Tag Archives: walthamstow

Estate Agent Double Charging: Vote in Parliament Monday 16 June 2014 – Press Comment from Stella Creasy

Speaking ahead of a key vote in Parliament on Monday 16 June regarding double charging by estate agents Stella Creasy MP said:

“Everyone has heard horror stories about buying a home- but the kinds of behaviours we’re seeing now with fees and charges are fast becoming a nightmare. Charging buyers a fee to be ‘introduced’ to a property as part of a ‘sale by tender’ contract means many have to offer a lower price to sellers to be able to cover this cost. That sellers are also being charged by estate agents at the same time for their services only compounds the consequences of this conflict of interest.

Put simply, how can an agent act in the interests of both a buyer and a seller in a house purchase at the same time without one party losing out and having to pay for the privilege? it seems to me the only people who do well out of these deals are the agents who get a nice fat fee from billing both the buyer and the seller.

We know first hand the problems these are causing to homebuyers in Walthamstow -I’ve spoken out before to challenge the behaviour of Douglas Allen in leading this practice and now we know others in the area are doing this too and that it is now happening across the country. It is additional costs like these that can make it even harder for people to get on and up the property ladder- and with house prices rising nearly 30% in one year here in Waltham Forest alone every further charge is squeezing people already struggling with the cost of living.

That’s why I’m pleased to be leading Labour’s efforts to tackle this issue- I hope on Monday 16 June the Government does a U-turn on their opposition to our plans and joins us in saying this double charging must stop. ”

Parliament will vote on Monday 16 June 2014 on Labour’s plans to end double charging as part of Labour’s proposals to improve the Government’s Consumer Rights Bill. Stella also called for anyone affected by these charges to help this campaign by reporting the Agents using these practices to the Property Ombudsman, stating :

“We have already reported the examples of these problems to the Property Ombudsman, but I also urge anyone in our community affected by these practices to complain as well so that we can gather more evidence of just how widespread these kinds of contracts and charges are.”

The Property Ombudsman can be contacted on the following details: The Property Ombudsman
Milford House
43-55 Milford Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2BP or via Telephone 01722 333306

Ends:

  1. In the last year, 1 million homes were bought in the UK, up from 930,000 In 2012.
  2. ‘Sale by informal tender’ contracts involve using sealed bids to make offers on properties.  Increasingly, estate agents are then charging the successful bidder an ‘introductory’ fee – in some cases of 2-2.5% of the property fee + VAT – as a ‘finders fee’ to the agent.
  3. On 6th March 2014 the Government voted against proposals to allow this practice to challenged in court. The issue will be debated again in the House of Commons on Monday 16th June 2014 when all MPs will have the chance to vote for Labour’s plans to end double charging.
  4. From 1 April 2014 the regulation of all Estate Agents in England and Wales was transferred to Powys County Council Trading Standards. Labour also voted against this and called for a clear framework for alternative dispute resolution to be put in place to protect consumers.

 

 

#healthyE17 and #HomeSweetHomeE17 : Priorities for Action

1969273_10153944900865562_178616767_nThank you to everyone who attended our ‘ask the experts’ event on April 1 2014 in parliament on how we can improve access to healthcare and housing in Walthamstow. You can see pictures of the discussion on Facebook here.
The meeting decided on three priorities for action for both housing and healthcare. They were as follows:
  • Recruiting residents to patient involvement groups
  • Campaigning for a right to recall GPs
  • Identifying doctors surgeries where residents can’t get appointments to raise with Commissioners
  • Producing a guide for tenants on their rights
  • Awarding a ‘Razzie’ to the most badly behaving local letting agents and estate agents
  • Helping report bad landlords to the enforcement team at Waltham Forest Council
If you would like to help with any or all of the above actions in the months ahead please do get in touch.

E17-tricity Problems: Power Cuts in Walthamstow- UK Power Networks Response

timthumb.phpI’ve had a number of residents contact me in recent months , and experienced problems myself as well, who have suffered repeated power cuts and shortages in Walthamstow. Residents were also concerned about the recent gas explosion on Forest Road caused and the impact of this on service provision. I therefore asked UK Power Networks who manage our power infrastructure to ask them to account for these problems and what action is being taken to address them. This is their response:

” We believe the fuse operations that affected our low voltage network in different parts of E17 have been due to the load.  Changes in industrial and commercial developments have considerably altered the loading in recent years.  As a distribution company, we have no access to suppliers’ data and whilst we always try to match capacity to demand, such changes in demand are not always brought to our attention. 

