Citizens Advice: Families uprooted on whims of private landlords

Half of people seeking help from Citizens Advice about being evicted from their privately rented property, despite being up to date with their rent, have dependent children, the charity reveals today.

New evidence from Citizens Advice finds families face an uncertain future in their homes. Some people are being evicted because the landlord wants to sell property, rents are hiked to unaffordable levels or they have challenged their landlord over the poor conditions.

Citizens Advice helped a woman and her daughter after they asked their landlord for repairs to their privately rented home, as they were getting electric shocks in the shower. An electrician told them it was not safe for them to live in the flat because there was an electric current running through it.  When the mother pursued the landlord to fix the problem he evicted them.

The new findings, due to be published on Wednesday, are from Citizens Advice latest Advice Trends report which tracks growing problems around renting privately and is based on data from July to September this year.  The publication finds:

          • 22,000 got help with private rented sector problem, six per cent more than in the same period last year:
          • 20 per cent more people got advice about eviction for problems other than arrears compared with the same period last year.
          • 2 in 5 people receiving advice on a private rented problem have dependent children.
          • 1 in 5 people seeking help from Citizens Advice for a problem with their private rented home is a lone parent

Citizens Advice is concerned that more people will face unfair treatment by landlords as the private rented sector continues to grow. The number of households renting their homes from private landlords has increased to almost five million.

Citizens Advice  wants protections for people renting from private landlords to be improved. On Friday 28 November the Tenancies Reform Bill will be debated in Parliament. If enacted the Private Members Bill would prevent such retaliatory evictions.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Family homes are vulnerable to the whims of landlords. Parents and children are being uprooted from their homes, through no fault of their own.  The knock-on effect means some families struggle to afford the costs of moving.  In some cases prices mean people have to leave their local community and lose their support network of nearby family and friends.

“People face a huge number of different housing problems.  A lack of rights for private renters puts them at risk of sudden eviction, even if they are up to date with the rent.  The rules for landlords and letting agents need to change to protect families living in the private rented sector. Putting an end to retaliatory evictions is a good place to start.  We hope that MPs support the Tenancies Reform Bill on Friday.”

Police arrest multiple computer hijackers

Five people have been arrested in the UK as part of an international operation targeting users of software designed to remotely take over, control and steal information from computers.

The arrests were led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), and involved officers from a number of police Regional Organised Crime Units. They carried out raids over several days to reduce the threat posed by tools known as Remote Access Trojans (RATs).

The UK arrests were part of international activity, coordinated through Europol – which has resulted in a total of 11 further individuals being arrested in Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, and Norway.

Further action

In addition to arresting people believed to have used RATs, the NCA is warning individuals that any movement into cyber criminality will result in further action.

Criminals who successfully deploy RATs can gain complete control over target computers, wherever they are in the world. They can turn victims’ webcams on and off, access banking or other personal information, download new and potentially illegal content, and instruct the victim’s computer to help commit acts of criminality such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.

No signs of infection

Victims are typically infected by being convinced to click on a link purporting to be a picture or video, or disguised as a legitimate file, but is instead an installer for the RAT. In many cases, those who unwittingly install such trojans will have no indication that their machine is infected.

Andy Archibald, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cyber crime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from international to local UK level. Suspected users of RATs are continuing to find that, despite having no physical contact or interaction with their victims, they can still be identified, tracked down and arrested by the NCA and its partners.

How to avoid falling victim to RATs

  • Be careful what you post online. Criminals can research victims acquire information which can later be used to exploit victims.
  • Use strong passwords for your devices and online applications.
  • Buy legitimate software from reputable companies, and download free software with caution.
  • Back up devices so that important files and documents can be recovered.

Read more on the NCA website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

If you’ve lost money or information or your computer/smartphone has been taken over by a phishing or malware attack report it to Action Fraud.

Sarah Teather’s bill to tackle revenge eviction published

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather’s bill to tackle retaliatory evictions has today been published, ahead of its second reading on Friday.

The Tenancies (Reform) Bill will stop landlords evicting tenants who make a complaint about essential repairs or poor conditions in their homes. It has cross-party support, and the Government is supporting the bill in principle.

Figures from Shelter show 213,000 people have been victims of revenge eviction in the last year alone. On top of this, one in eight tenants have not asked for repairs because they fear eviction.

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Research also reveals those who find it most difficult to rent – including families receiving Housing Benefit and BME people – are more likely to be evicted simply for complaining about a serious problem in their home.

On Friday, MPs will get the chance to support the bill at its second reading in the House of Commons.

Commenting, Sarah said:

“This is a great opportunity for us to make the private rented sector work better for tenants, local authorities and good landlords alike.

“Many people put up with dangerous or unsanitary conditions because they fear eviction. Understandably, they don’t want to leave their community or take their kids out of the local school – or face the costs of moving to another home.

“This is also bad for good landlords. They want to know about problems as they arise – not get a nasty surprise when tenants leave the property. Stopping revenge eviction will also give local authorities the confidence to use their powers to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector.

“That’s why I am urging MPs to turn up to support the bill on Friday, and put a stop to retaliatory eviction once and for all.”

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive said:

“No family should have to live in a home that puts their health and well-being at risk, let alone face eviction just for asking their landlord to fix a problem.

“Yet every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop.

“With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament this week, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We’re calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all.”

Greg Mulholland makes the case for extra support at end of life

Greg headshotGreg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Leeds North West, has written to the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Nick Clegg, to call for social care to be provided free of charge to people who are at the end of their lives.

Greg was one of 14 Liberal Democrat MPs who signed the joint letter to the party leadership. In it they called for a commitment to supporting people at the very end of their lives so they can die in a place of their choosing.

Data suggests that 79% of people want to die at home, but only 21% of people are able to. Free social care is fundamental to supporting people who are at the end of life to die in the place of their choosing.

The Liberal Democrats have already been supportive of the policy with the recent Autumn Conference in Glasgow voting in favour of it and Care Services Minister Norman Lamb speaking of his ‘determination’ to see it introduced.

A wealth of evidence suggests that far from costing money, supporting people to die at home rather than in hospital could realise savings. A report from Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that £345m could be saved nationally and further evidence from the Nuffield Trust and Public Health England’s National End of Life Intelligence Network also suggests savings.

Greg suggested that this letter to Nick Clegg represents their desire to ensure that the party is at the forefront of supporting people who are at the end of life and that the next Government takes this issue seriously: “Free social care for people at the end of life is a compassionate policy that makes financial sense. Dying effects us all and when the time comes, people at the end of their lives and their loved ones want security, not to have to spend what precious little time they have left messing around with complicated financial arrangements and spending dwindling savings.”

Festive activities for all the family at Grimsby Library

Grimsby Central Library has entered in to the Christmas spirit with a host of fun, creative and practical activities, designed to get you well and truly prepared for the festive season.

Every Thursday from November 27 until December 18, drop-in events from 5:30pm to 6:30pm will transform the Lincs Inspire library into a hive of Christmas activity.

On Thursday, November 27, staff will be on-hand to introduce customers to the world of online shopping with tips, and advice for what to look out for and where to find the best deals. At the same time customers can also find out about the online APP Pinterest, which offers a huge bank of ideas to make this year a truly creative Christmas. And for the children, a Frozen-themed story and craft session will take place.

Thursday, December 4, will see a Christmas Food demo from the Specialist Health Promotion Service, as well as advice on where to find the best Christmas recipes online. Families can also enjoy a story time and Christmas craft activity.

Thursday, December 11, will see many more online activities from how to make personalised gifts, e-greeting cards and an introduction to Skype. And the whole family is catered for as part of an ‘O Christmas Tree’ activity.

Finally on Thursday, December 18, there will be a family guide to computers, a shared reading group and for the children – a visit from Santa Claus himself!

All activities cost £1 per person, per session. No booking is required. If you require more information contact Jennie Mooney on (01472) 323615 or email jennie.mooney@nelincs.gov.uk

Website found streaming webcam footage from devices worldwide

The ICO have issued advice to users of webcams to change their passwords as they are aware that there is a new website that is streaming live footage obtained from insecure cameras across the world.

Warnings were issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who have reported that there is a Russian based website which is obtaining the live feeds by accessing the cameras using the devices’ default log-in credentials.

The footage is being collected from security cameras used by both members of the public and businesses and includes everything from CCTV cameras used to secure business premises to baby monitors.

The action that members of the public and businesses should take if they are worried that they may be at risk is to change the default password for the device to a strong password.

They also said if you have a camera in your home/business and have no intention of viewing the footage over the internet, then the best thing to do is to go into the device’s security settings and see if you can turn the remote viewing option off.

Below is advice from the ICO for creating strong passwords.

  • When choosing your password make sure it’s not one that can be easily guessed.
  • Best practice is to use a password that contains a mixture of lower and upper case numbers, letters and characters – if you don’t; you’re potentially leaving your information vulnerable.

You can find further advice to help you protect your personal information online and when using other electronic devices on the ICO website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.

