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.
Car parking tickets at a record high
The number of parking tickets issued reached over 5.5 million last year – a new record. Parking tickets are different to penalty notices, which are issued by a traffic warden. Instead, they’re handed out by private firms if you’ve parked somewhere like a train station, hospital or supermarket car park and you’ve not had a ticket or the ticket hasn’t been displayed properly.
SAVVY TIP: You shouldn’t pay a parking fine on the spot, unless you’re absolutely convinced you’re in the wrong (it’s better to pay by post). If you do pay on the spot, you should make sure you get a written receipt.
If you think you weren’t in the wrong, or that the amount you’re being asked to pay is unreasonable, you can appeal against the parking ticket. For example, if the ticket machines weren’t working or the signs setting out the parking charges were missing or weren’t clear, you should definitely appeal.
You should gather any evidence to support your case, such as photos, tickets or receipts. The parking company may have number-plate recognition images of your car arriving at the car park and leaving it. Ask to see these.
SAVVY TIP: If you’ve been given the parking ticket because you parked at a supermarket, ask the store manager to complain to the supermarket as well. They pay the parking company to manage the car park and may have received other complaints about them enforcing the rules too enthusiastically.
If the parking company rejects your appeal and it’s a member of an independent trade association, you can take your appeal to them. If it’s not you can either pay up or dispute the charge. If you dispute the charge, you may be taken to court and you will have to pay up if you lose (even if you think the amount you’re being asked for is outrageous!). A court case in 2015 found against a man who’d been charged £85 for overstaying in a private car park for less than an hour. You have been warned…
Student loan rates rise
The interest rate that the highest earning graduates and students will pay on their student loans will rise from 6.1% to 6.3% from September. All students, as well as graduates earning more than £41,000 a year will pay the higher 6.3% rate. Those earning between £25,000 a year and £41,000 will pay on a sliding scale between 3.3% and 6.3%. These interest rates only apply to students and graduates in England and Wales.
Property prices down
House prices fell in the UK in February and in London they fell for the first time since September 2009 – the height (or should that be depth?) of the financial crash. The tiny fall in prices might not seem like much to get worked up about, but with many experts saying that uncertainty around Brexit is contributing to the market conditions, prices could fall further in the coming months.
The national figures also mask big regional differences. Although we talk about the UK housing market, in reality there’s no such thing as individual towns, and even streets within towns, can be much more in demand than neighbouring areas – with prices reflecting that.
If you’re a first-time buyer, you’ll be in the strongest position to negotiate on price if you can show you’ll be able to get a mortgage. You can do this with a ‘decision in principle’ or ‘mortgage in principle’.
SAVVY TIP: A decision in principle is a document that shows how much a particular bank would lend you. It’s subject to the property you want to buy being suitable and a final credit check on you. But it can help put you at the head of the queue if you’re competing with other first-time buyers.
Talk to a mortgage broker (there are several that are mobile-based if you prefer) and find out which mortgage lender is right for you. It’s not just about getting the cheapest headline rate, as there are other costs and fees to add in. On top of that, some banks are better than others if you want a high loan-to-value mortgage.
TSB online banking failure – what are your rights?
Some TSB customers were still experiencing problems logging on and trying to call the bank a week after it took online and mobile banking offline to switch to a new IT system. TSB has said that no-one will lose out as a result, but many customers are – understandably – pretty annoyed. So what are your rights if your bank can’t provide, well, banking services?
- You should not be out of pocket. If you’ve incurred extra costs, such as overdraft fees or bank charges because you’ve been unable to pay money in, you should be refunded. You will normally have to apply to the bank for the money – it won’t be paid automatically.
SAVVY TIP: TSB has said that it won’t apply any overdraft charges for the month of April, whether or not you’ve been affected by the IT problem.
- Your credit rating shouldn’t be affected. If you’ve been unable to pay your credit card bill, or another bill, because of the IT problems, the bank can make sure that it doesn’t affect your credit rating.
- You may not be able to claim indirect charges. If you’ve had to incur extra costs it’s likely to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, you may have lost out because you couldn’t access your money while you were on holiday, or because you couldn’t buy some tickets you were keen to get hold of. There are no hard and fast rules about whether you can claim compensation from your bank in cases like this. However, it’s definitely worth putting in a claim.
SAVVY TIP: If you want to switch to another bank, it should take no longer than seven working days from the date you’ve opened your account at the new bank. But that’s only the case if the bank you’re switching from and the one you’re switching to are both part of the seven day switching system. Most banks and many building societies are, but it’s worth checking if you’re moving to a very new bank or one of the small building societies. The bank you’re switching to is responsible for making sure everything goes smoothly. If direct debits aren’t transferred or your salary isn’t paid into the right account, complain to the new bank and they must sort it out.