We are, however, currently rolling out a new smart fuse into as many local substation as possible in London.  To avoid any long power cuts occurring in the future our teams are fitting an automatic switch in the substation.  This is new technology we have invested in and, should a fault occur again, the device will automatically act as a backup with only a two-and-a-half minute interruption to the power supply.  It will then send a message to our control centre to say when and where the fuses have operated.  Our teams will then attend the site and investigate the cause of the fault, but our customers power will already have been restored.

With regards to the explosion, we believe that gas had leaked into one of our pits. We have also repaired the fault we found. We are inspecting all of our pits and that where we find gas we report it to the gas company and monitor any repair. We then re visit the pit to ensure that there is no gas present. We are also fitting new gas venting lids to some of our pits and we are also filling some with sand. This in addition to an enhanced inspection regime will drive down any related issues with our pits.”

I will continue to monitor this problem on the basis of the complaints I receive from local residents about this service- if you experience power cuts on a regular basis please do contact me on stella@workingforwalthamstow.org.uk to add to my evidence base on this matter.

A Good Home & Good Health for All in Walthamstow: Ask the Experts Event House of Commons Tuesday 1 April 2014

HSH logoOver the last few months hundreds of residents have been reporting the problems they face with healthcare and housing access in Walthamstow- from rip off fees from estate agents and letting agents, to not being able to get through on the phone to their doctors surgery or waiting weeks for an appointment when they do.
As part of our research into these problems, I’ve invited national experts to come and meet with residents affected in parliament on Tuesday 1 April 2014 – I’m delighted that Jamie Reed MP, the Shadow Health Minister and Emma Reynolds MP, the Shadow Minister for Housing, can join us to hear first hand from residents affected by these problems and help us decide how to act. I’m also pleased representatives from Shelter, The Hackney Law Centre, Crisis and Healthwatch will also be attending to give their expertise on the problems we have identified in Walthamstow. We’ll be asking them for their ideas on how to challenge those landlords or agents who rip residents off, and those doctors who aren’t listening to local people.
If you have concerns about healthcare or housing in Walthamstow and would like to contribute to this discussion please RSVP to stella@workingforwalthamstow.org.uk for further details and to confirm your attendance. Please do also feel free to share this invitation to any other Walthamstow resident who you believe is concerned about these issues. If you can’t attend but would like to help us in the campaign to improve access to housing and healthcare please do also contact my office.

Healthy E17 and Home Sweet Home E17 Evidence Gathering: Take Our Survey Now!

 IMG_3074This year my two priorities for campaigning in Walthamstow are to improve access to healthcare services for all residents and to address the pressures on housing our community faces caused by letting agents and estate agents. That’s why in the coming weeks I’ll be holding a series of workshops locally to gather evidence of the experiences of residents in different areas of Walthamstow of these two issues to help build our campaign for change. We want to know whether residents are being mistreated by landlords, letting agents and estate agents, and if they are having difficulties accessing local healthcare services. To help gather information about these problems we have also compiled a short survey on these two concerns- you can find links to complete them below here:

Fantasy Film Released as Wonga claim Legal Loansharking is a Wonderful Life

moneyshop1Commenting on the release of a promotional film for legal loanshark Wonga today, Stella Creasy MP Labour’s shadow minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs said;

“Wonga may be able to find twelve people to say they are happy customers, I can find 1200 who are not and who are now paying the price for borrowing from these legal loan sharks. They like to claim they are different from other payday lenders, but the truth is they are all as bad as each other. That isn’t my review, but the outcome of the Office of Fair Trading investigation which found the entire payday lending industry in Britain was out of control. That’s why they have written to 50 legal loan sharks including Wonga about their behaviour. If Wonga really want to be transparent about how they make a million pounds a week from lending to hard pressed Brits, they should own up to being warned by the OFT and spell out what they are doing to put that right, rather than filling our cinema screens with such fiction.”

