Category Archives: Debt problems

The Human Cost of Payday Loans

On 2nd October 2014 the BBC reported that the payday loan company Wonga had written off £220m in loans for 330,000 customers after putting in place new affordability checks.

Debt specialist, Jacqui Scott of Huddersfield-based Ridley & Hall Solicitors is deeply concerned about the easy availability of payday loans.   Applying for loans can by done via text, email or over the telephone with no investigations into personal financial circumstances.  Jacqui’s client, Malcolm Squire, is prepared to talk publicly about his experiences.

Jacqui comments. “Mr Squire’s experience with Wonga and companies like them was that it was like having a carrot dangled in front of him.”

Mr Squire, from Mirfield found that his troubles began when he was made redundant.  He quickly found that his debt problems started spiralling out of control:

“I was amazed at how easy it was to get loans – a 30-day loan would be offered straight away often by a phone call or text.  Money would be in my bank account within 15 minutes.”

No affordability checks were made and in the end Mr Squires had over 11 payday loans.

Jacqui Scott says, “My client borrowed £270 from one lender. He repaid £127 but still owes £385 – he was always in debt because of the interest that was being added on a daily basis.”

When things started to go wrong, he was pursued relentlessly; “I would receive telephone calls on a daily basis demanding money. I never realised how quickly things would get out of control.  I started with one pay day loan and when it came time to pay it back I needed to take out an additional loan to cover what I had borrowed but also more because of the interest.  In one year whilst I was working I paid £13,000 in interest alone. This just went on and on until it came to the point that I had to pawn items. I took my camera to be pawned and received £25 for it.  For each month that it was in the pawn shop I had to pay £15 interest and I needed to pay £40 to get it back.”

Mr Squire may have his debts written off but the stress over the last two years has taken its toll. He is grateful to Jacqui Scott for her help:

“I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for Jacqui helping me to sort all this out.  At times I was frightened by the phone calls and letters that I was receiving but she reassured me of my rights all the time and how to handle things.”

Jacqui has this warning for anyone considering taking out a payday loan, “The cost of a payday loan is significantly higher than other forms of borrowing.  Typically payday loans have APRs of between 390% and 900% and should only therefore be used with caution and not as a general form of credit.

“Do not borrow more than you will be able to repay and do not rely on payday loans for long term or large scale borrowing.”

Jacqui Scott is a paralegal at Ridley & Hall Solicitors who specialises in debt and landlord and tenant advice.  For further advice please contact Jacqui on 01484 538421 or via e-mail.

Spanish Tortilla in Meltham!

As part of our pro bono services, our Welfare Benefits Adviser, Sangeeta Enright runs a drop in session at the Crossroads Centre in Meltham, Huddersfield. She can be found helping people with forms, checking entitlement and ringing the DWP. She has links to contact the local MP, and can assist you to progress your appeal.

The drop-in session is held on a Tuesday morning from 10am onwards, with each session regularly attracting many visitors.

Recently; she helped a pensioner with claiming a little bit of Pension Credit to top up his state pension, help with his rent and his council tax thus making him £100 better off per week. He said he only went in to check what he was getting.

To show her how grateful he was for the help that he got from her and the volunteers at Crossroads, he made them some Spanish tortilla.

He said; “I was so surprised at how easy it all was; including the processing and payment of the claims.”

So, you never know what help you could be getting unless you ask for advice and the kettle is always on at the Crossroads centre!

Jacqui Scott is our Civil Litigation Adviser; helping individuals and businesses with advice on money they owe or are owed; and she runs her surgery on Wednesday mornings.

‘Pro bono’ means legal work undertaken without charge, or maybe in return for a little Spanish omelette!

Please contact Sangeeta or Jacqui, on 01484 538421, for more details including whether your organisation could help individuals in the community in this way.

Builder Negligence Leads to Call for Mandatory Regulation

A Huddersfield woman Pamela Ciceri, who suffered serious injuries when a garden wall collapsed on her, has won her 2 ½ year legal battle to hold her builder Lee Marsden to account.

On 9th September 2011 Pamela (61) went into her back garden to take photographs of a retaining wall that was being built as she was making an album to show the reconstruction of her garden.  The aim was to create a large patio area with a wall to retain the remainder of the garden, leading by steps up to a lawned area at a higher level.

