Record Keeping For Individuals. White files on a white table top.

Good Record Keeping for Individuals

 

Part One: Keeping your physical papers in order

 
Good record keeping is important for everyone to stay organised and well prepared.

Keeping your paperwork in order has many obvious benefits, such as:

o Having peace of mind that you have everything under control
o You are less likely to lose anything if it is kept all together
o Less wasted time trying to find something
o By keeping track of bills you can avoid missed payments
o The ability to compare premiums and help in the decision whether to look at an alternative provider
o Keep track of your outgoings and enabling you to budget
o All in one place in case you have to evacuate due to an emergency

But in today’s hectic world with little available time and even less storage space, what should you keep and for how long?

Personal information:

The following should be kept indefinitely;

Passports
Driving licences
Birth/adoption/death certificates
Marriage certificates
Deed Poll
Nationalisation certificate
Military discharge papers
National Insurance Number card
NHS Medical number
Up to date Will, Living Will or Power of Attorney
Private pension plans

Medical information:

Always keep copies of paperwork relating to treatments and illnesses, although your doctor and hospital should have them, you may need immediate access to them.

If you are entitled to a medical exemption certificate, keep it safe and remember to renew it every 5 years.

If you travel abroad and have an E111 European Health Insurance Card, keep it safe and don’t forget to renewal it every 3 – 5 years.

Private Medical Health (see Insurance documentation)

Insurance documentation:

No matter what insurance cover you might have, you need to keep your schedules and policy wordings for the current year until renewal.

Should you change insurance providers, always keep the previous insurer’s schedule as proof of cover in the event of a claim arising after the inception of the new policym, but relating to the period of the previous policy such as subsidence.

Life and endowment policies should be kept until death or maturity as applicable.

Income and Tax related documentation:

Although the HRMC advise you keep them for 22 months after the end of the tax year, to be on the safe side you should keep documentation relating to income, such as wages (part 1 of a P45, P60’s and P11D’s) benefits (Job Seekers allowance, SSP, Maternity/paternity/adoption leave and other Social Security benefits), share dividends, rental income, trust income and inheritance for the current year plus 6 years as this is the furthest back that the Tax Man can go.

Personal finance documentation:

As per income and tax related documentation, it is best to keep bank, credit card & loans statements for the current year plus 6 years.

Statements relating to your Mortgage should be kept until the mortgage is paid off.

Remember to check your statements regularly in order to spot any fraudulent activity.

Warranties and receipts:

Warranties should be kept for the validity period. (also see insurance documentation)

Important receipts for purchases of jewellery or large /expensive items or work carried out should be kept for a minimum of the current year, plus 6 years in case proof of purchase is required in the event of an insurance claim or required by the Tax Man.

Utility bills:

It is worth keeping them for a year so you can see what you actually used during that period and to help in getting alternative quotes from other providers.

Other important documentation:

Property title deeds and vehicle titles need to be kept until such time as you sell the property/vehicle.

Employment contracts should be kept until you leave that particular employment.

Keep share certificates until they are sold.

Things to consider:

You should consider purchasing a fire and waterproof, lockable document storage box to keep your most important paper documents in.

As a greater number of companies go paperless, we can readily access and retain more documentation online, however, in this instance you should always keep a backup either in the cloud or in a storage unit that is kept away from the premises.

 

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and advice can differ, if in doubt it is always best to err on the side of caution.

 

Coming up in Part Two: How to store your important documentation securely online.

Home Matters: Renovating Your Home. A room under renovations

Home Matters: Renovating Your Home

Did You Know?

When undertaking a remodelling project, people often forget to review their insurance needs too. Whether your renovation budget is large or small, you are adding to the value of your home and increasing your exposure to risk. To ensure that your project goes smoothly and that you have the appropriate cover you need, here is what you need to know.

Renovating Your Home

Home renovations can be a daunting, yet rewarding undertaking. However, before you or the contractors raise any tools to begin renovations, you should review your home insurance policy. The reason for this is that your policy may not cover renovations; therefore, any damages that occur during the process may not be covered.

In fact, 50 percent of homeowners are unaware that not only do they need to advise their home insurer of any potential building works but that if they were to carry out the works, their policy may be invalidated.