“Families struggling with the cost of living crisis need protection from their propaganda. It’s bad enough that you can buy a Wonga babygrow at the football clubs they sponsor. Parents taking their children for a well deserved night out at the flicks don’t want their kids subjected to this toxic marketing – I hope at the very least those screens that do show this film give it an 18 rating to reflect the potentially harmful nature of this footage.”

“The real story here is Britain’s broken consumer credit market- The Government may be happy to go along with this fiction but we are not. Only Labour is committed to reforming this industry by introducing caps on the cost of credit to limit the debt these loans can cause and making consumer credit work for everyone.”

Notes

1. The Office of Fair Trading referred the entire payday lending market to the Competition Commission in June this year following a  review into compliance with its responsible lending guidance

-          You can view the report in full by visiting the OFT website

-          Half (48%) of payday loan users have taken out credit that it turned out they couldn’t afford to repay

-          A third (29%) of payday loan users have taken out credit that they knew they couldn’t repay and in the last 12 months of 2012, more than half (57%) of people with payday loans missed a payment and incurred charges because of missed of bounced repayments.

-          The Office of Fair Trading referred the market to the CC for investigation in June this year. The CC is now carrying out its own comprehensive investigation, to see if there are any features of this market(s) which prevent, restrict or distort competition and, if so, what action might be taken to remedy them. For more information visit the competition commission website.

2. The Financial Conduct Authority has published its proposals for consumer credit lenders in the FCA rulebook – you can find out more about the proposals in full by visiting the FCA website.

-          The consultation closes on the 3rd December 2013 and you can take part by reading the proposal document by visiting the website.

-          Martin Wheatley from the FCA has said the regulator is looking at a total cost cap but currently does not have the market data to assess where to place the cap level.

3. Wonga announced earlier this year that they are now making more than £1m a week in profit – a 36% increase on 2012. You can read a response from Stella Creasy MP by visiting the website.

4. The Sharkstoppers campaign pack contains campaign ideas for making local communities legal loanshark free zones – It can be downloaded from Stella Creasy’s website and has been circulated to campaigners across the country. You can download the pack by clicking here 

5. Stella Creasy MP has been campaigning for caps on the cost of credit since 2010 and now leads on the issue as part of Labour’s shadow Business, Skills and Innovation team. You can find more details on the Sharkstoppers campaign hereFor more information visit Stella Creasy MP’s website at www.workingforwalthamstow.org.uk or call Jon Chambers on 020 8521 1223

Government Lets Legal Loan Sharks Slip Through The Net Again says MP as FCA Dodges Credit Caps Question

shark1-290x290

Responding to the proposals outlined for consumer credit lenders in the Financial Conduct Authority’s rulebook, Stella Creasy MP again warned time was running out to tackle the problem legal loan sharks cause and called for Government to introduce a total cost cap on credit. Speaking about the proposals Stella said:

“Whilst I welcome the focus of the FCA on legal loan sharks and their research into capping, the lack of real action again today on the actual cost of credit itself will be a blow for many caught in a spiral of debt due to payday lenders. The FCA’s hands are being tied by a Government that consistently speaks out against what most other countries have done to tackle legal loan sharks by opposing capping what these companies can charge. With 80% of these loans for just putting food on the table, or a roof over their heads, we know people are borrowing for everyday essentials not luxuries. Price caps would make these loans more affordable and so less like to cause debt problems in themselves. The measures the FCA announced today may go some way to limiting some of the damage being done, but they won’t prevent them like capping would. The FCA today have said they don’t have the data from lenders to set a cap – and that’s why the Government must step in before April 2014 to make it a requirement for these companies to work with the FCA in setting a proportionate cap. That’s why Labour is committed to introducing a total cost cap- and why it’s wrong that the government keeps ruling it out.”

Commenting on the FCA proposals to limit rollovers Stella said:

“An OFT report into the industry has shown how only 11% of lenders assess the affordability of a loan the first time the loan is rolled over – with people using multiple lenders to pay off multiple loans, whilst a third of loans are repaid late or not repaid at all. Limiting rollovers within individual firms will do little to stop this payday tourism, as borrowers move from company to company taking out loans to cover existing ones.”