Lee Marsden of MWK Complete Building Services had drawn Mrs Ciceri’s attention to the crack in the wall that morning and he assured Pamela and her husband that the crack was nothing to worry about, but as she was standing next to the 60 ft wall later in the day it partially collapsed on her and she was buried under concrete breeze blocks and rubble, trapped from the waist down.

Her husband Alan said “I cannot forget her screaming as I called the emergency services”.

Pamela sustained a fractured jaw bone and had to have titanium strips implanted permanently.  In addition she suffered facial injuries, a head injury, a double fracture of her right lower leg and a crush injury to her right foot as well as fractured ribs and severe lacerations to her face and body.  She also suffered from flashbacks and post traumatic stress for months after the accident.

On 9th April 2014 Lee Marsden pleaded guilty at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court to health and safety breaches leading to the accident.  After the hearing HSE inspector Dave Stewart said “Construction work should only be undertaken by those competent to do the job safely in accordance with a design that deals with specific risks.  Mr Marsden did not recognise the dangers posed by the structure he built which was incapable of retaining the forces exerted upon it.  He also failed to prevent access to the wall when cracks appeared”.

He went on to say “The wall did collapse and sadly the householder was in the garden at the time and seriously injured.  Building contractors should engage competent engineers to advise on suitable designs for structures that will be subject to considerable loads.  Inadequate design is a major cause of structure failure, the consequences of which can be serious and often fatal”.

Janet Watson, specialist personal injury lawyer with Ridley & Hall Solicitors who pursued a civil claim on Pamela’s behalf said: “Electricians and gas fitters have to be qualified – but rogue builders can carry out work and put up structures that are not structurally sound.  Regulations that apply to buildings do not apply to gardens.  When I took on this case I was astonished to find that there is no mandatory registration for builders in the UK.  The largest voluntary builders’ registration body is the Federation of Master Builders.  It currently has 10,000 members – but when you think that there are about 180,000 construction companies across the company that means potentially a lot of dodgy builders.”

She went on to say “money can never adequately compensate someone who has been through such a traumatic experience but I am glad that, alongside the criminal prosecution that was brought, I was able to negotiate a substantial out of court settlement for Pamela”.

In a final word of caution Janet said: “Unless and until the government introduces mandatory registration for builders, it is vital that consumers should do their best to ensure that any builder is competent and experienced and where necessary consults an engineer.  Always check that your builder has insurance cover.  But really the moral of this story is that mandatory regulation must be introduced now”.

Janet Watson is a chartered legal executive and has worked in civil litigation for over 20 years. She now specialises in personal injury law acting mainly for claimants handling a variety of cases from road traffic accidents on a fixed fee basis to complex accidents at work. Janet specialises in accidents involving cyclists. Janet is a member of APIL and has achieved senior litigator status. She is committed to achieving maximum damages for the appropriate injury taking into account the needs of the particular individual. Janet believes that it is important that each client receives a personal service – At a time when the injured person is most vulnerable they should be able to speak to someone who knows their case and to have face to face discussions whenever possible.

For more information on personal injury please phone 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the personal injury department.

Blame the Motorist!

A controversial campaign has been launched in Scotland to change the law in road accidents involving cyclists and motorists.

Cycle Law Scotland, the driving school RED and a number of cycling groups in Scotland launched an online petition last year named ‘The Campaign for Strict Liability: Road Share’.   They say that if a motorist was involved in an accident with a cyclist the driver should be presumed at fault for the accident, unless they can prove otherwise.  This is known in law as “strict liability.”

The current law relies on a cyclist to prove that a motorist has been negligent i.e. has ‘breached their duty of care’.

The national cycling charity CTC backs the campaign in Scotland and argues that it is much harder for vulnerable road users to claim compensation for injuries they sustain.  Cyclists are more likely to be the injured party in collisions with motor vehicles, but less likely to be at fault, and the current law does not reflect this.

Samantha Hirst, personal injury specialist with Ridley & Hall Solicitors, warns “the fight for strict liability in Scotland is likely to cause a lot of controversy, especially amongst motorists. But something has to be done to try and reduce the number of cycling injuries on Britain’s roads.  A change in the law could be a step in the right direction in transforming people’s attitudes towards vulnerable road users.”

The UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only countries in Europe that do not operate a system of strict liability.  The Netherlands and Denmark are two countries at the forefront of cycling safety and both have a system of strict liability.

But strict liability has a very small role to play in protecting Dutch cyclists and they consider ‘Sustainable safety’ a priority.