Telephone fraudster alert from the National Intelligence Bureau

The National Intelligence Bureau is advising of telephone fraudsters posing as legitimate debt collection/enforcement companies threatening victims with court action in order to force them to pay a phantom debt.

The current specific method being employed by the fraudsters is that a victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to represent a debt recovery agency chasing a debt on behalf of The Business Directory for money owed for advertising space.  The caller, who according to reports goes by the name “Derek Jones”, threatens legal action by the Birkenhead County Court if payment is not made.  To add further plausibility to the story, the caller claims that the victim’s business made a one off payment to the Business Directory at some stage in the past and was contractually obliged to make repeat payments on a monthly basis.  The caller goes on to pressurize the victim into transferring funds into a specified bank account in order to settle a debt.

Police alert the public to this fraud, and ask anyone affected by it or any other scam to report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk

Julian Huppert gains Government commitment on humanist marriage

rsz_julian_huppert_(cycling)_2012.jpgLiberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert has pressed the government on humanist marriage and prompted a commitment to a full Parliamentary report on the way forward by the end of the year.

He raised the issue in Parliament claiming there was no reason for the government not to make humanist marriage legally recognised as there were already exceptions in marriage law for Jews and Quakers.

“Humanist celebrations are not only successful in Scotland, but there are humanist ceremonies for births and deaths in England and Wales as well,” he said.

And his call to Justice Minister, Simon Hughes to make progress on the issue led to a commitment from Mr Hughes to give a full report to Parliament before the end of the year on the way forward.

He acknowledged that there were up to 800 humanist weddings every year.

Julian Huppert said later: “We took a huge step forward in this country when we made same sex marriage legal; but there are still marriages that we do not recognise in law simply because they don’t conform to age old tradition.

“Many couples don’t want to get married in a conventional church or register office service and yet they are bound to conform because we don’t recognise humanist marriages. I can’t see any reason why we should object to these ceremonies; they are already recognised in law in many other countries including Scotland.

“I pushed hard for this to be allowed when we debated the Same Sex Marriage Bill, and we won part of the argument – but not all of it. The Government should get on with this, and allow people to celebrate their marriages in the way that fits with their beliefs.”

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance

1911715_10154912243065565_3205825898850673008_nToday is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to pause and think of all those transgender people who have lost their lives just for being who they are across the world. I read the list of people who are being remembered in 2014 and it’s pretty harrowing to think of all those young lives lost through prejudice. Everybody should be free to express their identity without fear or attack.

A study earlier this year showed the high rates of suicide and attempted suicide amongst transgender people compared to the general population. We can’t stand by in the face of such evidence. It’s important that we make sure that everyone has the care and support that they need.

 

National: BRAKE look out for each other campaign

Humberside Police are supporting the BRAKE Road Safety Week (Monday 17 November to 23 November 2014) which is appealing to everyone to look out for each other on roads, because being selfish can lead to tragedy.

The national campaign is particularly calling on drivers to protect people on foot and bike by going 20 or below in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends, and giving people plenty of room.
Motorists, Cyclist and pedestrians all use roads in different ways: often a mix of walking, catching the bus or driving, and maybe cycling, running or skating too. It is important to remember that some road users are more vulnerable and need protecting by those in charge of vehicles.
However, sometimes it can feel like roads are angry places where different road users are in different tribes competing for space. A lack of care by drivers can have awful consequences.
It can mean people feel less able to get out and about, kids are not allowed to walk to school, commuters don’t feel able to cycle and families are more inclined to use the car. It can also lead to tragedy: people suffering horrific injuries or even being killed because of someone going too fast, too close or not looking out.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of being stressful and risky, streets were places where everyone looked out for and protected each other, particularly the most vulnerable?
PC Barry Gardner, Humberside Police Casualty Reduction Officer said:
“Whenever there are reports in the press about cyclists or pedestrians being involved in collisions with vehicles I see and hear comments from people such as; “it’s the cyclists fault, they are a menace they don’t pay road tax or insurance, they don’t have lights and cause drivers to slow down etc.” As well as comments from cyclists “it’s the car drivers fault, they don’t give us enough room, they come too close etc”
“Whatever side you take, it’s a  fact that cyclists and pedestrians are a vulnerable group, as a vehicle driver you have a duty to drive with due care and attention at all times and should be on the look out at all times for this vulnerable group. Cyclists and pedestrians should be helping themselves by adhering to the rules of the Road and wearing highly visible or light clothing.
“It would be really refreshing and beneficial to everyone involved if these different groups of road users set their differing opinions to one side and looked out for each other. The key message is look out for each other: support the campaign.”