Friday, 29 November 2013

GLC goes to Eilean Siar (the Western Isles)

GLC's Principal Solicitor will provide a free legal seminar next week in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, on a range of contentious topics including welfare reform, the bedroom tax, payday loans and consumer credit law.

The event will see advisors and housing professionals from across Eilean Siar come together in Stornoway to discuss the impact of welfare reform, its interaction with payday lending and debt, and what can be done to protect the rights of islanders.

Separate meetings have been arranged with local advocacy workers, and tenant representatives to discuss the work of Govan Law Centre, the role of community law centres, and how the law can be used to both protect the rights of tenants and vulnerable citizens, and help deliver social justice in Scotland.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Govan Law Centre pays tribute to Danny McColgan, GLC Board Member

Danny McColgan
The Board and staff of Govan Law Centre (GLC) are deeply saddened by the recent and sudden death of our Board Member, Danny McColgan on Thursday, 21st of November 2013. 

Danny was a highly respected and long standing trustee of GLC, helping to support and secure the development of our community law centre from just four staff in the early days to almost 30 today.

Danny McColgan was a Govan man through and through. Born and bred in Govan, with his father being a Govan shipbuilder, whenever he wasn’t travelling he would return to the Govan area to live. It was only in later years he moved to Irvine in Ayrshire.

He lived a long, well-lived, well-travelled and varied life gaining along the way a very broad world experience, he lived a live in the service of the UK – Soldier, Merchant Seaman and in Aviation.  

He travelled the world experiencing many different cultures and perspectives. Danny lived through and experienced first-hand the world events that shaped how the world is today.
Danny in 1949

Danny was always ‘left of centre’ and was a long time Civil Service Union and Labour Party activist, he campaigned for peace, was vociferously anti-war and anti-nuclear weapons. 

In World War 2 he fought at the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden. He was seriously injured during the final advance into Germany in 1945.

Danny was well loved and respected by his family, his colleagues and others. He will be sorely missed by all at Govan Law Centre and we were fortune that he served on our Board for many years. Our thoughts are with his family.

A funeral service will take place at Holmsford Bridge Crematorium, Irvine, KA11 4EF on Monday 9th December 2013 at 3pm.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Financial Ombudsman rules credit checks should include income drop on retirement and sets zero mortgage interest rate for Glasgow couple

A retired Glasgow couple who faced the repossession of their home from an unaffordable secured loan have been successful in a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. The couple had been advised to refinance and consolidate secured and unsecured loans with Black Horse Ltd over a longer period and at a APR of around 15% two years prior to retirement. The couple had substantial equity in their home but found that their income dropped significantly two years after taking out the loan in 2008 upon retirement. They approached Govan Law Centre when threatened with repossession in relation to their second charge secured loan.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, argued that the lender ought to have fairly considered the couple's income on retirement given that the affordability check under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 took place two years before retirement; and any reasonable creditor would have considered the affordability of the loan not just when the customer was in full employment aged 64; particularly so given that this was a loan secured on their home. The lender objected to this line of reasoning, but the Ombudsman agreed and held as follows:

"I think that it would have been reasonable for Black Horse to ask when Mr B was going to retire and what his income would have been ... If Black Horse had obtained details of Mr B's retirement income, (and taking into account Mrs B's income) I don't see how it could fairly have lent Mr and Mrs B the amount it did - the loan was always going to be unaffordable once Mr B retired".

The Ombudsman ruled that the lender should charge no further interest on the couple's secured loan and restructure it to enable it to be repaid at £200 per month.

GLC's Mike Dailly said: "This is a fantastic outcome for our clients, and means an unaffordable loan can now be repaid on an interest free basis, averting the threat of repossession proceedings and homelessness."

"We also think other consumers can use the reasoning underpinning this decision because there is a worrying practice across the UK of some lenders targeting 'equity rich, income poor' customers, whereby unaffordable loans are secured on the value in the consumers' homes."

"This ruling by the Financial Ombudsman Service makes it clear that UK lenders have to undertake proper affordability checks and lend responsibly, taking into consideration the customer's income now and if close to retirement, any drop in income at that time".

The final decision of the Financial Ombudsman is available here.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

GLC gives evidence to Welfare Reform Committee on 'No evictions for bedroom tax' petition

Representatives of Glasgow's Govan Law Centre were in attendance at the Scottish Parliament yesterday (12 November 2013) to give evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee on our 'No evictions for bedroom tax' petition, and the proposed Protection from Eviction (Bedroom Tax) (Scotland) Bill.

The session is available to watch via the BBC Democracy site here. A full transcript of the session is available via the Parliament's Official Report here (opens as PDF). The session featured on BBC 2's Politics Scotland here (36 min into show via the iPlayer).

GLC argued the case that it was not economically viable to evict Scottish tenants solely because of the bedroom tax in the short to medium term; that Scottish Government and other promises of 'no eviction for the bedroom tax' required to be backed up with statutory teeth, and ultimately the Scottish Government should use its underspend to off-set the bedroom tax, which was £30m this year; and £53m in 2014/15.

GLC were disappointed that representatives of both the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (CIHiS) continued to press for the ability to evict tenants notwithstanding they were unable to pay under-occupancy deductions. Both the SFHA and CIHiS paid lip service to tenants not being evicted 'if they engaged' with their landlord. What 'engaged' actually meant was paying the bedroom tax, and the grim reality is that disabled tenants and those on benefits are not able to afford to shoulder the cost of bedroom tax deductions on any sustainable basis.

Very worryingly, both the SFHA and the CIHiS refused to support the call for the Scottish Government to off-set the cost of the bedroom tax in Scotland, thus evidencing that they were in truth content to see Scottish tenants evicted if they were unable to pay bedroom tax shortfalls in their rent.

Friday, 1 November 2013

GLC publish free toolkit for Scottish homeowners with property factor disputes

Govan Law Centre has published a free tookit for Scottish homeowners who are unhappy with the service received from their property factors (property managers). The free toolkit, supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, explains the rights of customers in relation to the relevant law - including the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011, which was drafted by GLC for Patricia Ferguson MSP - the registration process for property factors, the statutory Code of Conduct, and the new dispute resolution procedure in Scotland.

The toolkit includes illustrative letters of complaint and step-by-step help on how to complete an application to the new Homeowner Housing Panel, with common examples. GLC had spearheaded a campaign over a number of years to regulate the property management industry in Scotland, and provide a consumer-friendly form of alternative dispute resolution for homeowners that had 'legal teeth'.

In 2009, the Office of Fair Trading undertook a market study of the property factor industry and concluded that: 'This is a market that is not working well for many homeowners in Scotland. People often have little or no understanding about their rights, households rarely switch factors, suppliers do not seem to be actively competing with each other and the options for consumers when things go wrong are very limited'. The 2011 Act was the Scottish Parliament's response to these significant problems.

GLC Property Factor Toolkit is available here (opens as PDF). The toolkit was written by GLC's Samantha Brown, solicitor, and Ailie Doyle, Public Legal Education Officer at Govanhill Law Centre.