Citizens Advice provides free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities.
They help with issues relating to money, benefits, housing, employment and consumer rights.
They can be contacted online (click on the logo to the left of this text), face to face (they are based in numerous places across the region), over the phone(via telephone number 03444 111 444) or via webchat.
In case of an emergency, ring 999, and depending on your need ask for either:
Emergency services in the UK are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are free of charge.
Medical emergencies that would require you to ring 999 include serious illness and/or major injury that is a risk to life or limb.
If you are in need of urgent healthcare advice, but it is not a life-threatening illness, you are advised to either ring NHS 111, visit a local NHS walk-in centre, urgent care centre or minor injuries unit or to make your own way to your local accident and emergency (A+E) department.
For less urgent healthcare needs, you should consider: self-care at home; contacting your local pharmacist; or visiting or calling your GP.
The NHS 111 service is provided by a team of fully trained staff advisers who will assess your symptoms and then direct you accordingly. They may provide you with self-care advice; connect you to an emergency nurse, dentist or GP; arrange for you to be seen face to face; or send an ambulance directly if they feel it is necessary.
Finding a place to live
When looking for a property, whether to rent or buy, there are a number of online sites available to make the search a little easier. Commonly used sites include: Zoopla, Rightmove and Prime Location, although there are a number of other sites available. The North East also has numerous high street estate agents who can help you identify whether you would like to buy or rent a property, where in the region you would like to live and the size/type of property you are looking for.
The process of buying a property in the UK normally takes 2-3 months, although this can be longer if the property is part of a chain of buyers and sellers.
There are a number of ways in which to buy a property. You can buy through an estate agent or an auction; or you can buy directly from a private seller.
Properties in the North East are among some of the cheapest in the country with the average cost of a house being £140,000 (157,000 Euro or $193,000) and of a flat being £110,000 (123,000 Euro or $152,000). Before beginning your property search, it would be advisable to work out what you can afford to spend. You will need to have enough money to cover the deposit on the property, the mortgage fee and monthly mortgage repayments, solicitor, survey and search fees and Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). Also be aware that when buying a flat it would be prudent to find out what the service charge is - this is an amount of money that is paid either monthly/quarterly in addition to your mortgage. The service charge is used to maintain the building the flat is in and the surrounding grounds.
When buying a property that has a value of more than £125,000, and that is not your first home, you are usually expected to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). The rate of Stamp Duty that you pay is dependent on the purchase price of the property. More information on Stamp Duty can be found here. If the property is your first home, and valued at £300,000 or less, you do not have to pay Stamp Duty.
The majority of people who buy a house do so through using a mortgage.
A mortgage is a predetermined and agreed amount of money loaned to a buyer by an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA), mortgage broker or lender. The amount of money lent is repaid over a set period of time and with a particular rate of interest. There is typically a fee associated with arranging a mortgage, although this can usually be incorporated in to the mortgage repayments.
In order to secure a mortgage, a buyer will need a good credit score as well as a lump sum of money called a deposit. This deposit amount is usually 10% of the property's total value. Help to Buy schemes that are available to those buying a new build home may only require a 5% deposit.
An offer on a property can be made either verbally or in writing and is usually done so through an estate agent. It is not legally binding in England and Wales until contracts have been exchanged. Once an offer on a property is made, it is the responsibility of the seller to draw up the contract of sale. This is a legal contract required for ownership of the property to be transferred and is usually done through a solicitor or conveyancer. As a buyer, it is advisable to have the contract checked by your own solicitor - this will require a fee to be paid. The contract will contain the following details:
- Sale price
- Property boundaries
- Fixtures and fittings that are included (e.g. carpets, curtains, kitchen units etc.)
- Any legal restrictions or rights like public footpaths
- Planning restrictions
- Services to the property like drainage and gas
- When the sale will complete
Whilst the contract of sale is being drawn up, it is advised that you arrange for a property survey to be completed to check for problems that might affect the cost of the property. At the same time, your solicitor will submit searches to the local council, on your behalf, to check whether there are any planning or local issues that might affect the property's value. Both the survey and the searches will require a fee to be paid. It is important to complete these checks as the results may mean that you need to renegotiate the price of the property prior to signing the contract so that allowances can be made in order to cover the cost of any repairs or alterations that are required.
When both the buyer and seller are happy with the contract, both sides will sign a final copy and send them to each other via their respective solicitors. Once this happens, the agreement to sell and buy is legally binding and neither party can pull out without paying an amount of monetary compensation. Once the contracts have been exchanged, buildings insurance will need to be in place to cover the structure of the property.
The buyer is then expected to transfer the money for the cost of the property to the seller (via the solicitor's account; never through private bank accounts) in exchange for the legal documents needed for transfer of ownership. You will then pay any outstanding solicitor's bill prior to the solicitors registering the sale with Land Registry. The seller then hands over the keys to the property and the property then belongs to the buyer. If the property you have bought qualifies for Stamp Duty, you will have 30 days from the completion of the sale in which to pay it. Your solicitor, however, usually arranges this for you.
Removal companies can be useful if you require help moving your belongings and typically cost between £300 and £600. Alternatively, if you need to store your belongings somewhere prior to moving there are also a number of storage facilities available in the region.
As with buying, there is more than one way with which to find a rental property. This can be done via an estate/letting agent, online (using Zoopla, Rightmove etc.), or privately. If you intend to rent directly from the landlord (i.e. privately), ensure that they belong to an accreditation scheme. Your local authority can advise you about accreditation schemes operating in your area. If you decide to rent a property through an estate/letting agent you will be charged certain fees and costs. These will be declared by the agent prior to you agreeing to their services.
Property types that you can rent include houses, bungalows, flats/apartments and rooms in shared houses/a house of multiple occupancy (HMO). This is normally a private bedroom with a shared bathroom, kitchen and living area. The number of tenants in the house will vary.
It is advisable, as it is when buying a property, to view rented accommodation prior to making a decision and/or signing any contract or agreement.
Many landlords have certain rules attached to renting their property. This includes rules about children, smoking and pets. Be sure to check if there are any such rules as it may be that certain rules will impact on your choice of property. Similarly, be sure to check who is responsible for paying the bills associated with the property. This includes gas, electricity, water, council tax and internet services. Some tenancy agreements include these bills in the monthly rental cost.
Once you have identified a property that you would like to rent, you will need to confirm your identity with the landlord and/or agent acting on behalf of the landlord. They will likely want to know your immigration status, your credit history and your employment status. Some landlords may also ask for someone to act as your guarantor in order for the tenancy agreement to proceed. A guarantor ensures rent continues to be paid to the landlord in the case that the tenant is unable to pay.
You will then be presented with a written tenancy agreement. The most common form of tenancy is called an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Typically, tenancy agreements are fixed for a period of time. This is usually a minimum of 6 months, but more commonly 12 months. You can ask the landlord for a longer period of tenancy if this is desired. Occasionally, a landlord will also agree to a shorter term of let, however this is not normally less than 3 months.
It is important that you read the tenancy agreement carefully and we would advise that you get legal advice if you are unsure of any terms before signing an agreement. You can also seek guidance from gov.uk or Citizens Advice.
A tenancy agreement should include:
- The names of all the people involved in the tenancy
- The rental price and how it will be paid
- Information on how and when the rent will be reviewed
- The deposit amount and how it will be protected by the landlord
- Details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (for example to repair damage caused by the tenant)
- The property address
- The start and end date of the tenancy
- Any tenant or landlord obligations
- An outline of bills you are responsible for
It can also include information on:
- Whether the tenancy can be ended early and how this can be done
- Who’s responsible for minor repairs (other than those that the landlord is legally responsible for)
- Whether the property can be let to someone else (sublet) or have lodgers
If the landlord asks for a deposit, and prior to signing a tenancy agreement, be sure to ask about deposit protection by a government approved scheme. The landlord should provide deposit paperwork that details the scheme they use and how you get your money back at the end of the tenancy.
If the property is furnished, an inventory should also be provided by the landlord. This lists the items already in the property at the time of renting and the condition they are in. It will be referred to at the end of the tenancy agreement and money will be taken from the deposit to replace or repair any items that have been taken or damaged during the tenancy.
Once you are happy with the agreement, you can sign it. You will then be given a copy of it for future reference along with the keys to the property.
For further information about renting a property, the responsibilities of the landlord and the responsibilities of you as a tenant, please visit gov.uk.
Some of the hospitals in the North East offer on site, or near site, accommodation for staff. This is typically paid for on a monthly basis, and taken directly from the person’s salary. However, this type of accommodation is not universally offered, or available. Therefore, to find out if hospital accommodation is available at your place of work, and to get more information if you are interested in staying in such accommodation, contact the hospital directly via switchboard.
When buying or renting a property, it is important that you have the right protection in place in case something should go wrong resulting in damage or destruction to either your property or the possessions housed in the property. Home insurance is a type of insurance product that provides this protection.
There are 2 main types of home insurance:
- Buildings insurance – this covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your property and includes walls, windows, roof, bathroom suites and fitted kitchens. It typically insures your home in case of fire, storm, flood, subsidence, burst pipes, theft and falling trees. Accidental damage, normal wear and tear and any legal expenses occurred are not typically covered and require an additional premium. You should have enough insurance to cover the cost of completely rebuilding your home should you need to. Tenants do not need to worry about buildings insurance.
