Maximise! Our New School Project

Maximise! is a partnership between CHAI and Children 1st supported by The City of Edinburgh Council and the NHS. Together, we want to ensure that school pupils can achieve their educational potential.

We provide an all round service to pupils’ families to help improve relationships, increase confidence, support well-being and increase community links as well as providing advice to maximise your income, reduce debt, resolve housing issues and gain employment.

Maximise! is now present in six schools throughout Edinburgh:

  • Liberton High School
  • Liberton Primary
  • Gilmerton Primary
  • Craigour Park Primary
  • Prestonfield Primary 
  • Gracemount Primary School

To make an appointment, please contact your child’s school or phone CHAI on 0131 442 2100.

Click here for our Maximise! poster.

Newsletters

We issue newsletters to keep parents updated on welfare rights issues that are relevant to them.

For example, in our first issue, we cover help with school meals and school uniforms, and how to avoid tax credits pitfalls.

Previous issues:

To subscribe to our newsletters, send us an email with your email address through our Contact Page.

FAQs – The Court Process for Social Tenants

This section aims to answer Frequently Asked Questions on eviction proceedings for rent arrears for council and housing association tenants, explain your rights and responsibilities, and how we can help you.

If you are facing eviction proceedings, contact Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) for advice: Phone  0845 302 4607 or email us at: EHAPAdmin@chaiedinburgh.org.uk

Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) is a service delivery partnership comprising: Community Help & Advice Initiative (CHAI), Granton Information Centre, Four Square, Move On and Changeworks – all of which are established charities delivering  a range of advice and homelessness prevention services in Edinburgh.

 

Read our answers to Frequently Asked Questions below or download our leaflet here.

I have received a Summons. What can I do?

You will be sent a Summons if your landlord wants to ask the Sheriff Court for a Court Order for your eviction. The Summons will show the date when the case will call in court
(a Friday morning).

If you have received a Summons, make an appointment for housing advice with us or another advice agency. If we cannot give you an appointment at short notice, you should attend court, where one of our advisers can give you some last minute advice and book an appointment for you if possible. You will need to represent yourself at the first calling and ask the Sheriff for “a continuation of a few weeks”, to give you time to get advice and representation.

What happens at the first calling?

The first time a case calls in court, we call it the ‘first calling’. At that point, we will ask for a continuation, that is for another court date, so we can make an offer of repayment to your landlord and ask for more time to resolve any benefit issues and to give you time to start making payments.

How can EHAP help me with my court case?

In the first instance, we will try and negotiate a ‘continuation’ with your housing officer, to avoid the case actually calling in court.

If we can’t get your housing officer to agree to a payment plan and continue the case, you can instruct us to represent you in court and speak to the Sheriff on your behalf. We will state why it is not reasonable to grant a court order for your eviction. We will need to explain your circumstances, explain why the arrears built up and what you are doing to address the problem, for example apply for housing benefit, look into benefit issues, and make an offer of repayment for the arrears.

How long will the case stay in court for?

Once a housing officer or Sheriff has agreed to continue the case, we get another date for the next court calling. The case is likely to get continued over several weeks or months for the landlord to monitor payments, i.e. to make sure you keep to the arrangement and not miss any payments, but also to address any benefit issues.

If you do not keep to your payment plan, however, the landlord is likely to ask the Sheriff to grant an eviction order (called a decree). 

Can I get court representation from EHAP?

We can represent you as long as we have clear instructions from you, i.e. we need to hear from you in the week before the case calls in court. Although we will try and contact you, it is your responsibility to contact us at least 3 days before court, if you do not hear from us.

 Do I have to attend court?

We always recommend that you attend court if we cannot get an agreement with your landlord beforehand. If you are unable to attend court for whatever reason, we can speak to the Sheriff without you as long as we have spoken to you beforehand. However, it shows goodwill and helps the case if the tenant is present.

 What will I need to do at court?

If you instruct us to, we can speak to the Sheriff on your behalf and you would just stand next to us, in case the Sheriff wants to speak to you directly or ask you any questions. The Sheriff will make a decision there and then, about whether to continue the case or grant an eviction order. Court is public.

What is a ‘sisted’ case?