After years of research the Dutch have come up with specific principles that have made their roads some of safest in Europe.  Some of these principles are the functionality of their roads.  Instead of emphasising blame they recognise that humans make mistakes and so design their roads in such a way that our natural human behaviour does not lead to crashes and injuries.  Details on the Dutch ‘Sustainable Safety’ model can be found here.

Samantha adds “There is a careful balance to be struck when making changes to the law.  From a legal point of view, although strict liability would place the initial blame on the motorist, the driver could still defend their claim by proving the cyclist wholly or partially caused the accident.  However, the lessons from Europe are that apportioning blame for accidents is not the best way to prevent collisions.  The government needs to take a more holistic approach to road safety to reduce the number of accidents.”

Samantha is a paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

Tour de France; Improved Cycling Safety for Yorkshire?

The organisers of the 2014 Tour de France Grand have predicted that it will boost the soaring popularity of cycling in Britain and put Yorkshire on the global map, as they begin their final six months of preparations for one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Samantha Hirst, a personal injury lawyer at Ridley & Hall solicitors believes that there is a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding the upcoming Tour de France event:

“I will personally feel a sense of local pride when the riders cycle through towns such as Leeds, York and Harrogate. But I’m concerned that this rise in cycling will be unsustainable, unless parliament is prepared to address road safety concerns.”

Some of the accident statistics are concerning; the Department for Transport’s 2012 road casualty statistics show:

  • a 10% increase in cyclist fatalities from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012 and a 4% rise in serious injuries from 3,085 to 3,222.  This is against a trend of decreasing casualties in road accidents for all other modes of transport.
  • the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSIs) per billion miles cycled has risen by 18% from the 2005 to 2009 average to 1,074 casualties per billion vehicle miles – this is 3% higher than in 2011.

Samantha goes on to say, “Action needs to be taken by the government to prevent cycling accidents – I deal with too many cases often involving serious injuries, which would have been prevented.”

Chris Boardman, a former Tour de France yellow jersey holder and adviser to British Cycling said, “The government’s apathy and poor understanding about the causes of cycling accidents are no better now than over 16 years ago.”  He considers that this causes a direct threat to the governing body’s plan to attract more people into cycling.

Samantha Hirst says, “It has been fantastic to see two British riders winning the Tour de France over the last two years. According to Sport England (a public body that distributes funding for sport) this success has seen an overall increase in cycling participation by 137,000 to 2 million between April and October last year. Encouraging people to participate in sport and be more active is a positive change, but are Britain’s roads equipped to deal with such a high increase in cyclists, especially after the Tour de France event?”

Last year a total of 14 cyclists were killed in London. 6 of these cyclists were killed between the 5th and the 18th November 2013. The UK Transport Select Committee is currently investigating cycling safety and the causes of these deaths.

Opposition Labour Party member Louise Ellman, who leads the Select Committee, said, “Progress is being made, and the findings of the current probe will be published in the first half of this year.”

However, Chris Boardman said in a British Cycling statement that lawmakers should be ‘embarrassed’ over their lack of basic knowledge about the issue. Boardman’s experience of cycling around the world has encouraged him to come forward with some ideas of how Britain could improve its road safety.  He suggests that the UK needs better cycling paths, especially in urban areas with more junctions.

He goes on to say:

“The government has a difficult choice. There is a finite amount of space so to make better cycle lanes you are going to alienate others. It’s a scary change that could lose votes.”

He suggests we should look across the pond, specifically at New York, where he says cycling accidents have stayed at the same level since 2007 even when popularity rose by 250%. Boardman believes there is a deeper, political motive and has said “In New York, there was a political will for change. David Cameron says he wants to make Britain a cycling nation, but what good is that if you have no participation target, no strategy and no funding commitment?”

One Yorkshire city that has seen a huge increase in cyclists is Hull. According to the Yorkshire Post, about 8.5 per cent of the working population cycle to work, compared with about 2.5 per cent per cent outside London.

Samantha concludes:

“Local authorities will have to be prepared for this shift. A lot of work needs to be done and the government will have to look at making practical changes to improve our roads to ensure road safety. I think the biggest challenge is changing people’s attitudes to make cyclists and motorists more tolerant of each other. I enjoy my work…but I would be very happy to see fewer injured cyclists.”

Samantha is a Paralegal in Ridley & Hall’s specialist Litigation team with years of experience in personal injury cases.

For further information please contact Samantha Hirst of Ridley & Hall, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2HL on 01484 538421.

New Welfare Reforms Will Bring Financial Crisis to Families

64% of all families in Britain receive some kind of welfare benefit. For 9.6 million families, these benefits make up more than half of their income. Recent welfare reforms could result in a huge number of families facing financial crisis.

Universal Credit (a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income) is being slowly introduced from October 2013 throughout the welfare system. The rollout of this new benefit will be completed by the end of 2017.

One main difference between Universal Credit and the current system is that claimants will receive just one monthly payment paid into a bank account, just like a monthly salary. But for those used to being paid weekly or fortnightly the impact on their household budgeting could be catastrophic.

Jacqui Scott, a specialist debt adviser with Ridley & Hall solicitors in Huddersfield has some suggestions:

“To cut costs if you have school age children, it’s worth checking to see if your local school provides breakfast clubs or after school clubs –  www.gov.uk/childcare-out-of-school-hours. Do not forget that free school clothing is available at the discretion of local education authority; you can apply to your local council. Free school transport may be available in certain circumstances from the council and healthy start food vouchers and vitamins for expectant and new mothers of children up to 4 years old on low income:  www.healthystart.nhs.uk.”

Her advice for others facing difficult times financially is to get good advice from the right people:

“It is tempting to take out loans and to buy on credit..but that can just make a bad situation worse. I offer free initial advice on debt at the Crossroads Centre in Meltham on a Wednesday morning. My colleague Sangeeta Enright offers free welfare benefits advice there on a Tuesday morning. There are many other good sources of advice for local people including the Citizens Advice Bureau.”

Jacqui is passionate about helping people to get the help that they are entitled to:

“There is help out there, but it can be difficult to know where to go and who to ask. My role is to help people to manage their debts, in part by explaining the ways that they can reduce their outgoings.”

Some of the options that are available are:

Council Tax

Council Tax benefit has been abolished and replaced with localised Council Tax reduction schemes from April 2013. The rules are different in England and Wales. Help is no longer available for Council Tax from discretionary housing payments. Jacqui’s advice is to spread payments over 12 months rather than the standard 10 months.

Crisis/No Money

Community Care grants and Crisis loans were abolished in April 2013. Advances of benefit maybe available from the DWP if you are waiting for benefit to be paid and are in financial need.

Food Banks

Food banks sometimes provide more than a short term option and may provide other kinds of support:

The Welcome Centre
Huddersfield Methodist Mission
3-13 Lord Street
Huddersfield
HD1 1QA

Tel: 01484 340034
Web: www.thewelcomecentre.org
Email: thewelcomecentre@btconnect.com

Monday to Friday, 1pm – 4pm.

Energy and Energy Saving

You may be able to save money by changing the way that you are billed for energy and by adding energy saving measures.

Free independent advice on saving energy and the possibility of grants is available in certain circumstances to help with insulation, draught proofing, central heating and other energy measures:

www.energysavingtrust.org.uk

Jacqui says: “I suggest that people should make sure a direct debit or payment scheme has not been set too high. Check to see if you are due any rebate on payments.”

Household Goods

There are many local charities that help with recycled furniture and white goods.

Water

Check eligibility for help with water costs. Water Sure is a service available to customers on certain benefits with a high essential use of water, which can cap bills. If you are on a water meter go to www.ofwat.gov.uk.

If you are not on a water meter, use the water meter calculator on the CC Water website to see if you can save money by going on a water meter – www.ccwater.org.uk

If you are on a low income and have debts you can apply for assistance: www.ywct.org.uk

When Someone Dies

Charities or benevolent funds may be able to offer financial help when someone dies. The benevolent trust fund and bereavement payment may be available; www.gov.uk/bereavement-payment. Also check your entitlement to a funeral expenses payment; www.gov.uk/funeral-payments.

British Gas can help if outstanding funeral expenses are causing hardship; www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/help/grants-for-individuals-help-pages/how-can-the-trust-help

Travel

Compare fuel prices at www.petrolprices.com

These are difficult times for families, especially those living in poverty. There is help and advice available but Jacqui Scott is deeply concerned:

“As the effects of the introduction of Universal Credit start to be felt, there are going to be many families in our area that will be very severely affected. Since legal aid has been withdrawn from welfare benefits and debt advice, the system relies on the charitable sector. And it’s struggling to keep up already with the demand for advice.”

For more information on welfare benefits, please contact Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 or by e-mail and ask to speak to Jacqui Scott or Sangeeta Enright.