When you alert your home insurer of your impending renovations, you must also specify whether you are the one managing the renovations or if they are being handled by contractors. What kind of insurance you need will depend on who is responsible for the renovations. For example, even if you are conducting the renovations yourself, you should purchase public liability insurance to provide cover in the event that you cause injury or damage to your neighbour’s property or other third parties.

Regardless of who is conducting the renovations, you should provide your home insurer with the following information:

– The timescale for the work—including a start and end date
– The cost of the project
– A thorough outline of the project
– Names of the individuals conducting the renovations

General Home Renovation Guidance

In addition to contacting your home insurance provider, here are four pieces of general guidance to consider before you begin your home renovation:

1. Set a hard budget.
2. Research contractors.
3. Organise a storage plan for your furniture and possessions.
4. Install temporary security devices—such as locks and motion-sensor
lights.

defaqto

What is a Defaqto Star Rated Insurance Policy?

No doubt you have heard the word ‘Defaqto’ before and maybe wondered what it actually means? Hopefully, this will help explain in brief for you:

What is Defaqto?

Defaqto is an independent financial research company that specialises in analysing financial products and rating such products for consumers. Every year they research hundreds of different products on the market to help consumers determine how good a product is.

Defaqto uses criteria to determine ‘Star Ratings’ based on their own views of which features are likely to be important in helping the consumer decide which products they need.

The star rating which is used is a simple process, the higher the Star Rating, the more comprehensive a product will be. Products rated 1 Star are a basic product, with a low level of features and benefits, while 5 Star products provide the highest level of cover with a comprehensive range of features and benefits, and must meet additional minimum criteria in certain areas to achieve a 5-star rating.

The best way to look at this would be to compare this to booking a holiday; if you were to go to a 1 star rated hotel, for instance, this hotel would be very basic, a no frills hotel where as a 5-star hotel will be a luxury hotel with many facilities. In Insurance terms, this would generally work in the same way and the higher the star rating the better the product is.

How important is Defaqto in insurance terms?

Once you have found a premium and product check the Defaqto rating, if it is low then be aware that you are buying a basic product and it may therefore not fit your demands and needs. This may be the reason why this particular premium is lower than the others.

If you go through an insurance broker, your broker will check all of these things for you and will point out differences in premiums and policy terms and conditions for you taking away any uncertainty that you may be having.

Defaqto doesn’t only cover insurance, however; it can cover banking, credit cards, current accounts and investments.

Protect Your Holiday Home This Winter

Protect Your Holiday Home This Winter

According to industry research, about one-third of UK holiday homeowners have the wrong insurance—mistakenly believing that a main residence policy will cover their holiday home. Holiday homes are often used differently than main residences, and thus require bespoke cover to protect against specific holiday home risks such as letting homes to others.

As the holiday season comes to an end, prudent holiday homeowners prepare their second homes for the winter. Yet, even diligent seasonal maintenance will not protect your home from all potential risks. Most home policies do not include cover for holiday homes and deem them as too risky, since owners leave them unattended for months at a time, exposing them to theft, damage, potential loss of rental income and more. The only guaranteed way to protect your holiday home is by purchasing bespoke insurance.

Holiday Home Insurance

Holiday home insurance should cover the cost of rebuilding (which is not the same as the market value) and cover the specific ways in which you use the property, such as letting it to tenants. Make sure your bespoke holiday home insurance includes the following:

Building insurance: In addition to the main property, this provides cover for outbuildings, swimming pools, tennis courts, etc.

Contents insurance: This provides cover for the personal effects of your home.

Liability cover: This provides cover in the event that a guest, gardener or seasonal tenant is injured on the property.

Maintenance Tasks

Along with purchasing robust,bespoke cover, perform the following maintenance before winter to ensure your holiday home stays safe:

Turn off the utilities: Turn off the water and gas, and unplug all electronic devices. If your home has an electric heater, set the temperature to at least 12 degrees Celsius.

Winterise the home’s pipes and exterior: Ensure that all the waterlines are drained and the pipes are properly insulated. Inspect the seals around windows and doors for any leaks, and have the gutters inspected and cleaned.