Once a payment arrangement has been adhered to for a number of weeks or months, and all benefit issues have been resolved, the landlord will eventually agree to ‘sist’ the case. This means that the case will no longer call in court, so there won’t be any more court dates at that point, but you will have to keep paying the agreed amount until the arrears are paid off.

If you default, then the landlord can easily bring the case back to court, with a single letter, by issuing an ‘Incidental Application’ form.

When the case is sisted, it will technically remain on the court books (but without any court callings or court dates) until the arrears are repaid.

 When does the case stop being in court?

Once the arrears are repaid in full, the case will be called back to court one last time for it to be ‘dismissed’. In most cases, the court will award expenses to your landlord (approximately £350), unless you can show the court action wasn’t necessary. Expenses of a court action aren’t treated as rent arrears but rather as an ordinary debt. You won’t have to repay the expenses in one go and can arrange a payment plan for these.

Universal Credit is coming to Edinburgh

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit for people under pension age which aims to replace 6 means-tested benefits, i.e. Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance.

From November 2018, anyone in Edinburgh who is unemployed, unable to work due to sickness or on a low income will have to claim UC and will no longer be able to claim income-based JSA, income-related ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit or Tax Credits.

Who is Affected?

This only applies to people making new claims and does not affect people who already have an existing claim for these benefits. Their existing claims will continue until they are ‘migrated’, i.e. transitioned onto UC. This transition is expected to take between 2019 and 2023, so you may not be affected right away.

In addition, people with 3 or more children won’t be able to make a new claim for UC until February 2019.

 Why This New Benefit?

The Government’s aim is to simplify the benefits system so that you only need to apply for one benefit, instead of claiming different benefits from different agencies (HMRC, DWP and the Council).

However, a lot of benefits will still remain such as benefits that are based on your National Insurance (NI) contributions like contributory JSA and ESA.

Main Features of UC

  • UC is based on your income, not your NI contributions.
  • It is administered by the DWP.
  • UC combines various elements into one single payment for you, your children, for your housing costs and childcare costs, and for being a carer or unfit for work.
  • All claims are digital. You must apply online and manage your claim online in your journal, to communicate with the DWP.
  • A single monthly payment to one person in household is made into a bank account.
  • Rent payments will be made to you directly, NOT to landlords, unless the DWP agree to an Alternative Payment Arrangement.
  • Your award is assessed every month, based on your income for the previous month.
  • You can continue to claim UC if you work over 16 hours per week as long as your income is below the threshold—an improvement for people with variable earnings.
  • Your claim remains ‘dormant’ for up to 6 months—if your earnings are too high. one month but go back down the next month, your claim restarts automatically.
  • UC aims to encourage work. Most people are expected either to look for work, or prepare for work and improve their work prospects depending on their circumstances —although some people are exempt altogether (e.g. carers, people unfit for work in the Support Group).
  • Lone parents (or main carers in a couple) with a child aged 3 or over are now expected to look for work.
  • People who are in work but do not earn over the Conditionality Threshold (which is 35 hours per week at the Minimum Wage) may be expected to look for more work—unless their Work Coach agrees the threshold should be lowered due to caring commitments for example.

Ask us for advice!

Factsheet

You can click here for our factsheet on Universal Credit. In this factsheet, you will find more tips about:

  • Making a claim for Universal Credit
  • How to prepare for Universal Credit
  • How to avoid problems with your UC Claim
  • And some useful contact details

Training

We can also provide training on Universal Credit to charities and housing associations. Contact us for more information.

 

 

 

Carer’s Allowance: The Basics

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit which is non-means tested and non-contributory. This means that your income is not taken into account and you don’t need have to sufficient NI contributions to claim it.

To be eligible it, people must meet the following criteria:

– Provide care to someone for 35 hours per week.

– The person they care for must get Disability Living Allowance DLA (the middle or highest rate of the care component) or Personal Independence Payment PIP (the Daily Living component).

Only earn a maximum of £120 per week (as at April 2018): this is an absolute earnings limit; however, earnings and savings are disregarded in full and every Carer’s Allowance claimant gets the same rate of benefit.

Income support

Carers may also be able to claim Income Support which is a means-tested benefit that replaces earnings and can top up Carer’s Allowance.

Entitlement to Income Support depends on the carers’ income and savings meeting certain thresholds. Carer’s Allowance counts as income for the calculation of Income Support.

