Consumer rights: What should I do if I can't afford to keep up with loan repayments?

A lender threatens to repossess a debtor's car because of missing payments / The change in pension rules takes some people by surprise


I got behind with my bills earlier this year and was in danger of having the gas and electricity cut off. In the end, I took out a loan so that I could clear them.

The problem now is that I can't keep up with the repayments on that loan which seem to be rising instead of going down and the company is threatening to take my car. I live in the country and without a car it will be impossible to get to work on time as there are few buses, meaning I could lose my job. The stress of it is making me ill so I am afraid I could lose my job for taking too much time off. Can I get any help to pay off the loan?

SJ

Via email

I don't think there's a magical solution for paying off the loan unless you have family or friends who are willing to cough up, although you may find there are charities or local trusts offering support to certain sectors of society, such as ex-military personnel. If you fall into this category, it would be worthwhile having a look online for organisations to approach.

You are specific that the car is the thing that will be taken if the repayments aren't cleared. I wonder whether you took out what's known as a "log book loan". This is a loan that is secured against the value of your car, whereby you have agreed that if you don't keep up the repayments, the company is entitled to take your car and registration document. Whether the company can legally seize the car will depend on whether all the paperwork is in order; some of these companies don't follow the correct procedures and the agreement could be void. The loan will be increasing because of charges and interest added each time you fail to make the full repayment.

Get help straight away from an independent financial adviser with experience in debt management. If you can't get to an office to see an adviser, call the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 (Advice4debtNI on 0800 917 4607 or www.advice 4debtNI.com if you're in Northern Ireland). Alternatively, make an appointment with your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau. (You will be able to find the address in your local phone book.) Before going, ask the loan company for a complete breakdown of the fees, charges and amounts you have already paid and bring that to your meeting with a copy of the agreement you signed. If I'm wrong and you don't have a log book loan and your loan isn't secured against the car, the company cannot take it without a court order.

In the meantime, try talking to your bosses to explain what is worrying you. Even if they can't help they'll understand why you're ill. Just having that conversation might make you feel better and mean you don't need to take so much time off.

I'm nearly 58 and assumed I'd be able to retire at 60 and take my state pension. My employer says he can't make people leave at 60 so I can stay on, but if I do leave I won't get my state pension until later because of changes to the pension rules. Am I going to have to work longer?

DR

Via email

As you're talking about taking your state pension at 60, I assume you're female. The rules about state pensions changed in April. Currently, the state pension age for men is 65. On 6 April 2010, the state pension age for women started to increase gradually from 60 to 65, to match men's. As I don't know your date of birth I've taken a couple of informed guesses. If you were born on 5 December 1952 you would be able to claim your state pension on 6 July 2015 aged 62 years, seven months. If you were born on 29 March 1953, you would be able to claim your pension aged 62 years, 11 months on 6 March 2016. To get an exact date, visit www.direct. gov.uk. You'll also find details there of how to get a state pension forecast which tells you how much you'll be entitled to.

There may be further changes to pension rules in the future. Earlier this month, the Government proposed that the state pension age for men and women should start to increase from December 2018, potentially reaching age 66 by April 2020. If this becomes law, it will mean that women's state pension age will increase more quickly to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018.

It is true that your employer can't make you leave when you turn 60, but as you won't be able to get your state pension until you're 62, you may want to go on working. You haven't mentioned whether you have an occupational pension and this will be a consideration when deciding on your retirement age. If you have paid into a scheme run by your employer, ask what age that will start to pay out. If it pays out from 60 you will need to take the amount you would get from that scheme into consideration when you make your decision about whether or not to leave. Don't forget any other pensions you may have paid into if you've worked for other employers.

www.moneyagonyaunt.com

Do you have a consumer complaint?

Write to Julian Knight at The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF

j.knight@independent.co.uk

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