Lock up valuables: Perform maintenance on vehicles before securely locking them away. Additionally, store any valuables away from windows.

Schedule lawn maintenance: Have any nearby trees trimmed, any garden tools securely stored and the lawn mowed.

Activate security devices: Make sure the home is fitted with security devices such as alarms and window locks to deter theft.

Each holiday home is unique, making bespoke cover a vital piece of protection. For more information on protecting your holiday home, contact Brownhill Insurance Group at 020 8658 4334 today.

A close up of a cup off coffee being held by someone wearing thick grey wool gloves

Protecting Your Home this Winter

Every year numerous accidents and millions of pounds worth of damage are caused by the colder weather. By planning ahead and taking some basic precautions, the effects of the damage can be minimised or averted altogether.

How to be prepared

Have a ‘charged’ torch to hand in case of a power cut or emergency during the night.

Keep a note of reputable contractors or insurance claims line numbers to call in a convenient spot.

Ingress of water, storm damage, flood, and damp

Particular attention should be paid to the maintenance of flat roofs and repairing of loose tiles.

Keep guttering and downpipe hoppers clear of leaves to avoid a back up under the tiles causing ingress of water.

Trees should be inspected annually and remedial action taken where necessary. All work should be carried out in compliance with BS3998.

Attention should be paid to the maintenance of boundary walls and fencing.

In the event of high winds, secure or store items such as garden furniture and dustbins.

Be aware of severe weather warnings http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings

Observe the amount of snow fall on roofs such as conservatories and if safe to do so, clear before the amount can reach unsafe levels.

Clear pathways of snow before it becomes compounded, use grit salt or sand to stop it freezing over.

If you are in a flood area, sign up for emergency flood alerts https://fwd.environment-agency.gov.uk

Consider investing in flood defences such as sandbags or flood barrier.

Keep damp course line clear of soil and plants.

Remove climbing plants that cause damage to the brickwork and pointing; such as ivy.

Avoid condensation by allowing air to circulate, invest in installing air blocks or using small portable dehumidifiers.

Burst Pipes

Know where the main (in the street) and subsidiary (within your home) water stopcocks are and check that they are in working order.

Have your boiler and central heating annually serviced?

Lag your pipes and water tanks to BS6700, include any outdoor drainage and condensation pipes to protect the boiler.

Repair dripping taps & faulty ball valves to avoid frozen pipes.

For unoccupied properties or during extreme cold conditions, leave your thermostat on low.

If you have one, leave the loft hatch open to allow heat to rise and avoid frozen pipes in the loft space.

Fire or Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Install a smoke alarm and invest in a small fire extinguisher and fire blanket.

If you have an open fire, have your chimney cleaned annually and use a fire guard.

Do not dry clothes indoors near bar fires or naked flames.

Use surge protectors on electronic equipment.

Bonfires and fireworks should be a safe distance away from buildings and fences.

Install a carbon monoxide alarm.

Security

Ensure you always lock your windows and doors when you are away from the property or asleep at night.

Don’t leave keys or handbags near the front door; burglars poke long poles with hooks through letter boxes.

Purchase a timer to turn your lights on and off to give the impression someone is at home.

Don’t advertise that you are away on social media.

With Christmas around the corner don’t leave presents under the tree on view from windows.

Consider investing in an alarm.

Keep side/rear gates locked.

Don’t leave items lying around outside that can be used to break in such as ladders.

Car

Ensure your vehicle has an annual service and MOT.

Check your tyres for wear and ensure your lights are working.

Check your fuel, oil and water levels adding antifreeze/coolant.

Don’t be caught out by the weather; the following items should be carried in your boot; dry food & bottled water, thermal blanket, snow shovel, hi viz jacket, torch, first aid kit, warning triangle.

Although added weight in the boot uses more fuel, it aids grip and helps avoid skidding whilst driving in ice and snow.

Adhere to the advice given by the emergency services and do not travel unless absolutely necessary.

Whether by car, public transport or on foot, if travelling in inclement weather, wrap up, take extra care, carry a fully charged mobile and always tell someone where you are going.