Carer premiums

Once a carer is awarded Carer’s Allowance, they will qualify for a carer premium which will increase their entitlement to other means-tested benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit.

An important consideration when claiming Carer’s Allowance is the financial impact it will have on the person cared for.

Disabled people often have an extra disability premium added to their benefit when they live alone without any carer: this is known as the severe disability premium.

An award of Carer’s Allowance would mean that the person cared for would stop being entitled to this severe disability premium.

Come and speak to us (0131  442 2100) if you want to discuss how claiming Carer’s Allowance could affect your benefits or those of the person you care for.

Premiums under UC

With Universal Credit, you will get a carer premium if you claim Carer’s Allowance, but there will be no more disability premiums, so the fact that you claim Carer’s Allowance won’t have any impact on the finances of the person you care for.

Case study

Chris is a lone father to his 16-year-old son, Daniel. Daniel suffers from a severe learning disability and autism.  He is concerned financially as he has reduced his working hours to care for Daniel and because Daniel’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has recently stopped as he turned 16.

CHAI helped Chris apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for Daniel. We helped him request and complete a PIP form and also advocated on behalf of Chris to collect medical records from varying medical specialists to support Daniel’s claim.

The PIP claim was successful, and Daniel was awarded Enhanced Daily living and Standard Mobility equating to an additional £105.10 per week.

CHAI also advised Chris that he was now eligible for Carer’s Allowance as he earned less than £116.00 per week and cared for his son over 35 hours per week.  He was happy to discover he could continue working and the Carers Allowance claim boosted his income by a further £62.70 a week.

Due to Chris’ reduced earnings, he was eligible for further help to cover his rental charge. CHAI contacted the council to update them of Chris’s change in circumstances. His Housing Benefit increased, and he was now also eligible for a Carer’s Premium.

Overall, CHAI successfully maximised Chris’ annual household income by £16,425. Chris now feels more confident about his financial situation.

 

Work-Related Requirements for People with Children

You may have heard or noticed that the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are putting more and more demands on people who are responsible for children in terms of what they must do to prepare for work.

Most people are now expected to take some form of action to prepare themselves for work, even if they don’t have to look for work.

How much they are required to do depends on their circumstances (e.g. the age of their child) and whether they claim Income Support or Universal Credit. Some people (such as single parents with a child under one) don’t have to do anything, while other parents are expected to take all reasonable action to obtain full-time work.

Income support

 Income Support is for lone parents who have a child under the age of 5. Although they are not required to look for work, lone parents who claim Income Support must attend work-focused interviews at the Jobcentre if their child is 1 or 2 years old.  These interviews are to discuss their plans for returning to the labour market, and to assess and enhance their job prospects. The number of interviews is at discretion of the work coach.

Once their child is between 3 or 4, they could also be required to prepare for work and undertake mandatory work-related activity such as doing training or work experience, or preparing a CV.

Universal credit

 Things are bit different if you claim Universal Credit as the Government has placed work conditionality at the core of this new benefit. Means-tested benefits such as Income Support will gradually be phased out and replaced by Universal Credit, but there is no set timetable for this yet.

Under Universal Credit, the rules will be broadly similar to the ones we’ve just outlined for Income Support but there will be some important differences:

(1) Lone parents and ‘lead carers’ in a couple (i.e. the one who looks after the children the most) are subject to work preparation requirements as well as work focused interviews if their child is aged 2. Under Income Support, lone parents only have to attend work-focused interviews, not prepare for work.

(2) The other difference is that once their child turns 3, lone parents and lead carers have to start looking for work.

The table below summarises the work-related requirements according to the age of your child, for both benefits: 

  Income
Support
Universal Credit
Pregnant / Just gave birth / Baby under 1 None None
Responsible carer for a child Aged 1 Work focused interviews Work focused interviews
Responsible carer for a child Aged 2 Work focused interviews Work focused interviews & work preparation.
Responsible carer for a child Aged 3+ Work focused interview & work related activity All work related requirements including work search

Employability support

At CHAI, we provide a supportive, and friendly employability service for people whose aim, long or short term, is to improve their work prospects. We do this in a way that suits you, by delivering our service at a number of convenient community locations.

Contact us for more information on 0131 442 2100.