- Contents insurance – this covers the cost of replacing your belongings in your home if they are lost, damaged, destroyed or stolen. It is usually arranged on a new for old basis. Generally, ‘contents’ is defined as the items that you would take with you if you moved home. Similar to buildings insurance, accidental damage is normally an additional premium, as is personal possessions insurance which insures items such as mobile phones, laptops, cameras etc. outside of the home.
When selecting the appropriate home insurance product, be sure to check that you are getting the best quote possible. You can do this by comparing quotes on numerous comparison sites including Confused.com, GoCompare, MoneySuperMarket, uSwitch, and Compare The Market.
Council tax, utility bills and television (TV) licence
Council tax is a system of local taxation collected by the local authority. It is a tax on domestic property.
All homes are given a council tax valuation band. This band is based on the value of your home on 1st April 1991. A different amount of council tax is charged on each band and each local authority will have a list of domestic property in the area and its associated valuation band. The valuation bands are as follows:
Range of values
Up to £40,000
Over £40,000 and up to £52,000
Over £52,000 and up to £68,000
Over £68,000 and up to £88,000
Over £88,000 and up to £120,000
Over £120,000 and up to £160,000
Over £160,000 and up to £320,000
You can find out how much your local council charges for each band by inputting your postcode here. This will match your postcode to the relevant local authority and direct you to their website for further information. Each year, your local authority will set the rate of council tax for each valuation band and update you of any change in rate accordingly. If only one adult lives in the property, they will be entitled to a 25 percent discount on the council tax bill. Other ways in which your council tax bill may be reduced can be found here.
Usually one person, aged over 18 years of age and called the liable person, is liable to pay council tax. Typically, the person living in the property is the liable person, irrespective of whether they own the property or not. Couples living together will be jointly liable, even if there is only one name on the bill. This applies whether the couple is married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. Council tax bills are sent out in April and you are usually asked to pay the amount over 10 instalments. You may be offered a reduction in the total bill if the amount is paid in full.
Council tax bills are sent out in April and you are usually asked to pay the amount over 10 instalments. You may be offered a reduction in the total bill if the amount is paid in full.
Utility bills usually refer to the cost associated with using gas, electricity and water at home. They provide detail as to how much of the service has been used and how much you owe the supplier of the service. Typically, utility bills are generated monthly, at a fixed rate and for a set period of time. Water bills, however, are usually charged on a quarterly basis producing 4 bills per year.
It is important to establish utility connections when you first move in to a property (regardless of whether you are renting or buying). The supply of the utility will already be in place in an established home, it will just require you to choose an energy provider and choose the appropriate service for you. When moving in to a new property, you will need to ensure the company providing the utility are charging the bills to you and not the previous tenant or owner. You will also need to provide them with a meter reading taken on the day you move in so that you do not get charged for the utilities used by the previous owner or tenant.
Be sure to find out what tariff you are on and check that this is the best deal you can get. There are numerous comparison sites online that can make this process quick and easy (see the home insurance section for links to some of these sites).
If you are renting, your utilities may be included in your rent. If you are unsure, confirm this with your landlord. If sharing a house with multiple people, consider adding everyone's names to the account so that it is not just one person liable for the cost.
The cost of your utility bills will vary depending on the size of your home and the needs of you and your family. Your bills may also be affected by the weather, with winter typically resulting in increased demands on gas and electricity and therefore, resulting in increased bills accordingly.
If you intend to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel and/or download or watch any BBC programme in iPlayer (whether live, catch up or on demand) you will need to be covered to do so by a TV licence. This applies to any provider you use and any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
A standard TV licence costs £147. There a number of ways to pay for the licence including as a one-off payment, weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
Find Your Place
The Find Your Place website provides a wealth of information about the North East and north Cumbria, and the surrounding region. Whether new to the area or a seasoned local, the Find Your Place website will show you the treats and treasures unique to this wonderful and exciting part of the country.
Local authorities, often referred to as councils, have a range of roles and responsibilities, including the provision of certain services and representation. The local authority has an overall responsibility for the well-being of the area.
For further information about how your local authority works visit the gov.uk website.
There are 11 local authorities in the North East of England – click on the relevant logo to find out more about the council in your area and the services they provide.
Income tax is a tax you pay in the UK on your earnings/income. Most people in the UK get a personal allowance of tax-free income. This is the amount of income you can earn before you pay tax, and determines what tax code is generated for you. This tax code is then used to inform your employer how much income tax they should be taking from your pay. Your tax code will normally start with a number and end with a letter – 1150L is the tax code currently being used for most people who have one job. You can check your tax code by looking on your payslip or by visiting the gov.uk website. You will see your income tax contribution (as well as your NI contribution) on your payslip under ‘PAYE’.