Water leak

Turn off the subsidiary stopcock and turn on all taps in the house including flushing the toilet to drain the system as quickly as possible and call a plumber.

Never use a naked flame to thaw frozen pipes

Gas leak

Open all windows and doors

Turn off all cooking appliances. Extinguish all cigarettes/cigars/pipes. Call your gas company’s emergency number

Never light a naked flame or turn on any electrical switches

Police car with police tape in the foreground stating 'Police line do not cross'

The Invisible Property Protection System

Not to be confused with the drink, Smartwater is an innovative forensic marking system used to mark property in an attempt to reduce burglaries.

Invented in 1993 by Phil Cleary; a former West Midlands police officer and his brother Mike Cleary; a chartered chemist operating out of their garage, they have grown to an internationally recognised multi-million-pound business with over 50 employees with offices in Europe, North and South America.

This invisible, inorganic, non-hazardous solution contains a unique forensic code that is viewed under UV light and is virtually impossible to remove and is either painted or sprayed on.

Smartwater is currently being trialled in homes throughout the UK with a number of residents in higher risk areas being given a kit for free. Smartwater can safely be used on any surface whether it is personal belongings, business equipment, art, cultural antiquities, war memorials and even casino chips and cash machines.

With millions of combinations available, the same code is never repeated or manufactured twice. The code along with details of the item and personal contact information is kept at Smartwater offices on an offline secure database.

Just a drop the size of a speck of dust can be analysed and used to trace items, reunite property with the owners and link suspects to crime scenes up to 5 years after application.

Used in connection with warning notices, SmartWater is a proven deterrent against criminals.

Why shouldn’t I use a UV pen?

It essentially does the same thing doesn’t it I hear you ask, unfortunately, there are drawbacks to using a UV pen, firstly they can only be used if there is a large enough surface on which to write your name & postcode, secondly there is nothing stopping a thief from just crossing out your details with another UV pen!

For further information: www.smartwater.com

A black matte surface with an open wallet the top left corn revealing 6 credit cards. Font is written over the top of image stating 'Your Rights'

Your Rights: Credit Card Protection

Here is the second edition of our ‘Your Rights’ series where we inform you of your legal rights as a consumer.

Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974; an important but forgotten by many UK law.

Pay in part or full for something in person or online (in the UK or for delivery from overseas) costing between £100 and £30,000 on your credit card or store card and the card provider becomes equally liable with the retailer, airline or supplier if something goes wrong.

Some typical examples of purchasing:

• a sofa from a shop that goes into administration before delivery
• a picture from overseas that never arrives
• a washing machine and finding it faulty

Please note that transactions need to be made directly and NOT via a third party such as a travel agent or Pay Pal.

Should the entire bill or the item cost over £100?

The law as it stands pertains to the single cash value of a single item (so excluding any delivery charges etc)

Some helpful examples:

• If you purchase matching jewellery for £125 but the earrings, necklace and bracelet are all individually priced then you aren’t covered. However, if it is sold as a complete set then you are.
• If you purchase flights direct from an airline which is offered/advertised as an outbound flight for £89 and return flight for £19.99, while the total is over £100, neither individual ticket is over £100 so your are not covered. It would need to be sold as a single amount for a return journey to qualify.

As long as it costs more than £100, by paying even a fraction on a credit card, you’re protected.

For further information: www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/section-75-of-the-consumer-credit-act

What if you are unlucky enough to have a problem?

Try and contact the retailer or supplier, if they are being unhelpful, it may prove easier for you to go to your card provider and make a claim. Remember credit card companies have deeper pockets than small firms who will always make it difficult for you to get your money back especially if you are after a large amount of money.

In the unlikely event that your credit provider won’t help and you feel that you have a valid claim then contact the Financial Ombudsman to make a complaint.

For further information: www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/pay-it-safe/index

Section 75a – Purchases above £30,000 on finance

With an upper limit of £60,260, for a purchase to be covered, the finance must be linked directly to an item so there is a clear relationship between the finance and the item purchased.

For example:

• A £50,650 sports car wouldn’t be covered if you’d used a credit card or taken out a personal loan as you could have used those to buy anything, however; a loan taken out with the dealership which was specifically for the car would.

