Every Christmas the club I belong to has a raffle to collect money for a charity.
There are only small amounts involved and I sell the tickets, collect the money, hand out a few small donated prizes and give the rest of the money to the charity. This year we've had a row because a new group member says what we're doing is against the law. What's the situation?
While what you're doing may not be strictly within the rules, there are probably thousands of small groups around the UK doing the same thing at this time of year, blissfully unaware that there could be rules to follow. Under the Gambling Act 2005, a raffle is considered to be a lottery and must be run in accordance with the law so your new group member may be right. Tombolas and sweepstakes are also lotteries. But whether or not you're breaking the law depends on the figures involved and when you sell the tickets and draw the prizes.
The law says you need a licence if your lottery makes more than £20,000 – or if you have them regularly and they make more than £250,000 over the year. It doesn't sound like your raffle falls into that money bracket. It sounds to me to be what's called an incidental non-commercial lottery. These are held at non-commercial events, such as school fetes. All the sales and the draw must take place during the main event, which may last more than one day. The prizes mustn't come to more than £500 in total and no more than £100 can be spent on expenses.
At these kinds of events where any money raised isn't for private gain, you can run a non-commercial lottery without a licence. However, to be on the safe side, and because you haven't given me all the details, check this out at the Gambling Commission website: gamblingcommission.gov.uk Click on "lotteries" on the left hand side. There's no "raffle" heading which might partly explain why many people don't realise that a raffle might come under the gambling rules. The other point is how you donate the money. If you give over the money as a personal donation it attracts tax relief under the Gift Aid scheme, but money collected through a raffle from which you could benefit (if you won a prize) may not. You can get more information from HM Revenue and Customs (hmrc.gov.uk).
I have been caring for my husband for the past year and a friend has suggested that I might be entitled to some financial help. I don't like to ask and because we're married perhaps I don't qualify, but he's been diagnosed with early onset dementia and can't work. I've had to go part- time so our income has gone down considerably. I'm worried it may get to the stage where I won't be able to work at all. Do you think my friend is right?
What I suspect your friend was talking about is carer's allowance. It is £53.90 a week and is paid to anyone over 16 who cares for someone else for more than 35 hours a week. Being married to the person you're caring for doesn't disqualify you. So you should apply.
I also think that you need an adviser to go through your finances with you because you might be entitled to more benefits. Carers on low incomes can qualify for help with the rent and council tax or means-tested income support. Carers UK has an advice line on 0808 808 7777 or try your local Citizens Advice Bureau; you'll find the details in the phone book. You say your husband has early onset dementia so I'm assuming he's not yet 65, but if I'm wrong, he might be entitled to attendance allowance too. An adviser will help you claim anything you're entitled to.
I had some building work done and paid the builder, but a few weeks later it became clear that the work wasn't well done. He refused to put it right and I sued in the county court. The judge ordered him to pay me £1,000 but he hasn't paid up. I know he's still in business as I see his van around. People say he probably hasn't got the money and if I try to make him pay I'll be throwing good money after bad, but until he pays me I can't afford to get it fixed.
Even if he owns the van and his tools there's always the chance that he has no savings or other assets and so can't pay you. You may not be the only person he owes money to. In the current climate there are many people whose businesses are struggling to stay afloat. If that's the situation, paying for the judgment to be enforced could be a waste.
Try to find out as much as you can about his financial position. You have the option to pay for bailiffs to be sent to seize goods belonging to him. They would then be sold to cover your debt plus the court fee. The goods are usually sold at auction and don't make a lot so it would mean him losing a lot of goods. He won't want that and so may pay up. You could ask the court for an order to freeze any assets he has in a bank account or asking for a charging order on his home if he owns it. In that case you'd get your money when the house was sold. Because he owes you more than £750 you could issue a statutory demand in bankruptcy. This gives him 21 days in which to respond or you will take steps to make him bankrupt. You might not get your money back if he doesn't own enough assets, but the threat of being made bankrupt may make him act. If he is made bankrupt, the judge is likely to let him keep the tools of his trade because he needs to go on working to clear his debts. There may also be other people to whom he owes money.
You could ask for the builder to be called into court for an order to obtain information about the state of his finances. And you could consider passing the debt to a debt collection agency. A solicitor's letter threatening the next step – bailiffs and or bankruptcy – might be enough. See insolvency.gov.uk for more details.
Do you have a consumer complaint?
Write to Julian Knight at The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF