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  1. New pocket guide for troops to access mental health support READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-pocket-guide-for-troops-to-access-mental-health-support
  2. New guide to improve consumer product safety recalls READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-guide-to-improve-consumer-product-safety-recalls
  3. Purple Pack bereavement guide for families of service personnel READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/purple-pack-bereavement-guide-for-families-of-service-personnel
  4. Stirling CAB publishes Plain English Guide to help sort out Benefits READ MORE AND DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE HERE: http://stirlingcab.org.uk/
  5. The Consumer Action Group Guide to understanding how the Credit Reference Agencies work. The guide to help you understand what Credit Reference Agencies are and how they impact on your lifestyle financial decisions and the information that is shared with Financial Institutions . Credit Reference Agencies.pdf
  6. The Consumer Action Group Guide to understanding how the Credit Reference Agencies work. The guide to help you understand what Credit Reference Agencies are and how they impact on your lifestyle financial decisions and the information that is shared with Financial Institutions . Credit Reference Agencies.pdf
  7. The Consumer Action Group Guide to understanding how the Credit Reference Agencies work. The guide to help you understand what Credit Reference Agencies are and how they impact on your lifestyle financial decisions and the information that is shared with Financial Institutions . CredAg_WIP.pdf
  8. The Consumer Action Group Guide to understanding how the Credit Reference Agencies work. The guide to help you understand what Credit Reference Agencies are and how they impact on your lifestyle financial decisions and the information that is shared with Financial Institutions . Credit Agencies Guide.pdf
  9. A guide to the Veterans Welfare Service READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-the-veterans-welfare-service
  10. A guide to Veterans Services READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-veterans-services
  11. A guide to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-the-joint-casualty-and-compassionate-centre
  12. A guide to Ministry of Defence Medal Office READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-ministry-of-defence-medal-office
  13. READ MORE & DOWNLOAD GUIDE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/intouch-mail-service-for-uk-armed-forces-personnel-service-guide
  14. Guide to taking in a Lodger What is a Lodger? A Lodger is a person who rents a room in your home without having exclusive rights to any part of the property. Usually there is a formal arrangement in place that sets out the rooms that the Lodger can use and those that they share with the rest of the household (e.g. the kitchen, living room and bathroom) for an agreed payment. Close family members such as a parent, step parent or parent-in-law, a son or daughter, step son or step daughter, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, a brother or sister are not normally classified as Lodgers so you need to be fully aware of this. Do I need Permission to take in a Lodger? As a Private Home Owner --You may need to inform your Mortgage Provider. --You may need to inform your Insurance Provider. --You may need to inform the Local Council (Council Tax). --You may need to inform DWP if you Claim any Benefits. As a Council Housing / Housing Association / Housing Trust etc Tenant (Social Housing) --You may need to Request Permission from your Landlord to have a Lodger. --You may need to inform your Insurance Provider. --You may need to inform the Local Council (Council Tax). --You may need to inform DWP if you Claim any Benefits. We would recommend that you always get Permission in Writing from the Landlord. Do I need to provide a Furnished Room? To comply with the Governments Rent a Room scheme to earn a tax free income you must provide a Furnished Room. How much can I charge a Lodger for a Room? This will depend on the area where you live and what condition your property is in. Have a look on www.SpareRoom.co.uk at other rooms available in your area to get an idea what the going rate is likely to be. How do I Evict a Lodger? It is easier to evict a Lodger than a Tenant but you will still need to give ‘reasonable notice’ to the Lodger if you intend to evict. We would always recommend a written agreement between you and your Lodger(s) so the conditions are agreed upon in advance. Will I be Taxed on my Income and do I have to Declare it? Under the Government’s Rent a Room scheme you can earn up to £7,500 a year tax free by taking in a lodger and, provided you don’t earn more than this, you won’t need to declare it. Important if you do earn over the amount you must inform your Local Tax Office ASAP. Do I need to Comply with the New tenancy Deposit Laws? The law only applies to Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) so you can take a deposit without having to use the tenancy deposit scheme. (Ensure you have a Lodger Agreement signed by Lodger and Yourself) Do I need to Comply with Right to Rent Laws? As of 1st February 2016, the law requires everyone renting out property in England to check whether their tenants are legally allowed to live in the UK, regardless of the type of agreement, whether they're written or verbal. (this includes Lodgers so you need to be aware of this) Right to rent checks introduced for landlords in England Right to rent document checks: a user guide A short guide on right to rent Right to rent checks: what they mean for you Check your tenant's right to rent The PDF below contains the above information but also: 1. Lodger Agreement 2. Lodger Interview Form 3. Inventory List 4. Example Notice to Quit letter. Guide to Taking in a Lodger.pdf
  15. READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/court-guide-manual-of-service-law-jsp-830-volume-2
  16. The Consumer Action Group Guide to Payday Loan Reclaims & Irresponsible Lending. Latest guide includes info on dealing with CMC (Claim Management Companies) & When a company falls into Insolvency / Administration. This was updated in Sept 2018 PDL_Claim_Guide.pdf
  17. A guide to Ministry of Defence Medal Office can be downloaded. READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-ministry-of-defence-medal-office
  18. A guide to the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre can be downloaded. READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-the-joint-casualty-and-compassionate-centre
  19. A Guide to Veteran Services can be downloaded. READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-veterans-services
  20. A Guide to the Veterans Welfare Service can be downloaded. READ MORE HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-the-veterans-welfare-service
  21. READ MORE HERE & DOWNLOAD GUIDE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mod-referral-scheme-a-guide
  22. The MOD Service Leavers Guide has been updated on 31st March 2016. To view and Download the guide see link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/service-leavers-pack
  23. I have bred pedigree cats for over four decades and it breaks my heart every time I see someone taken for a ride when buying a pedigree kitten. The aim of this thread is to demystify the whole process, to let you know what we breeders do so you know what to look for beyond the obvious clean eyes, flea free coats, and only one litter a year stuff you already know to ask. There's nothing special or magic about a breeder. Anyone can be a breeder and with cats it's quite normal for a breeding girl to be kept as any pet cat would be. What makes us different to a pet owner who simply doesn't bother to get their cat spayed/neutered is a passion for a particular breed partnered with acceptance of a set of rules and recommendations set by our chosen registry. By far the biggest in the UK is the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). Breeders can and do register kittens with others eg The International Cat Association (TICA) and the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe). None is in any way better or worse but throughout I'll use the GCCF for links and examples because I understand them the best and know where to look on the website. None of them are statutory bodies but they have become accepted as a benchmark of proof that the kitten you buy is a pedigree. That's what a registry is, a database carrying details of every pedigree kitten ever bred by breeders who choose to belong to that particular 'club'. So how do you become a member of that mysterious club? You join a cat club which is affiliated. There are specialist breed clubs (sometimes more than one for a breed) and there are area clubs eg the Suffolk & Norfolk Cat Club. Membership will cost you less than a tenner a year in most cases. Once you've paid this princely sum you can apply to the GCCF for your 'prefix' - a name unique to you within that registry which nobody else can use. All you need to get this prefix is the signature of a breed or area club secretary confirming your membership and a fee of £75. Many then feel having a GCCF prefix means they can refer to themselves as 'registered breeders'. It's meaningless. It's nothing more than a word they have chosen to identify themselves and their cats. No checks are done. You don't even have to own a cat. What's the lesson to be learned from this? Ask your breeder if they are a current member of a cat club. It's the clubs which make policy on any given breed, recommend various health tests and disseminate information to breeders so the true enthusiast won't have joined for just a single year in order to call themselves a 'registered breeder' and don't be fooled by the term. It definitely doesn't mean the breeder is experienced or knowledgeable. There are plenty of wonderful breeders who never bothered with a prefix and plenty of bad ones who paid the money for one. In between there's the vast majority of us who are prefix holders but don't claim it makes us anything special - because it doesn't. One of the safest places to find a breeder is the breed club lists. Everyone listed will at least be current members. Just google your chosen breed followed by 'breed club' or 'cat club'. There are some lovely breeders who choose not to be members of a club but you need to know what you're looking for - hence this thread. OK, so you've found a breeder and they have kittens available soon(ish). Don't expect a pedigree kitten to be available straight away. You may just hit lucky, it does happen that there's a kitten not booked by 13 weeks old but it isn't the norm. What would you need to check? Well first of all have a look at adverts to get an idea of the price you'd expect to pay. Sites like pets4homes show prices so you can get a good idea of the range. If one person is asking £1000 when everyone else is sticking to the more normal £400 - £600 range you need to ask why. It tends to be the con artists who ask the most. If they claim to be a prefix holder you can check here that the prefix is indeed registered with the GCCF http://www.gccfcats.org/Portals/0/PrefixesAtoM.pdf http://www.gccfcats.org/Portals/0/PrefixesNtoZ.pdf and if it is that must at least mean the breeder has not been the subject of any complaints or disciplinary action, right? Wrong, so wrong. Once paid for that prefix is for life and cannot be taken away. The GCCF can (and do) suspend members and won't then allow them to register kittens but they can't remove that prefix from the list. The next check you need to do is here http://www.gccfcats.org/About-GCCF/Suspension-List The lists aren't that long because for minor offences it works a bit like a CCJ - pay the fine without delay and your name doesn't hit the list. I know perfectly nice breeders who have been there, myself included. A mistake in filling out a show entry form cost me £50. It's in the rules I signed up for that you get it right so I accepted the slap on the wrist and paid up. You don't get off that easily if you are found guilty of knowingly selling a sick kitten or the like so it's a list worth checking. It's still worth a look if your breeder says they use one of the other registries. It isn't unheard of for a breeder to migrate if they're on a disciplinary list for one and there are no checks in place between the different registries. Done all that and we've made an appointment to visit the breeder. You must visit the breeder and see those kittens before you commit to buy. I'll say it again - you must visit. Do not be talked paying a deposit to secure a kitten you've never seen. Before you go check if there are any required health tests for your chosen breed. The GCCF website has a page with every breed of cat they recognise. http://www.gccfcats.org/Cat-Breeds Click on your chosen breed and scroll down to the section on health where you'll find the information. As an example we'll take the Persian because most people know what that is and among other information this is what you'll see .................... Persians can carry a gene that leads to kidney failure (calledautosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease) through the development of cysts in the kidney. This condition was found in more than a third of all Persian and Exotic shorthaired cats in the 1990s when screening tests became available. Using DNA screening, breeders are now working to try to eradicate the problem – always ask the breeder to show the PKD certificates for the cats used to produce your kitten ............................................ How many hopeful Persian kitten buyers do you suppose insist on seeing PKD certificates? I'm pretty confident the answer is not enough! Arm yourself with the information and be prepared to walk away if you don't get the answers you want. Ask what other paperwork you'll get. You should expect a pedigree certificate complete with the registration numbers of every cat for at least the last three generations. This is constructed by the breeder, many of us use specialist software these days. Anyone can make one up - it's those all important registration numbers, unique to each cat, which can be checked and verified. Without them it's a worthless piece of paper. You should also get a vaccination certificate, signed by a vet, showing your kitten has had a course of two vaccinations, three weeks apart. Every breeder I know insures kittens for new owners. The two main players in this are Petplan and Agria. I know Petplan cover for 4 weeks, Agria may do for a little longer because they are trying to break the Petplan stronghold. There's no excuse, no possible reason for a kitten to leave a breeder without that cover. And then that all important registration document. It's a pretty insignificant looking card but this is your real proof of pedigree. It's actually a transfer certificate with the space to fill in your details if you wish to transfer the kitten into your ownership according to the GCCF. It is nothing to do with legal ownership and unnecessary for pet owners, it's only an internal administrative move and of course will involve paying the GCCF a further fee. The GCCF runs two registers, active and non-active. Breeders only place kittens intended for breeding on the active register and the GCCF will not register the progeny of cats on the non-active register. If a breeder is telling you the parents are registered pedigrees but is making any excuse for not registering the kittens then ask to see the parents' registration certificates(not the pedigree certificates) and check for 'active' status. If they're non-active or the breeder won't show you the documents then walk away. Those parents won't have been subject to any of the proper health tests if they aren't on the active register and shouldn't be bred from. Don't be conned into paying a much higher price if you want the 'papers'. Registration costs £9/kitten, it's the smallest breeding expense by many a country mile, so there's not a reason on this earth for asking a buyer to pay an extra £100+ as I've seen on some adverts - except maybe to put you off asking all those awkward questions. The price without documentation may seem a bargain but would you pay it for a barn born kitten off the local farm? Unregistered kittens are no different to the local litter of non pedigrees with no proof of parentage, delightful to have but they shouldn't cost hundreds of pounds. Remember most breeders are ordinary people with a passion for their breed, it's the con artists who can spin a good tale, have all the excuses and will try to convince you that there's someone else coming later who will take this last kitten if you don't make a decision NOW. Whatever they say, there will always be another kitten and if you know what to look for you will find the one you deserve.
