Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

New Law to Protect Tenants in Arrears in Scotland

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

A New housing law that provides more protection for social tenants in Scotland with rent arrears from eviction has been approved.

The Scottish Parliament has approved amendments to the Housing Scotland Act (2010) which require social landlords such as housing associations and local authorities, to undertake a series of actions before they can refer a tenant to court for eviction action.

Under the amended legislation, social landlords will have to go through a series of seven key actions including offering tenants advice on housing benefit and making reasonable efforts to agree a repayment plan for rent arrears, before they can approach the courts.

However, going to the court may not result in an eviction.  Even after court action, social tenants will have the right to make a repayment arrangement.

Housing charity Shelter Scotland welcomed the new move by the Scottish government to protect social tenants.  The charity claims that far too often social landlords have used the threat of eviction to collect rent from vulnerable families.

According to Shelter Scotland, councils carried out 1,061 evictions in the 2010-11 financial year, with other social landlords evicting 761 tenants.

Shelter director Graeme Brown said:

“From today, social tenants will be afforded the same protection as homeowners, which, at a time when cuts are hitting home and more people are struggling with household budgets, can only be good news.”

Scottish Minister for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, commented:

“This Government is committed to ensuring that social housing tenants have access to the information and advice they require to live in a peaceful and secure environment.”

“In 2010/11, only 12% of the 14,600 cases taken to court by social landlords for eviction action resulted in tenant eviction, which is a huge drain on public resources,” he added. 

”Social tenants are required to meet the obligations in their tenancy agreement – including paying their rent.  From today, all social landlords will be required to follow a consistent set of practices before they can evict tenants who fall behind on their rental payments.”

SMEs Urged to Prepapre For Payroll Law Changes

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

An accountancy firm from the North West is urging SMEs to be prepared for major changes to payroll law.

Real Time Information  is being introduced by HMRC in April 2013 as a means to improve the operation of Pay As You Earn. In the latest development HMRC has published a consultation document on the penalty system for non-compliance – which could open up businesses to significant fines.

Mitchell Charlesworth, which has offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Warrington and Widnes, says it is vital firms start preparing for RTI now.

Mitchell Charlesworth’s payroll manager Joanne Nieman said:

“The new RTI system is due to come into effect next year and if firms are not careful it could be a nasty banana skin. Our strong advice is that firms give themselves enough time to prepare. Our main concern is that leaving this too late could prove time consuming, costly and disruptive especially for small to medium sized firms.  It is important to note that the transition to RTI will be mandatory for all employers and failure to comply will result in fines. We are looking to support employers so they understand their new responsibilities and take the right action to prepare for the change.”

Mrs Nieman said while the existing system allows employers to issue PAYE information at Payroll Year End through the use of electronic versions of P35 and P60 forms, the new RTI system will require firms to send this payroll data, via the Government Gateway, on or before the date each employee is paid.

The latest proposals from HMRC could see a minimum penalty of £100 per week for each late or non-submission per 50 employees. Penalties will increase depending on employee numbers and the duration of a late submission.

Mrs Nieman said the RTI proposals are constantly being updated and is advising employers to address four key areas.

Mrs Nieman continued:

“Businesses can prepare for RTI in a number of ways. Firstly, they can submit employee data to HMRC before RTI is live to help correct any inaccurate or incomplete data. Secondly, they can improve and maintain their existing data ensuring they have dates of births, full names and addresses of employees on the payroll. Another vital step is contacting the payroll software supplier, or payroll provider, to ensure they can deliver on RTI. Finally, employers must consider banking and whether they need to upgrade their BACS facility to accommodate RTI.”

HMRC is currently trialling RTI with hundreds of employers. New employers will be able to join the RTI trial from November, to avoid starting a new scheme in April 2013.

Fall in Insolvency Rates in England and Wales

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Insolvency rates across England and Wales fell in 2011 after peaking at record levels in 2009.

Figures show that the amount of insolvencies per 10,000 adults in England and Wales fell to 27.1 in 2011 having risen from 7.2 in 2000 to a peak of 31.1 in 2009. These figures include bankruptcy orders, DROs and individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs.)

The North East has the highest rate of individual insolvencies with 35.2 per 10,000 adults. This was followed by the south-west and the east Midlands which both stood at 30.4 per 10,000 adults. The rate in London in 2011 was 17.5.

The Wansbeck area of Northumberland has officially been named the bankruptcy capital of England, in a list that also features parts of Cornwall and the seaside town of Eastbourne, considered well-heeled by many. Individual insolvency rate in Wansbeck is 57 per 10,000 adults.

Meanwhile, the City of London, which includes the flat-dwellers of the Barbican, tops the list of areas with fewest bankruptcies, closely followed by St Albans in Hertfordshire and affluent London boroughs such as Richmond upon Thames and Camden.

Latest regional statistics show the individual insolvency rate in Wansbeck, which includes the former mining towns of Ashington and Bedlington, is running at 57 per 10,000 adults, while in the City of London and St Albans the rates are four and 11 respectively.

For full article see Federal Management

Financial Ombudsman Service Annual Review

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The Financial Ombudsman Service has today published its annual review covering the 2011/2012 financial year.

The review shows that during the year:

  • The ombudsman received over 1.2 million front-line enquiries and complaints from consumers – over 5,000 each working day.
  • 1 in 5 of these initial enquiries went on to become formal disputes – a record 264,375 new cases, up 28% on the previous year.
  • 157,716 cases were about the sale of payment protection insurance – the highest number of complaints ever received about a single financial product.
  • All areas of the UK saw similar-sized increases in the number of consumers bringing complaints to the ombudsman – with “complaint hotspots” in Glasgow, Swansea and Bristol.

Looking at the trends and themes behind these figures, Natalie Ceeney, chief ombudsman said:

“This year’s been a struggle for many consumers, who’ve found themselves burdened by debt, besieged by claims companies and bewildered by the complexity of financial services. This has made our work at the ombudsman service more challenging – but more crucial – than ever before.

“I believe there’s something we can all learn from what we’ve seen this year – to help prevent future problems and complaints. What’s gone wrong in the past doesn’t need to happen again – as long as we remember that “complaints” are about real people, not numbers, and that “complaints handling” is about customer service, not box ticking.”

Statistics from the ombudsman’s annual review show:

  • The ombudsman’s involvement resulted in compensation for consumers in 64% of cases.
  • 69% of PPI complaints were brought by claims companies – down from 76% last year, as more consumers realise they don’t need to pay someone to complain on their behalf.
  • PPI complaints made up 62% of cases from the North East of England compared with 48% from the South East.
  • The number of people using the ombudsman from “C1/C2″ and “DE” backgrounds have risen by 50% and 140% respectively over the last five years – while complaints from “AB” professionals have fallen by 42%.
  • 21% of consumers who brought complaints to the ombudsman said they had some form of disability.
  • 18% of people across the UK said they’d had a problem with a financial product or service – and 75% said they were aware of the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • 70% said they would trust the ombudsman – and 77% said they would recommend the ombudsman to friends and family.