lady. They could go to court to evict you, but knowing you’ll be moving out soon will make them think twice before spending money and time on this.
If they contact you about the rent arrears, keep mentioning the things the landlord/lady should have done in the property – hence the written evidence on this (you shouldn’t stop paying rent for no reason at all, there has to be ongoing issues).

When you move out, make sure you (or an appointed person you trust) are there during the property check survey and point out all the things that you’ve listed before.

Then, don’t agree to any deductions at all, not even for the rent arrears. Remember, you owe them more money than the deposit it worth. This way you keep the strings firmly into your own hands.
You then raise a dispute with the scheme your deposit is protected with (a certificate should have been sent to you at the beginning of the tenancy with the organisation’s name and an unique reference number), and we want to bet the estate agent and/or the landlord/lady will now definitely agree to the arbitrage.

This method is in our opinion the only way to protect your deposit and to tackle the ludicrous practise by estate agents to deduct money from the deposit for (small) items/issues while during the whole of the tenancy the landlord/lady has not kept their end of the tenancy agreement.

Best would be for the schemes to effectively hold the deposit – as the name suggests – but that will be wishful thinking. 


Books wanted, books aplenty = book swap

6a00d8341c660f53ef017c34726adc970b-piThis year May my partner and I moved house, not one of our favourite tasks. In the spare bedroom we found boxes from the last move, their content still in there: books, books and books. I'm a fervent reader and over the years bought plenty of books, from novels to business and advice books. Too many for the Oak bookcase (bought new three years ago to hold the most appreciated ones close by) to handle.

The boxes got moved again - under much grumbling of my partner - and the content still isn't unpacked, 'cos where are spare bedrooms good for anyway? 

It did got me thinking though, after a (again) discussion with my partner about the multitude of books I've seemed to have gathered. When we moved from the Netherlands to the UK in 2000, many of my book possessions were given away, how could I have increased the numbers of books to the level of before our big move? Easy, I love reading! (Nowadays the number of books bought is drastically reduced, due to becoming a library member - I still read 2 - 3 books weekly though.)

Idea - I can't be the only one

This thinking process started by my "excuse" to my partner: I can't be the only one in this situation! How many of you have the same "problem" of overflowing bookcases, boxes filled with books you haven't found a reason to get rid of (yet)? Becoming a library member has indeed helped with buying new books, but that still leaves the problem of all the existing books - will they be simply moved again when the next home move comes around without having been out of the box at all? And the number of boxes has grown since the last move.

So, deciding I'm definitely not the only one I decided to create a kind of membership site, where like minded people can swap books. Going one on one with swapping books would be asking too much: what would be the chance of you having the book I want and me having the book you want? Strength in numbers is called for here. Hence the membership site.

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Setting up the site has been quite easy, using Joomla, finding the needed components and add-ons took a bit more time (in between the normal daily working tasks), but it is here: the Book-Swap-Place

It contains a forum - accessible for members only - with three categories:

  1. I'm looking for...
  2. I've got....
  3. Try out area

where members can swap/sell/purchase any books they have aplenty or that they are looking for or find fervent readers willing to give comments on stories (fact or fiction) people are writing/have written.

Plus, since more and more people are publishing their own content (through PoD - Publishing on Demand - or as E-book), a dedicated listing for "Publications by Members"

Subscription to access and interact on the forum is a measly £ 1.00 (or £10.00 = 12 months for the price of 10), having your own publication added to the listings is £ 15.00 (and includes the membership's fee).

The more, the merrier

As with all membership's sites: the more people involved, the better the site will work, therefore all pages contain social media links/likes to get all your friends along and join in the fun. Because, lets be honest: reading (and writing) is fun!

And it is not just limited to UK readers, online can - and will - reach global readers (and I've got plenty of books in Dutch that need a different home than the boxes they've been in for years!). so, no matter where you live, join the Book-Swap-Place and get swapping


I'm just a silly blogger, I know. But nasty?

Early this month I compared Real Time Marketing with the "speed" paper magazines can publish a two-way conversation.

I'm known to speak my mind (and known to write double Dutch English too), 'cos I'm just a silly blogger interested in IT, progress, marketing and interaction between various parties.

Invite to comment

And, as silly bloggers do, kindly invited the editor and the regular contributor mentioned in my post to comment in the comment box. The editor in question did reply, by email only and only to state that modernising the online presence of the trade magazine would costs a lot of time and recourses. (I still beg to differ.)

The regular contributor (Sid Bourne) replied in the September issue, but only on our reply - published in July's issue - to his story from May.

Who's nasty?

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Not only do I lack proof reading skills, according to Mr Editor I'm nasty too (besides being, as already acknowledged, silly).

Funny thing, the Internet. The original post is being found time after time since yesterday (when the September CFJ issue landed on all subscribers doormat) on various phrases all containing: CFJ goes pubic. Oh, those modern times and tools!

Honourable

In 2007 I received an email from someone I did not know, but who very kindly had taken time to inform me on a typo he discovered on my site where I explained where the business novel :The Kiss Business was all about.

I'd missed out the c in the word exciting, making running a business both exiting and scary - funny that ;-)

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Thanks again for this, Paul F. - hope your business is going well and you enjoyed my book?

Now I could of course return the favour and call Mr Editor a nasty and ignorant person, but that would just be silly, wouldn't it?
Honourable however, he definitely isn't.


time warp

Finally - after years and years of trial and error, smoking pc's and phone lines - I managed to email back in time!

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Just by a few minutes only this time, but one of these days someone may be able to read my answer before they even asked the question!


Forecourt deceit at Shell Lychgate, Faversham

Petrol prices and diesel prices are ridiculously high nowadays, we all know that and we all can't do anything about it it seems.

But that does not mean certain forecourts should take advantage of us poor divers!

How much?

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I filled up our estate care on Monday at our usual petrol station on the A20 at Hothfield (Esso) and paid £ 1.309 per liter. So when Ton in the van on its way to the job on Tuesday morning passed Shell Lychgate at Faversham and saw the price on the big board for diesel showing £ 1.329 he thought that could be about right, diesel being more expensive as petrol.

List price is not the pump price!

So on his way back home, he drove onto the forecourt and started filling the van with diesel - only to realise the price at the pump itself was £ 1.4089 a whopping 6% higher!
When he went to pay he remarked about the big difference between the price on the big board - attracting him and many other drivers to fill up there on the Thanet Way - and the actual price he was told the following

"Oh, the board has been broken for a few weeks now"

How convenient (for them)!

Contrary to most petrol station the receipt he took home for the books, only shows the amount of liters and the total price - not the price per liter. How convenient, for them!

Ton is furious and so am I - what kind of deceit is this, IMHO it even smells of fraud. How can they get away with it? Daylight robbery, nothing else!

So be warned, if you are driving around in Kent and need some petrol or diesel - avoid the Shell Lychgate station on the Thanet Way near Faversham, listed prices are not what they seem!

Avoid Shell Lychgate on Thanet Way Faversham, the price listed is not the price you pay

How many other forecourts have a broken big boards and take all the time of the world to fix it? Until, no doubt, the minute the actual price drops below the advertised "broken-board" price.


Call to action - Time not to Change, for the better

Saturday 30 October I drove home at the normal time of 5pm - in clear day light. Two days later, Monday 1 November, at the exact same time of 5pm, the drive home was in darkness.
I hate this abrupt change!

Economical sound

Yes, I know, the seasons change and going into the Winter there will be fewer and fewer hours of day light until the end of December where nature will pause a few days and then slowly, very slowly in the beginning, we'll have more light.

But having to adopt so suddenly in one day time instead of gradually getting used to the darkness is not natural. It's too abrupt, especially when the rush hour in most towns and villages start around 5pm and over one weekend this rush hour lands from day light into complete darkness.

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All because we're switching from British Summertime back to GMT in the last weekend of October. Last Saturday Andrew Ellson (Personal Finance Editor) made some valuable points in The Times why "ditching the GMT" is an economical good decision:

  • lower energy bills (and fewer carbon emissions) - lighting up later in the running up to December
    • "A study published earlier this year also found that about 447,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions would have been saved if the clocks were not put back each year between 2001 and 2008, equating to electricity savings of 885GWh – enough to supply 200,000 households – and a reduction in peak demand of 4.3 per cent."
  • fewer accidents, evidence suggests that lighter evening mean fewer accidents and fewer accidents means less costs for the NHS
    • "Road safety experts believe up to 100 deaths could be prevented every year and it would also enable children to travel home in light."
  • more savings in the public sector by spending less on heating and lighting

Others have already indicated that not switching back to GMT will mean longer and safer training periods for youngsters in the various sports. Over three hundred sporting organisations including the FA and Lawn Tennis Association are very much in favour of keeping the BST, it would increase participation and therefore cut obesity.

And of course for shoppers it will mean lighter and longer midday shopping - welcomed by retailers, bistros, bars, pubs etc.

"Up to 80,000 new jobs could be created in the tourist industry, as longer evenings would extend the tourist season and allow attractions to stay open for longer in the year."

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There's a Private Member's Bill (by Rebecca Harris - Con) working its way through Parliament that, if passed, would mean the clocks stay unchanged next winter.
This Bill is due for its second reading on 3 December.

If you support the idea, write to your local MP to demand he or she supports the legislation. They should!

According to Andrew Ellson, they - politicians - won't get many easier opportunities to put some money in their constituents' pockets.

(The MP for Ashford is Damian Green - Con and you can reach him through greend@parliament.uk or leave a message through his Ashford page).


UK's two holy grails are crippling its next generation of bright sparks

Two articles in this Saturday's Times caught my eye:
Yolande Barnes lamenting on "Britain will be a nation of graduate students"
and ex-student Jodi searching for advice to reduce student debt so she could rent a property on her own instead of sharing with 3 friends, in Money's MoT.
(Sorry I can't link to the two actual articles online - you'll have to pay The Times for the pleasure nowadays - I did, I bought the paper version)

The holy grails: being a student, property ladder

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Since the 60's these two goals seem to be the have all for all the classes, gone are the days that only the elite could afford further study and buying bricks and mortar.

Makes you wonder what's so elite nowadays of having crippling student debts?

Mrs Barnes (head of residential research at Savills) laments about the next generation of students having to find rental properties en mass because repaying the loan for being a students will prevent them from saving for a deposit for a home.

"It means that as much as a fith of thier gross income will be taken up with savins adn debt repayment. Inconveniently, our erstwhile student will also need shelter, food, clothing and all the other neccesities of life during this time, With no equity to buy a house, they will need to rent. And they will need to do this for a good deal linger tahn we did in orevious generations."

She even "fears" that those whom finally buy a house at he age of 40 will be there for a long time and not, as was usual before, just for a few years and then to move up on the "ladder".

"This means an end to the stepping-stone game and a flight to quality. It puts added presure on the value of family homes in good locationsm which are already the most resilient properties in the market."

Try a different approach?

In my opinion getting on to this first rang of this holy grail is/will only possible for hose "poor sods" whom took/take a different approach to gaining knowledge and money: training on the job. With this I don't mean applying for an apprenticeship as part of day-time education.

I followed the same path of training on the job:
after leaving secondary school at the age of 18 I went to "college" to train/study as primary school teacher, to quickly realise that was absolutely not my forte! So after that first year of experiencing what it is to be a student - with a government subsidy, to be paid back interest free 2 years after, if I had sufficient means of income and where the repayment was spread of 10 years.

After leaving the college I didn't know what I really wanted to do, becoming a journalist was still high on my wish-list of favourite careers. The first visit to a recruitment agency landed my an admin job at a local factory (producing pure alcohol) where the ins and outs of bookkeeping were revealed to me. I thought I would give it a year to find out what I really wanted, adding a part-time reporters job at the local paper to my career path. In the end I stayed at the factory for 19 years and had completely forgotten about becoming a full time journalist, writing only stories and articles for my own pleasure or local magazines.

During those years I climbed the ranks of office jobs, started as junior clerk on a minimum wage, ended up as assistant logistic manager and had a few years of assistant bookkeeper, sales, it and quality control thrown in for good measure. All in all I studied (at home, in the evenings - weekends) for 3 highly valuable certificates. The last one, MBA - Modern Business Administration, not the Masters thingy - was the most valuable and took me 3 years in total. All the while earning money, having an ever increasing wage packet, an employer paying for the course - on the condition that if I left the company within 2 years of finishing the course I had to repay the costs, plus early on in my employment the ability to get on to the first rang of the property ladder.

