An 18-strong team supported Citizens Advice Harlow’s Law Clinic by taking part in the London Legal Walk in May. The 10km walk started and finished at the Law Society on Chancery Lane and took the 10,500 participants past Buckingham Palace and as far as the Serpentine. The team comprised staff and volunteers from Citizens Advice itself and also representatives from Attwaters Jameson Hill and Barnes and Partners, two of the firms involved with the Law Clinic. With some matched funding from City heavyweight, Goldman Sachs, the team has raised over £2,200 which will be used to expand and support the current service offered by the Law Clinic.
The service offers Citizens Advice clients free 30 minute appointments with specialist solicitors who can advise on housing, family, debt, wills and probate, criminal, welfare, employment, immigration, personal injury and medical negligence legal issues. The Law Clinic has proved invaluable since its launch in September of last year, seeing around 25 clients each month and it is growing and developing all the time. Law Clinic Co-ordinator, Sarah Calder, said “We would like to thank all our London Legal Walk participants and their sponsors for supporting the Law Clinic – it was a great event! The money raised will really help us in the launch of our Small Business Legal Advice Service and our new sessions focussed on older people’s legal issues.
We would like to encourage Harlow residents to pop in to Citizens Advice Harlow if they have a problem or a question that has been worrying them – between the Law Clinic and the general Citizens Advice service, we will do our very best to help you”. All appointments with solicitors will be conducted in Citizens Advice Harlow’s offices at 13-15 East Gate and clients can call on 01279 770181 for more information. The offices are open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm.
Problems with letting agents on the rise for young adults as fees go up
The number of people aged 17-24 seeking help with problems with letting agents has more than doubled over the last two years, Citizens Advice reveals today.
University students moving into privately rented accommodation around the country this month could be among those stung by bad letting agents that charge hundreds of pounds but provide poor or minimal service.
Citizens Advice helped people with 6,500 problems with letting agencies between July 2015 and June 2016, a 14% rise from the 5,700 problems reported two years ago. The biggest rise was among 17-24 year olds, who sought help with 810 problems with letting agents in the last year, compared to 360 cases reported between July 2013 and June 2014.Previous research highlighted problems with letting agents’ ongoing management of properties, with delays in getting basic repairs completed or in fixing properties that were so damp or cold they could pose a health risk.
In other cases tenants sought help when they felt the fees they paid for administration were much more than the cost of renewing their tenancy agreement.
While there has been a rise in young people experiencing problems with letting agents, people in full-time employment are the most likely to experience these issues. More than one in three people seeking Citizens Advice’s help works more than 30 hours a week, new analysis shows.
Over a million couples with children now rent privately, making this the most common type of household in the sector. This leaves these families more at risk of paying for poor service from letting agents.
The price of letting agents’ fees has risen considerably in recent years, going up by as much as 60% over the last five years. An official figure from a survey of tenants suggests the average (median) letting agent fee has risen from £125 in 2009-10 to £200 in 2014-15.
But people could be paying much more - Citizens Advice’s research with letting agents has previously revealed fees as high as £337 on average, and up to £700 in some cases.
Letting agents charge fees for admin tasks such as preparing the tenancy agreement, checking references and credit checks. They may also require the tenant to pay a holding deposit after a prospective tenant has agreed to the rent but not yet signed the tenancy agreement. These fees are often non-refundable, and are charged on top of advertised rent prices and deposits for the property.
The national charity is calling for a ban on letting agents charging tenants fees. Currently both landlords and tenants are charged fees for the letting agents’ services. Citizens Advice believes there should just be one charge which is paid for by landlords, who are in a better position to shop around and pick the best agency.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Letting agents are hiking up their fees for a service that’s often not up to scratch.
“With fees rising year on year for letting agents, many tenants will rightly be wondering why they are paying hundreds of pounds for a simple contract renewal or for management services that leave them waiting months for essential repairs.
