The financial news you need to know with Sarah Pennells – February 5th 2019

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind SavvyWoman.co.uk. We think she does a great job at explaining financial subjects in a very clear and accessible manner. You can find her column below where she writes about the latest financial news, and helps you get more from your money.

Letting fees ban

If you’ve rented a house or flat recently, you’ve probably been stung with letting fees. At the moment, landlords and lettings agents charge a number of different fees before you’re able to move in. These can include fees for:

  • Admin,
  • A credit check,
  • A reference check fee, and/or
  • An inventory check (a list of what’s in the property and the condition it’s in)

If you renew your tenancy agreement, you’ll normally be charged for that as well. According to Citizens Advice, these fees add up to £400 on average – and that’s without the deposit. Some landlords ask for a deposit of six weeks or more upfront. And although you should get the deposit back when you move out, it’s a lot of money to find in one go.

A ban on letting fees in England and Wales is due to come in from June 1st, which it means that a landlord or agent will only be able to charge a refundable deposit of no more than five weeks’ rent. The ban will apply to existing rental agreements from June 2020.

Some people, and landlords’ organisations, have warned that rents will rise as a result because landlords will pass on these costs. Letting fees have been banned in Scotland since 2012, but they’re still used in Northern Ireland.

Better rights for pregnant women and parents

Despite the fact that the Equality Act (introduced in 2010) says it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because they’re pregnant or have recently had a baby, it’s estimated that 54,000 women lose their job every year when they become pregnant or take maternity leave.

Now the government plans to extend legal protection against redundancy to six months after a mother has given birth. And this protection could also be extended to men after they’ve taken shared parental leave, or after they’ve adopted a baby. At the moment the government is just consulting on the idea so there won’t be any change in the law for some time.

Secondary ticketing websites – what are your rights?

It’s over six years since the regulator started investigating secondary ticketing websites but it looks like they’re finally being cleaned up (not before time!). Last April three of the big secondary ticketing websites, GETMEIN!, StubHub and Seatwave agreed to change their terms and conditions after the Competition and Markets Authority investigation, and they had to improve the information on their websites by the middle of January.

But the CMA continued to take action against Viagogo – securing a court order forcing them to overhaul the way they do business. As I write this, the CMA is considering going back to court to get Viagogo to improve its terms.

But what do the new rules say and is it worth buying tickets from a secondary site?

From January 17th this year, secondary ticketing websites have had to:

  • Tell ticket buyers whether there’s a risk they could be turned away at the door. An increasing number of artists and concert promoters have an anti-tout policy, which means tickets bought via secondary websites aren’t valid.
  • Tell ticket buyers which seat they’ll get.
  • Say whether the ticket seller is a business. You get better consumer rights if you buy from a business compared to buying from an individual

Viagogo has also been told it mustn’t unfairly reject requests for a refund from customers who bought tickets. The website has said it’s complied with the CMA court order.

The tougher rules mean you should get better protection if you buy from a secondary ticketing website, but – if you’re going to use one of these sites – make sure you are being given the information about the ticket your buying (where you’ll be sitting). It’s also a good idea to look at what other customers say about the ticketing site and to check with the concert organiser that tickets sold by secondary ticketing sites are valid.

Probate fees

Probate fees are rising – for some – from April. When someone dies, you – or a solicitor – has to pay a fee to the government in order to pass on money that’s been left in a will and to sort out their financial affairs.

At the moment, in England and Wales you pay a flat probate fee, no matter how much someone has left behind when they die. It’s £215 if you apply for probate as an individual and £155 if a solicitor does it for you. The only exception is if someone dies with less than £5,000, in which case there’s no charge.

Elsewhere in the UK the fee varies from zero to £500, depending on how much the person had when they died.

From April, probate fees will change in England and Wales and the more money someone leaves behind, the more it will cost. However, the ‘zero fee’ threshold is being raised from £5,000 to £50,000. The probate fee itself will be £250 if someone dies with money and assets of between £50,000 and £300,000, £750 if they left behind between £300,000 and £500,000 and up to £6,000 if their money and property were worth over £2 million.

We love to boast about big bucks!

As a nation, we’re not that great about talking about money. But, apparently, we do like to boast about splashing the cash! Research from a cashback website shows that three quarters of us brag about spending a lot of money while over nine out of ten of us (95 per cent) boast about a bargain we’ve bought.

But despite the huge popularity of voucher and discount codes, it seems around a third of us would be embarrassed to tell our friends if we got a discount on a holiday. I’m struggling with this one a bit as I’m not sure what there is to be embarrassed about, but maybe that’s just me!

Just one note of caution, if you’re going to boast about your brilliant bargain basement break (or one that you’ve spent big bucks on) don’t plaster it all over social media. You could encourage the unwanted attention of fraudsters or thieves. You have been warned!