Now I have to admit that buying bricks and mortar in The Netherlands - where then over 70% of the population lives in rental accommodation - made good sense the minute you earned more and the "burden" of income tax grew. The interest paid on your mortgage was deductible from your income, lowering your tax band.

On the other hand, many live in rental accommodations all their life and quite happily so. My parents lived for over 20 years in the same house, decorating it to their own wishes/style. There are various housing associations, from council to private sector, building whole estates with decent and well-sought after houses to fulfill to demand in rental properties, It's part of growing up - at least it was for me and my generation - to leave your family home (rented) to go to your own (rented) flat/appartment and clime the (rented) property market over the years like your own parents did.

Why have the burden of a mortgage if you have the benefit of renting a decent house on a long term contract in the neighbourhood you like/want to live? The long term contract gives you the pleasure of making it truly "your home".

Alternative grails: work to study - build to let

Fact in point however is the principle I think still makes good common sense: why burden the next generation with crippling debt because of this holy grail that everyone, no matter from which background, should have the experience of being a student. Does the majority of 17 - 18 years old even know where their talents lay, what job, occupation would suit them best? Why then are they forced to decide on that age for which subject to take at a college or university?

I could have it absolutely wrong of course, only living in the UK for the last 10 years in only private rental accommodation, but it seems such a wast of precious time for "students" working up a debt before they start earning a living and then having to put their life on hold to pay of their student debt. And then some still "dare" to say that with an University or college degree you earn more quicker?

Take Jodi, the ex-student in this weekend's Money MoT: 27 year young, a decent wage of £ 19.000 but still miserable in debt, a debt that started as a student and spiraled out of control to a staggering £ 24.000 at the moment. Tired of her "student"life-style, renting a house together with 3 friends. Her goal: pay her way out of debt, renting a property of her own and taking driving lessons. She studied journalism, film and broadcasting at Cardiff University, her job now is pastoral manager n a West Sussex School. Where's the benefit, gain of her years of studying at the university?

Say she left secondary school at the age of 17 - 10 years down the road she still lives "as a student", has no savings to speak of, can't afford to take driving lessons and is faced with a very poor credit rating due to all her debts accumulated since starting the holy grail of University.

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Say her neighbour left school at the same time, but started working in an office, starting at the bottom. Not very exciting, but earning a living from day one and "learning" valuable skills on/in the job. Her boss sees her as a valuable asset, worth investing in and pays for her training courses that will benefit both. After 10 years she's earning more (perhaps even more than £ 19.000), and in the knowledge that she would be welcomed by many more companies valuing her experience and business-focused certificates. She might not yet stepped on the first or second rang of the property ladder, suppose she's renting a very nice house. This would make her very flexible in moving to another part of town, county or even country - to go there where she could be paid even more.

All that in the same 10 years.

Isn't it time to forsake the two holy grails and for secondary school leavers to become their own "master" from the start. Not being crippled by debt for a study that might not even suit the economy, not being tight down by "brick and mortar" that can loose "value" without any influence of your own.

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The modern economy is asking ( screaming?) for youngsters whom are flexible. Flexible in knowledge, skills and with an affinity for training/studying those subjects that will benefit both them as their employer. Flexible to move where ever their skills, experience is needed/valued most - any rang on the property ladder will never make you flexible.

Modern economy is asking (screaming?) for decent homes for long term contract tenancy - the government should focus on development of private sector rental estate, giving in the hands of associations (be it council run or private sector). There's where the money will be: "build-to-let"


IVA Advice

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With more and more people entering financial difficulties, IVA advice can help those unfortunate who are borrowing more and more and whose finances are spiralling out of control.

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Interim Management Jobs

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A keyrole in spearheading the public or private sector are interim managers.

With the cuts in many organisations budgets, Interim Management Jobs are becoming more widely available and not as many opportunities.

However Interim Partners, help companies to lead change, with proven records in many positions such as: Chief Executives, Managing Directors and Financial Directors. In which will more likely make a company successful and potentially turning a loss into a profit.


Business Insolvency UK

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One company who are trying to advise people are PKF, who are business advisers and accountants. With detailed information about a wide range of areas, it could be worthwhile taking a look at the information supplied on their website.