There is a difference when it comes to complaining, under Section 75, you can complain to either the retailer/supplier or the credit provider as both are equally liable BUT under Section 75a, you need to have exhausted all attempts to get retribution from the retailer or supplier BEFORE you take your claim to the credit provider.

But what if I paid by a debit card?

Although not covered by Section 75, “Chargeback” is part of Scheme Rules that participating banks subscribe to and lets you ask your card provider to reverse a transaction.

The rule applies to all debit cards (please note that conditions may differ between cards) and is useful for items purchased on credit cards that fall below the £100 requirement of Section 75.

Where Chargeback differs is that there is no joint liability, your bank contacts the retailers or supplier’s bank to request the refund, there is no guarantee that the money can be recovered.

Conditions:

• You must prove that the retailer or supplier was in breach of contract, for example, the goods purchased did not arrive.

• There is a time limit of usually 120 days.
For airline tickets purchased where the company has gone bust, this starts from the date the flight was due.
For goods purchased in person or online the time starts from when you received your goods.

But what if I paid by Pay Pal?

If you use your debit or credit card to top up your Pay Pal account, it is the loading of your card that is counted as the transaction.

A tip is to check you Pay Pal account and ensure that there is a nil balance so that the amount debited from your card goes straight to the seller and matches the item purchased thus showing a direct line of purchase.

Pay Pal have their own payment protection both for the buyer (If an eligible online purchase doesn’t match the seller’s description or fails to turn up, you will be reimbursed for the full amount of the item including p&p) and the seller (If an unauthorised fraudulent payment is received or it’s claimed that a purchased item does not arrive, they will be reimbursed for the full amount of eligible sales)

For more information: www.paypal.com/uk/webapps/mpp/paypal-safety-and-security

Blue sky with pink cloud and the silhouette of an aeroplane flying overhead. Text on left hand said reads 'Your Rights'

Your Rights: Can You Claim Compensation for A Flight Delay

Welcome to our first feature in our ongoing blog series titled ‘Your Rights’ where we inform you of your legal rights as a consumer.

In October 2012 the European Court of Justice ruled that passengers were entitled to compensation for cancelled or overbooked flights and delays over 3 hours.

To be covered, your flight must be either:

• Arriving at a European airport and operated by a European airline
• Departing from a European airport and operated by any airline (European airports include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland)

If your flight is delayed for more than 2 hours, you are legally entitled to:

• Meals and refreshments
• 2 free telephone calls or emails
• Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight
• Transport between the accommodation and airport

If your flight is delayed for over 3 hours:

• All of the above plus:
• Entitlement to compensation if the delay is the airline’s responsibility

Examples of delays that are the airline’s responsibility:

• The flight is overbooked
• The flight is cancelled because of too few bookings
• Mechanical fault
• Staffing issues

Examples of delays beyond the airline’s control:

• Extreme weather (snow, hurricanes, tornadoes etc)
• Major incidents (e.g. earthquake, volcanic eruptions, fire, flood, terrorist attacks/alerts, viral outbreak)
• Strikes
• Closure of the airport
• Government advice not to fly

Claim compensation:

Compensation depends on the length of the delay and the flight distance up to 600 Euros.

For a full list of compensation rates please see www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/holiday-cancellations-and-compensation/if-your-flights-delayed-or-cancelled

Should your flight be delayed for over 5 hours it doesn’t matter whose responsibility the delay is

If you DON’T take the flight you are legally entitled to:

• Meals and refreshments
• 2 free telephone calls or emails
• Accommodation if you’re delayed overnight
• Transport between the accommodation and airport
• A full refund for the flight
• A full refund for missed connecting or return flights
• If you are part way through a journey, the option of returning to your original departure airport.

If you DO take the flight you are legally entitled to:

• All of the above including:
• Entitlement to compensation if the delay is the airlines responsibility

If the flight is cancelled you have the legal right to either:

• The same as if your flight is delayed more than 2 hours
• A replacement flight to your booked destination
• You are entitled to compensation if you would be delayed for more than 2 hours by the offered replacement flight and is the airlines responsibility
OR
• A full refund including connecting or return flights

What you cannot claim for:

Unreasonable expenses such as booking into a hotel of your own choosing, expensive meals and drinks, telephone calls and entertainment.