Commenting on plans to limit the ability of companies to use continuous payment authorities Stella said:

“It’s right that we reform how CPAs are used, but limiting the number of times they can be used doesn’t deal with the amount the firms are taking from bank accounts which is the real source of problems. Lord Freud says the Government is worried about companies exploiting universal credit payments to make sure they get their money – these proposals won’t prevent that, and if anything could make it more likely these firms will debit bank accounts early to ensure they get their fees. That ministers think the way in which money is taken is the problem- rather than the amount itself- shows how hopelessly out of touch they are on this issue.  Jo Swinson calls capping the ‘warm and fuzzy’ approach, failing to understand it’s the cost of credit itself which causes the problems in the first place to consumers.”

She continued to discuss the problems with the market:

“The case for change is overwhelming -legal loansharks are making profits of more than £1m a week as British consumers struggle with the rising cost of living. Report after report shows this industry is out of control – and the on-going investigation by the Competition Commission into the entire industry shows tinkering around the edges using rulebooks and guidance will do little to fundamentally overhaul this industry. For the past 3 years, the Office of Fair Trading, the Government and payday lenders themselves have all promised to take action on this industry following repeated warnings continually falling on deaf ears. Yet 3 years later, and every rule in the book still broken, legal loansharks continue to make 50% of their profits on loans rolled over or refinanced at least once and families are being forced to borrow for basics at rates of over 5,000%. Those who represent these lenders, such as the Consumer Finance Association, talk tough – claiming that the problem is just a few bad apples. Yet time and time again they refuse to debate with me the merits of making credit more affordable to prevent people getting into difficulty in the first place.”

Speaking about the Sharkstoppers’ campaign Stella said:

“The announcements today show just why Sharkstoppers’ campaigners fought to give the FCA the power to cap the cost of credit from April 2014 – so that the FCA could act to protect consumers and prevent debt problems. Yet without the support of Government to do this they are stuck, unable to really take on a litigious and aggressive industry which is protecting its profit margins. That’s why we are responding to the FCA’s consultation reaffirming our warning that without the FCA using its power to put a cap on the total cost of credit, legal loansharks will continue to be written blank cheques – making millions off hard-pressed Britons. Alongside a cap, the Centre for Responsible Credit and other organisations have called on the FCA to implement real-time credit checking across the industry – forcing companies to take responsibility for the lending they provide.

Only tough action by the FCA and the Government can stop the next 3 years being easy pickings for the legal loansharks – preventing people from getting into a damaging cycle of debt at the hands of these companies by giving them access to affordable credit, rather than just sitting by and trying to limit the damage they cause. British consumers deserve better – access to affordable and responsible credit, and action now can give them protections that others around the world enjoy. Lower levels of personal debt, lower levels of illegal lending and greater access to affordable credit. We can’t afford not to cap.”

Ends.

Notes

1. The FCA published its proposals for consumer credit lenders in the Financial Conduct Authority rulebook – you can find out more about the proposals in full by visiting the FCA website.

–          The consultation closes on the 3rd December 2013 and you can take part by reading the proposal document by visiting the website.

–          Martin Wheatley from the FCA has said the regulator is looking at a total cost cap but currently does not have the market data to assess where to place the cap level.

2. The Office of Fair Trading launched its review into compliance with its responsible lending guidance in February 2012.

–          You can view the report in full by visiting the OFT website

–          Half (48%) of payday loan users have taken out credit that it turned out they couldn’t afford to repay

–          A third (29%) of payday loan users have taken out credit that they knew they couldn’t repay and in the last 12 months of 2012, more than half (57%) of people with payday loans missed a payment and incurred charges because of missed of bounced repayments.

–          The Office of Fair Trading referred the market to the CC for investigation in June this year. The CC is now carrying out its own comprehensive investigation, to see if there are any features of this market(s) which prevent, restrict or distort competition and, if so, what action might be taken to remedy them. For more information visit the competition commission website.

3. The Sharkstoppers campaign pack contains campaign ideas for making local communities legal loanshark free zones – It can be downloaded from Stella Creasy’s website and has been circulated to campaigners across the country. You can download the pack by clicking here 

4. Stella Creasy MP has been campaigning for caps on the cost of credit since 2010. You can find more details on her campaign hereFor more information visit Stella Creasy MP’s website at www.workingforwalthamstow.org.uk or call Jon Chambers on 020 8521 1223.