 

New Housing Support Service in South-West Edinburgh!

On 1 March 2018, Four Square, in partnership with CHAI launched a new housing support service for people living in South-West Edinburgh.

This new South West Edinburgh Locality Support Service aims to prevent homelessness by providing visiting support to people facing housing issues – for example we can help you if you are worried about losing your home, or if you are actually homeless and staying in temporary accommodation.

What services do we offer?

Our support workers can help you with one or more of the following areas:

  • Accessing Housing Advice
  • Setting Up A New Home
  • Moving On To More Appropriate Accommodation
  • Keeping Accommodation Secure
  • Personal Budgeting/ Debt Counselling/Rent Arrears
  • Benefits
  • Arranging Adaptations To The Dwelling
  • Organising Minor Repairs To The Dwelling
  • Dealing With Neighbour Disputes
  • Life Skills
  • Dealing With Correspondence
  • Training / Education / Employment
  • Improving Confidence/ Self Esteem
  • Accessing Local Services/ Facilities
  • Reducing Social Isolation
  • Engaging with Other Relevant Professionals

Use the contact details below to make a referral or for more information.

Four Square Visiting Support
Tel: 0131 285 1227
Email: info@foursquare.org.uk
Website: www.foursquare.org.uk

Click here to download our Service leaflet.

Financial Inclusion Capability Service to continue thanks to funding from NHS Lothian

Since April 2017, we have run a successful project called the Financial Inclusion and Capability Service which aims to lift people out of financial hardship, through the provision of information and advice at four, locality based, Alcohol & Drug Recovery Hubs in Edinburgh, and at Dalry Primary School. Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Increase and improve people’s budgeting skills through money advice.
  • Raise awareness of illegal money lending such as loan sharks and warn against the dangers of legal but unaffordable forms of credit such as payday loans.
  • Provide information about access to bank accounts and other appropriate financial products such as credit unions.
  • Explore savings opportunities.

The project was initially funded by Trading Standards Scotland but their funding is coming to an end in April 2018. Luckily, we have now received funding from NHS Lothian which enables us to continue our vital work.

Project Outcomes (Between April 2017 and March 2018)

  • 242 individuals engaged with the Service.
  • A total of 763 issues were dealt with.
  • Representation was provided at 35 First-Tier Tribunals to help people with benefit appeals.
  • £628,289 of client financial gain was achieved.
  • A booklet with information on financial capability resources was produced, along with bi-monthly newsletters.

Project Feedback

Here is some of the feedback we have received from key stakeholders:

“It is essential for us to have dedicated Financial Inclusion workers embedded in drug & alcohol services. Our client group is uniquely vulnerable to illegal lending as they are forced to access criminal networks for substances already. Although individuals we work with struggle to engage with mainstream financial help services, CHAI’s embedded Financial Inclusion & Capability Service has had great success engaging and helping our clients.” Team Leader, North-West Recovery Hub

“CHAI provide an invaluable service to our clients. The increasingly complex benefits system is confidently navigated by Joy and Sarah and the service helps to provide stability to the financial situation of our clients that could be exploited by unscrupulous money lenders.” Recovery Co-ordinator, South-East Recovery Hub

“The service provided by Joy and Sarah is second to none and has been an invaluable resource for our patients. They are very approachable and knowledgeable, allowing patients to apply for the correct benefits easily which alleviates high levels of anxiety surrounding benefits issues. It would be a great loss to our patients if funding for this service is lost.” Community Psychiatric Nurse at NHS South East Recovery Hub

 “Having the support from CHAI in our school community is invaluable. Our school is about more than individual pupils; it’s about them and their families. We want our parents to be part of our learning community and support their child’s learning at home. This is difficult to do as a parent, if you are coping with stress and anxiety over adult worries such as housing and finance. CHAI is able to provide that extended family support which will benefit our pupils in the long run.” Family Engagement Worker, Dalry Primary School.

“An amazing service and staff are all helpful, respectful and non judgemental” Service User, Recovery Hub

Help with school meals and school wear

Since September 2017, CHAI has held outreach sessions within 5 schools in Edinburgh as part of our Family Support and Advice Service.

The project aims to provide free and impartial advice on income maximisation, debt and housing issues for families with children and to make access to advice as easy as possible for parents by bringing the advice sessions into the school.