It is also very unlikely for the airline to pay for the added expense of you abandoning your flight and making your own arrangements to get home.

Making a claim:

Contact the customer services department of the airline who actually operated the flight. Have all your flight details and booking reference numbers to hand. Make detailed notes of your conversation.

Write to them outlining what went wrong and what you are claiming. The Civil Aviation Authority website www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems has information on how to write a claims letter or alternatively you can download a letter template from Which website www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/letter/letter-to-request-compensation-for-cancelled-flights Remember to only include copies (not originals) of your tickets and expense receipts (keeping a copy of your claim for your records).

If you don’t feel you are getting the compensation you are entitled to:

You can take your issue up with Civil Aviation Authority.

(To download or read articles 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 which appertain to this article go to www.flight-delayed.co.uk/regulation-ec-no-2612004 )

Travel Insurance:

Don’t let cancellations, delays, medical emergencies, loss or damage to belongings ruin your trip, whether you are travelling within the UK and Europe or to the far ends of the earth contact us for comprehensive single or annual travel insurance.

Airbnb

Does Your Insurance Cover You When Renting

Renting your property, by either buying a 2nd home and renting it out for weekends or renting your main residence out on an ad hoc basis can have serious implications on your home insurance.

Handing your keys over to someone who is not a member of your household could lead to your insurance cover being void.

Using a house renting facility such as Airbnb is a good idea if you are looking to make some extra cash, but you must always make sure your insurance company are aware of this material fact. If you are paying your insurance and haven’t informed your insurance company you could find yourself uninsured. Your policy could be made void as well as a potential claim not being paid.

You should always make your insurance company aware of any material fact which may affect the terms of your insurance. This can be anything from changing your occupation to renting your property. Whether it is for a weekend or on a permanent basis, they need to know.

Airbnb Host Guarantee

Sites like Airbnb will provide you with a Host Guarantee. Do not confuse this as a replacement for your insurance policy, it is just a back-up. Inform your insurance company immediately of your intention, if they are unable to continue your cover under your original contract they may be able to offer you an alternative. If they decide not to continue to insure you, do not worry as there are companies that will offer reasonable premiums with correct terms and conditions for your specific needs. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry, especially when it comes to insuring your property and worldly possessions.

Brownhill Insurance Group are happy to get you the correct cover. Please call us for a quotation on 020 8658 4334 or contact us here.

A white wall with a CCTV camera in the top left facing slightly downward towards the bottom right corner of the image

Home CCTV – Do You Know The Law?

If you protect your property by using Close Circuit Television (CCTV), it is important to know that the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has ruled that household CCTV systems that film beyond the boundary of the property – such as the street or onto a neighbouring property, must now be registered.

Using CCTV or associated recording equipment on your own property will be exempt from the Data Protection Act, unless you are recording images or taking footage which falls outside the boundaries of your property.

The ICO recommends that you use your CCTV equipment in a responsible way, such as not pointing the camera directly into your neighbours house or property. You need to respect and protect the privacy of others, otherwise you could be liable for prosecution under the Data protection Act.

If you are considering installing a CCTV camera to protect your home you may wish to consider the following:

  • Are you able to put up signs showing that CCTV is in operation?
  • Is it necessary for your camera to show images beyond the boundaries of your home?
  • Make sure the equipment won’t be misused or misinterpreted
  • You should be able to speak to your neighbours; make sure they are okay with it should the imagery fall on their land
  • Are you ok with having to register your CCTV and pay a premium to do so
  • Are you willing to share images with the police should they ask for them
  • If you have CCTV remember that anyone seen on this footage or footage of their property can request a copy of your footage under the Data Protection Act

CCTV is becoming more and more common among home owners. Before you start your own CCTV installation, make sure you know your rights and the rights of others.

To register your CCTV go to: www.ico.org.uk/registration/cctv

The registration takes around 10 minutes to complete and there will be a charge involved, so remember to have your debit or credit card handy.