  24. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is the biggest shake up in consumer rights law in a generation and seeks to simplify, strengthen and modernise UK consumer law. The act replaces three big pieces of consumer legislation - the Sale of Goods Act, Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Supply of Goods and Services Act. Which? has produced a guide to the main changes in consumer rights which came into effect on 1st October http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act#link-1
  25. In April 2014, significant changes were made to the way in which bailiffs can enforce debts. Most importantly, the fees that can be charged are fixed and transparent. The following page is an overview of the new regulations. Terminology The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 modernise terminology. The terms levy, distress or distrain are now known as the process of ‘taking control of goods’. A walking possession agreement is now called a Controlled Goods Agreement and bailiffs are now known as enforcement agents (although they can still be referred to as bailiffs). Warrants of execution (in particular for road traffic debts) and warrants of distress (for Magistrate Court fines) have been renamed warrants of control. With debts enforced via the High Court, the centuries old term of a writ of fieri facias (writ of fi fa) has been renamed a writ of control. Enforcement Agent Fees The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 also came into effect in April 2014 and with the exception of ‘writs of control’ (enforced via the High Court), the following fees apply to all debt types (council tax and non domestic rate arrears, local authority issued penalty charge notices, magistrate court fines, child support agency arrears and rent arrears). Compliance Stage Fee: £75 Upon receipt of an instruction from the client, the enforcement company must send a Notice of Enforcement to the debtor. The notice must provide the date of the notice and the date and time by which full payment or a payment arrangement must be set up. This strict period of time is referred to as the ‘compliance stage' and must by law provide a minimum period of seven ‘clear days’ before an enforcement agent may visit the property. The compliance fee of £75 is payable for each Liability Order or Warrant of Control. Enforcement Stage fee: £235.00 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00). If full payment or a payment arrangement is not made during the Compliance Stage (or a previous payment arrangement is broken), the case will progress to the ‘enforcement stage’ and an individual enforcement agent/bailiff will attend the property for the purpose of ‘taking control' of goods. This fee becomes payable at the time of attendance. If the enforcement agent is enforcing more than one Liability Order or Warrant of Control against the same person, he may only charge one enforcement fee (of £235). He cannot apply ‘multiple’ charges. Sale stage Fee: £110.00 (plus 7.5% of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.00). This fee shall be charged when an Enforcement Agent attends the premises to remove goods and makes preparations for the sale of goods. It is important to note that additional charges may also be applied relating to the removal. These include storage and locksmith’s fees. Forms and Documentation The new regulations provide a series of statutory forms that must be used by the enforcement agent. Full details of all forms and the information that must be provided on them can be viewed here. Making a payment proposal The legislation provides a strict period in which to make payment or to negotiate a payment arrangement without the need for a bailiff attendance. This is referred to as the ‘Compliance Stage’ and begins with receipt of the Notice of Enforcement. If full payment cannot be made within the strict time period outlined in the notice, (a minimum of seven ‘clear days’) then it is vitally important to contact the enforcement company to make a payment arrangement. Most companies will readily agree to accept an arrangement over a period of 3 months (and possibly even 6 months) depending on the individual circumstances. Providing the enforcement company with a simple Income and Expenditure calculation at this stage may be of assistance. Failure to make payment (or to agree a payment arrangement) during the compliance stage will lead to a bailiff making a personal visit to ‘take control’ of goods. This visit will incur an enforcement fee of £235 as outlined above. Vulnerable debtors Far better protection is given to vulnerable debtors under the regulations. One example being that a vehicle displaying a disabled badge is now exempt from being taken by a bailiff. Secondly, and most importantly, Regulation 12 of the Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 makes provision to protect vulnerable debtors who may have been unable in the early stages to seek advice (from the local authority, magistrates court, debt counsellor/debt charity etc) about the debt. If a bailiff makes a personal visit (which incurs an enforcement fee of £235) and identifies a debtor as ‘vulnerable’, then Regulation 12 provides that he should give the person a chance to seek advice prior to removal of goods. If he fails to do so, the enforcement fee of £235 is not recoverable. An enforcement agent will not know in advance whether a person is ‘vulnerable’. It is therefore vitally important to make the enforcement company aware of any ‘vulnerability’ at the earliest possible stage (during the compliance stage) and where possible, to provide some form of documentary evidence. Times of day when a Bailiff/ Enforcement Agent may visit The enforcement agent/bailiff is allowed to visit the property seven days a week (including Sunday) between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 p.m. He is not allowed to visit on Bank Holidays and Christmas Day Items that are exempt from being taken by a bailiff As outlined above, if full payment or a payment arrangement is not set up during the ‘compliance stage’, the account will progress to the ‘enforcement stage’ and a personal visit will be made to ‘take control’ of goods (hence the name of the regulations). In reality, the enforcement agent will be seeking full payment of the debt. If this is not possible, then he may ‘take control’ of none exempt goods. The regulations provide a list of exempt items that cannot be taken into control by the bailiff. The following are the most important: Items or equipment (for example, tools, books, telephones, computer equipment and vehicles) which are necessary for use personally by the debtor in the debtor’s employment, business, trade, profession, study or education, except that in any case the aggregate value of the items or equipment to which this exemption is applied shall not exceed £1,350; Clothes, beds, bedding, furniture, household equipment, items and provisions as are reasonably required to satisfy the basic domestic needs of the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household. Cooker or microwave, fridge, washing machine, dining table and dining chairs to seat the debtor and every member of the debtor’s household. Land line telephone, or a mobile phone. Domestic pets and guide dogs. A full list of items that are exempt from being taken into control by a bailiff can be viewed here. NOTE: Motor vehicles are the most common item to be taken by bailiffs. A separate post is provided below on this subject.
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