I’m having problems with a builder I employed to build a kitchen extension to our house. The foundations are laid, and he’s knocked through the back wall – the back of our house is now a tarpaulin sheet. We paid an initial deposit upfront, and then two further amounts in cash for materials. He’s now asked for more money – but I’d like to see more work done first. We had a bit of a row, and he hasn’t turned up for the last two days. What should I do next?
There are various things you can do. The Citizens Advice consumer service (0345 04 05 06) is a good first port of call.
If you think your relationship with the builder can be salvaged and you’d like him to finish the work, you can try to sit down with him and agree – in writing – a schedule of works and payments you’re both happy with.
This written contract, if you don’t have one already, should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, like timings, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors. If you pay any future instalments by credit card rather than cash you’ll also benefit from extra protection from the card provider. It’s a good idea to take photos as the work progresses and keep copies of your communications and any receipts.
If you feel the situation with that trader can’t continue you can complain in writing to him or his company and ask for some money back. If you believe the work is substandard you can report problems to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service. If he’s a member of a trade association they also might be able to help.
If that doesn’t work, look for an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme – this is an independent third party who can help you to reach a compromise. The trader may already be a member of a scheme. If not, they should provide you with the name of a certified scheme and say if they are willing to use it.
My first council tax bill of the year has come through and I know I’m not going to be able to afford it with so many other important bills to pay, let alone food. What should I do?
Council tax arrears is a “priority debt”, which means you need to address it before paying off other non-priority loans like credit cards.
Once you’ve missed a council tax payment, you’re in “arrears” and so owe money to your council. You should receive a letter from your council – it’s important not to ignore this as after 14 days your council can take you to court and request you pay your entire year’s bill at once.
It’s important you speak to the council straight away if you don’t think you can pay. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation.
You’ll probably be asked to commit to paying a regular amount each month. If you’re not sure how much you can afford, use the Citizen Advice budgeting tool or talk to one of our specialist advisers.
If you’re on a low income, you might be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill. You might also be able to qualify for your council’s Hardship Scheme. You can read more about getting help with your council tax on the Citizens Advice website.
If you fail to pay your council tax arrears you’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill.
If you’re struggling with multiple debts you can contact your local Citizens Advice. You can find their contact details on the Citizens Advice website.
I recently joined a dating website. I was contacted by a lovely man and we started to exchange messages. We now email every day, although we haven’t met in person yet. We had arranged to go for a meal, but then he cancelled because he needs to concentrate on fundraising for his daughter – the medicines she needs aren’t available on the NHS.
He’s asked me to contribute, his daughter needs treatment urgently. He’s given me details of a bank account to pay into. I want to help, but I’m unsure because I’ve only known him a short time.
You’re right to be cautious. Unfortunately dating sites are increasingly being targeted by unscrupulous people. It can be difficult to accept that someone you’ve developed feelings for is trying to swindle you. But scammers can be highly skilled at using emotional triggers to persuade people to part with money, or with personal information that might make victims vulnerable to identity theft.
Your friend may be completely genuine, but try to find out if he’s really who he says he is. A reluctance to call you or Skype, or profile information such as educational achievements not matching the content of his messages, could be a red flag that this is a scam.
Other things to look out for include expressing strong emotions in a short period of time, moving the conversation away from the dating site and onto a private channel such as email or instant messaging and asking lots of personal questions – but giving away very little in return.
Trust your instincts and if in any doubt, don’t part with your money. For further help on identifying possible scams contact Derbyshire Scamwatch 01246 868838 or email: email@example.com
Derbyshire Scamwatch aims to raise awareness of scams that are blighting people’s lives as well as educating and informing people about scam prevention through presentations, talks, social media and our own Derbyshire Scamwatch website.
Derbyshire Scamwatch is determined to make a difference for people by providing up-to-date information on the latest scams and offering expert advice and tips to prevent people from being scammed in the future.