The project operates in Tynecastle High School, Dalry Primary School, Stenhouse Primary School, Rowanfield Special School and Pilrig Park Special School. Contact your local school’s reception for details on how to make an appointment with our adviser.

If you are a teacher or headmaster and would like to find out how your school could get involved, click here for our Project Information Sheet or contact us on 0131 442 2100.

The service has received great feedback so far and has maximised household income by £136,000 since it started in the autumn of 2017.

As we meet more and more families, it has come to our attention that many parents still struggle with the costs of school meals and clothing. In this post, we highlight the various sources of help available to parents in this area.

HELP FROM EDINBURGH COUNCIL

The Scottish Government has made free school meals available to all children from P1 to P3.  Beyond P3, parents can apply for help with school meals and school wear if they receive any of the following welfare benefits:

  •   A means-tested benefit such as Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income-based JSA; or
  • You receive Child Tax Credits and your annual income is less than £16,105; or
  • You receive both Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits and your annual income is under £6,420—in which case you only qualify for help with school meals, but not school clothing; or
  • Universal Credit, where take home pay is less than £610 per month.
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

The application form can be downloaded at: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolgrants or phone them on 0131 469 3471. You will need to provide benefit award letters as proof of income, including your latest tax credits award letter for 2017/18.

The Council’s school wear award is £43 for primary pupils and £50 for secondary pupils. You no longer get vouchers for school wear. Instead, a payment is made directly to your bank account.

 

HELP FROM CHARITIES – SCHOOL WEAR

If you are NOT eligible for help with school meals/school wear because you don’t claim any of the above benefits, you could get help from a charity instead such as the ones listed below.

Contact us if you would like a referral to any of these organisations.

  • Edinburgh Police Fund for Children (EPFC): They provide grants up to £50 for the purchase of school shoes and jackets.
  • Kids Love Clothes helps struggling families with young children by providing much-needed, quality donated kids’ clothing in gift bags.
  • Edinburgh School Uniform Bank: A volunteer-run uniform bank offering new uniforms and pencil cases to families who are struggling to afford school uniform.
  • The Edinburgh Clothing Store. A charity offering free clothing, shoes, bedding, etc for those in genuine need. This includes children’s clothing and can help with interview clothes, etc.
  • The Edinburgh and Lothian Trust Fund can give grants of up to £250 specifically for those experiencing hardship and/or with an illness or disability.
  • The Edinburgh Trust can give grants to people struggling financially living in the City of Edinburgh.

 

BREAKFAST CLUBS

Free places are available in all breakfast clubs run by Edinburgh Council and in some private provider breakfast clubs. These can be allocated at the headteacher’s discretion according to the entitlement criteria for Free School Meals (see above) or if the school is aware a family is having financial or other difficulties. Ask your local school for details.

 

Debunking HOUSING Myths

There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about housing and homelessness which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!

1. MYTH: “You don’t have to pay any rent if you are on benefits such as JSA, ESA, Income Support.”

>>TRUTH: You may have to pay some rent even if you are on means-tested benefits, for example due to a non-dependant deduction if you have adult relatives living with you, or due to a Housing Benefit overpayment.

 

2. MYTH: “If my landlord wants to evict me, they just need to send me a letter.”

>>>TRUTH: Landlords must follow specific legal procedures and issue certain documents such as notices, depending on your type of tenancy, before they can legally evict you. Ask us for help to check whether the documents issued by your landlord are valid. But here is an overview—for each type of tenancy:

(a) Social landlords, such as a housing association or the council, can only evict you on certain grounds (specific reasons), for example due to a breach of tenancy agreement or rent arrears. They must issue a Notice of Proceedings with sufficient notice period, followed by a Court Summons before the case can go to the civil court. A Sheriff (judge) may issue a Court Order if they decide it is reasonable to evict you.

(b) For private Assured Tenancies, landlords can only evict you on certain grounds and must obtain a Court Order first. First they need to issue you with a Notice to Quit and a Notice of Proceedings (AT6 form) which must give enough notice.

(c) For private Short-Assured Tenancies, landlords do not need to use any grounds to evict you, but must issue valid notices before the eviction can proceed. If you refuse to leave after these documents have been issued, your landlord would need to get a Court Order to forcefully remove you. However, it’s not a good idea to wait for that stage because you would have no defence in court and would be liable for court expenses due to the type of tenancy you have.