“It is concerning that younger renters are among the most likely to report problems with a letting agent, when many will end up using letting agents to find somewhere to live at university.
“Private renters shop around for properties, not for letting agents. Landlords are better able to choose agencies based on performance and cost and it should therefore be landlords paying letting agent fees, not tenants picking up these rising costs."
Frontline makes help easier to access
From 25 May, 2016 Harlow residents will be able to find and access local community and voluntary help from one website. The website www.harlowfrontline.org.uk is a resource for members of the public, health professionals and support workers.
Many of us go through periods when we experience some challenges in our lives; coping with a young family, caring for an elderly relative, money worries or perhaps just finding it hard to cope. Frontline is a pioneering local community initiative, first launched in Uttlesford two years ago, that offers support when you need it, within a few clicks of a button.
Frontline in Harlow and Epping Forest is much more than just a directory of services however; the secure website allows health and support workers to directly refer patients and clients to organisations or members of the public to request a call back from many of the providers.
AJ Sanger, Interim Manager at Harlow Citizens Advice stated: “We know how important it is for local organisations to work together to help people resolve their problems. Harlow Frontline is a single, secure website that we can use to make referrals - and it is great! We know it will help us to provide a much more holistic service for our clients.”
Andrew Geldard, Interim Chief Officer at NHS West Essex CCG, said: “The CCG is keen to highlight the many options for support and care within west Essex. Our thriving community and voluntary sectors are an invaluable resource that offers advice and support to local residents who are seeking non-medical solutions to issues. We are encouraging people to use their local Frontline and take advantage of the myriad of support options on their doorstep.”
Jackie Sully, Executive Director at Rainbow Service agrees: “The system is so easy to use. We understand how difficult it is for heath and support workers such as social workers and GP’s to be able to keep up to date with local services, as these are often dependent on funding and can change frequently.”
Organisations already signed up to Harlow Frontline include: Age UK Essex, SEPT Macmillan, Community Agents, Accuro, Action for Family Carers, Alzheimer’s Society, Open Road, Family Mosaic, Breathe Easy, Harlow Save, Streets 2 Homes, YCT, Harlow Citizens Advice, Harlow Advice Centre.
If you are a local organisation and would like to register on the website as a referral provider and / or service provider, please get in touch with Beth Hammond at Rainbow Services on 01279 417249 or email: email@example.com
Case Study- Stanley
“My wife, Betty, was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago. I tried my best to care for her at home, but I was finding it very difficult and I felt very isolated. One day I went to see my GP about something else and I happened to mention that I was finding it really hard to cope.
My GP asked me if I’d heard of Frontline and when I explained that I hadn’t, he told me it was a website to help people find local support. He searched Frontline and found two useful organisations and went online and searched for Uttlesford Frontline (the only one operating at the time) to search for organisations that might be able to help me. He printed off details of The Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Support Service and Age UK Essex Dementia Connections. I later rang them up and found that there was a support group very near to me. It made me feel so much better to know that I was not the only one finding it hard to care for my wife.
My GP also referred me to Citizens Advice who supported me and gave me a benefit check. I was previously unaware of the help that was available to me. Now the extra money I receive means that I can afford to organise some care for Betty, and I get to go out of the house occasionally to do some shopping.”
We need your ideas!
Harlow Frontline was launched to the public in May 2016 – we now need some feedback to find out how we are doing!
www.harlowfrontline.org.uk is a web-based community project that helps you easily identify health and wellbeing support services that are operating in Harlow. For each service you can print off contact details, opening hours and information, such as who is eligible; you can also comment on a service, which helps improve it for other users. Factsheets are available to download from the site, which give detailed information on subjects such as victim support, transport, advocacy, care options and befriending services.
With 67 local voluntary and community services now registered on the website, we need users’ ideas and opinions on:
- What other services should be on the system
- What other factsheets would be helpful to you
- What could be done to improve the site to make it easier for you to use.
Your opinions are very valuable to us!
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01799 618855.