(d) A new Private Residential Tenancy regime replacing Short-Assured and
Assured private tenancies came into force in December 2017.  For these new tenancies, landlords must issue you with a Notice to Leave and give sufficient notice period, which varies depending on how long you’ve lived in the property and the reasons/grounds for the eviction. Landlords must also obtain an Eviction Order from the First-Tier Tribunal (Housing & Property Chamber) who decide whether it is reasonable to evict.

 

3. MYTH: “If I don’t move out, my landlord could change the locks or forcefully
remove me from the property.”

>>>TRUTH: Changing the locks or removing a tenant without an Order (from Court or from the Housing and Property Chamber for new Private Residential Tenancies) is a criminal offence. Call the police if the landlord attempts to evict you without a Court Order. If the landlord has a Court Order, Sheriff Officers may then come to the property to forcefully remove you if you refuse to leave.

 

4. MYTH: If I live with my landlord they can ask me to go at any time as it’s their home.”

>>>TRUTH: The resident landlord only has to give reasonable notice to evict their tenant. If the tenancy is longer than 4 months’, 40 days’ notice is required. If the tenancy is for less than 4 months, resident landlords must give a minimum of 28 days’ notice. The lease (tenancy agreement) may extend but not reduce these notice periods.

 

Homelessness

 5. MYTH: If I am evicted, I will be re-housed by the Council.”

>>>TRUTH: If you have nowhere to stay, you should make a homeless presentation to the local authority. Currently presentations can be made at City of Edinburgh Council’s office at 1A Parliament Square, Edinburgh, EH1 1RF. They can be called on 0131 529 7368 or 0800 032 5968 for out-of-hours assistance. Presentations can also be made at any local council office.

The Council will initially give you temporary accommodation until they can do a full homelessness assessment to decide if they have a duty to re-house you. They will use specific criteria to make their decision:

  • You must be actually homeless.
  • You must have a local connection with Edinburgh, for example if you live/have lived, work or have relatives here.
  • You must not be intentionally homeless, i.e. they will look into whether you deliberately did or did not do something that caused you to leave accommodation which you could otherwise have stayed in.

If the Council decide that they don’t have a duty to re-house you, we can appeal the decision. Ask us for an appointment.

 

6. MYTH: The Council can refuse to give me temporary accommodation if there is no accommodation available at the time.”

>>>TRUTH: The absence of available accommodation does not excuse the local authority from their legal duty to provide temporary accommodation.  Ask us for advice and we can help you challenge this.

Click here to download this article as a factsheet (PDF – Housing Myths).

Click here to read our next post ‘Busting Myths about Debts and Bankruptcy’.

Click here to read our next post on Benefit Myths.

Busting Myths on Debts and Bankruptcy

There is a lot of false information or ‘myths’ out there about debts and bankruptcy, which we have found to be harmful to people, causing them unnecessary stress and worry. Read on and let’s debunk those myths!

Or click here to download our factsheet on debt myths and our other factsheet on bankruptcy myths (PDF)

For debt advice, call us on 0131 442 2100 to book an appointment.

DEBT MYTHS

1. MYTH: “If I don’t pay my debts, I’ll go to prison.”

>>> TRUTH: Not being able to afford debt repayments is NOT a criminal offence. You won’t go to prison just because you can’t pay your debts although this was the case over a century ago. Some priority debts could result in imprisonment, for example magistrates fines, licences, child maintenance, business rates, but this would be used as a very last resort if you’ve ignored the debt, refused to pay or failed to cooperate with the courts. It would take a long time to get there, as many other debt enforcement methods would be used first.

2. MYTH: “If my bank account gets arrested, I won’t have access to any of my money.”

>>> TRUTH: Creditors can only attach funds from your bank account if you have above £494.01 in your account. This amount is set by law and is periodically revised. If you have various accounts in different banks, £494.01 is protected in each account. You can challenge this bank arrestment through the courts if it is causing you hardship.

3. MYTH: If my wages get arrested, creditors could take most of my wages.”

>>> TRUTH: The amount creditors could deduct from your wages is capped by law, depending on your income. For example, creditors cannot get anything from your wages if you earn less than £113.68 per week. If you earn between £113.68 and £410.9 per week, they can take £4 per week or 19% of any wages exceeding £113.68 per week, whichever is the greater. That’s the total amount creditors can get, so if there are several creditors they would have to share this amount between them.  However, the situation is different if you owe money to the DWP (benefit overpayments), as they could take up to 40% of your net wages (or share this amount with other creditors) and leave you with 60% of net earnings.

4. MYTH: “Sheriff Officers could turn up at my door to intimidate me and can be quite aggressive.”

>>> TRUTH: Recent TV programmes may have shown images of abusive and aggressive ‘bailiffs’ (that’s the name for Sheriff Officers in England and Wales). However this is not the reality of Sheriff Officers’ behaviour in Scotland. If someone comes to your door, beware that they may not be actual Sheriff Officers but debt collectors working for creditors instead. These people don’t have any powers at all. Report any threatening behaviour to the Police.

5. MYTH: “Creditors can send Sheriff Officers to force entry into my property and take things from my house.”

>>> TRUTH: For Sheriff Officers to force entry into your property, there must have been a court order giving creditors permission to do so. Exceptional attachment orders are very, very rare in Scotland. You would be notified of any such visit in writing beforehand. To get to that point, creditors must prove that they have tried other means (e.g. bank arrestment) and that there is something worth getting in the house—which is why they will send someone round your home to try and get invited in. To avoid this, never let anyone in your property unless they have a court order.

6. MYTH: “If I don’t pay my debts, I will be blacklisted.”

>>> TRUTH: There is no such thing as a blacklist. However your debts, and whether or not you have repaid them, are recorded in your credit report. This is what creditors use to decide whether to lend you money. You can request a copy of your credit report and ask for any inaccurate information to be corrected.

7. MYTH: “My debts are written off if I haven’t made a payment in 5 years.”

>>> TRUTH: A debt can become “statute barred” (or “extinguished”) after
5 years if the debtor hasn’t made a payment or admitted the debt AND if the creditor has not taken legal action to enforce the debt. The debt still exists but the creditor can no longer enforce the debt, i.e. they cannot arrest your wages or your bank account or make you bankrupt, although they may still continue to contact you and ask for payments.  However, for some debts such as council tax arrears, court decrees and benefit overpayments, the time limit extends to 20 years before they can become “statute-barred” assuming all other conditions are also met (as explained above).

8. MYTH: “I am liable for my partner’s debts.”

>>> TRUTH: You are not liable for other people’s debts, unless there is a guarantor agreement, or a joint liability for a tenancy, a joint bank account or a joint loan agreement or council tax arrears for example.

BANKRUPTCY MYTHS

1. MYTH: “I cannot be made bankrupt because of council tax arrears.”

>>> TRUTH: You can be sequestrated for council tax arrears, especially if you are a home owner and the council suspects that you have equity in your house which could be used to repay the debt. It is also worth pointing out that in Scotland, water and sewerage charges are collected through council tax. Even if you get the maximum council tax reduction, you will still need to pay some money to the council every month for these water charges, or you would risk accruing arrears.

2. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, I will automatically lose my home.”

>>> TRUTH: If you are a home owner, your house may be repossessed as bankruptcy gives your Trustee (who is in charge of your finances for the duration of the bankruptcy) the right to sell your assets for the benefits of your creditors. However, if you have little or no equity in your home, your Trustee may decide not to sell your property, as long as your mortgage is affordable and comparable to the cost of local rents.

3. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, I won’t have to repay anything towards my debts.”

>>> TRUTH: To go bankrupt, there is an initial fee, which is between £90 and £200 depending on your financial circumstances. You may have to pay some money towards your debts, known as a Debtor Contribution Order, for up to 4 years if you are assessed as having surplus income. However, if you are assessed as not having any surplus income or if you are on means-tested benefits, you won’t have to pay anything towards your debts once you are sequestrated.

4. MYTH: “If I go bankrupt, my name will appear in the local newspaper.”

>>> TRUTH: There used to be a section in the local newspaper for bankruptcy, to inform creditors. This is no longer the case. If you are sequestrated, your name will go on an online public register which is searchable by name.

For debt advice, call us on 0131 442 2100 to book an appointment.

 

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