Upon starting work in the UK, you may be emergency taxed and given an emergency tax code accordingly. These tax codes are temporary and should be updated as soon as possible. So that the correct tax code can be generated, your employer will require you to complete a ‘starter checklist’ form prior to your first payday. This form is used to gather the necessary information required to generate the appropriate tax code for you.
National Insurance (NI) number
In the UK, National Insurance (NI) is a system of taxes paid for by employees (and employers). These taxes are used primarily to fund state benefits, including the state pension. The amount of NI contributed by an employee is dependent on how much they earn and will determine how much they get in state pension upon retirement. It will also determine their entitlement to other benefits should they lose their job or suffer from long term illness. An employee’s NI contribution is deducted automatically from their gross wages (together with their contribution to income tax) and, as mentioned before, will be seen on their payslip under ‘PAYE’.
In order to obtain a National Insurance (NI) number, you must have the right to work in the UK. If you don’t already have a NI number, you must apply for one. However, you can only apply for it once you’re in the UK.
You are required to apply for a National Insurance number by phone.
The National Insurance number application line is shown below:
Telephone: 0800 141 2075
Textphone: 0800 141 2438
It is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Alternatively, you can go directly to the gov.uk website for the number and further information.
You do not have to wait for your NI number to arrive before you start work. However, you must be able to prove you can work in the UK. You should also tell your employer that you’ve applied for one, and give it to them when you have it.
Obtaining a driving licence
In order to drive whilst living and working in the UK, you will need to obtain a British driver’s licence.
This can be done through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
The DVLA is responsible for maintaining the registration and licensing of drivers in Great Britain. They are also responsible for maintaining the registration and licensing of vehicles, together with the collection and enforcement of vehicle tax/vehicle excise duty (VED), in the UK.
All local DVLA offices have now closed down. You can access DVLA services via gov.uk, or by using their online services.
You can contact them:
Via post: DVLA
Via telephone: General Enquiries: 0300 790 6801
‘Designated countries’ are countries with exchange agreements for driving licences with Great Britain and include: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
If your licence is obtained from one of the above designated countries then you can continue to drive in the UK without exchanging your licence for 12 months after becoming a resident.
After 12 months, you must exchange your licence to keep driving. You can exchange it up to 5 years after becoming a resident, if it hasn’t expired.
To exchange your licence, you must:
- Order form D1 from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
- Send the form, a £43 fee and any documents you need (including your driving licence) to the address on the form.
- You should get your new licence within 3 weeks.
You can find out more information about exchanging a foreign driving licence here.
If your licence was not obtained in one of the above designated countries, then unfortunately you can't exchange your licence. However, you can drive in the UK for up to 12 months on your foreign licence.
After 12 months you’ll need to take a theory test and practical test to get a Great Britain issued driving licence.
More information about driving in Great Britain on a non-GB licence can be found here.
Opening a bank account
There are a number of different banks in the UK including:
Details of the accounts offered by each bank can be obtained either in branch or online.
The most commonly used form of bank account in the UK is a current account.
Typically, when opening a bank account, the bank will request 2 documents from you:
- The first document is proof of identity, which can be provided in the form of a passport, driving licence, birth certificate or identity card.
- The second document they will ask you to produce is proof of address. This must not be the same document you used to prove your identity and usually includes a tenancy agreement or mortgage statement, recent electricity or gas bill (less than 3 months old), a recent bank or credit card statement (less than 3 months old and not printed from the internet) or a current council tax bill.
Of course, if you have recently moved to the UK, it is unlikely that you will have any of the above documents so banks will accept alternative documents as proof of address. A letter from your employer confirming your National Insurance (NI) number is also acceptable. If prior to arriving in the UK, you secure a UK address, you can also ask your own bank to change the corresponding address on the account. Once you have done this, you can ask your bank to send a bank statement by post to your new UK address and use this as proof of address.
If you are unable to provide documents to prove your UK address, some banks offer international accounts. These banks include Lloyds, HSBC and NatWest. Although designed for non-residents, they are an alternative if you are struggling to obtain any of the documents listed above. Further information about these accounts are available in branch or online via the bank’s website.
The bank industry in the UK is very competitive and there are numerous incentivised accounts available to attract different types of customer. Be aware that being new to the UK means that you have a limited credit history and so opening certain accounts will be easier to do than others. We would advise getting in touch with customer support of your chosen bank to find out what accounts suit, and are available, to you. It should be noted that if you wish to open any account other than a basic current account, you will need proof that you are working in the UK through evidence of a payslip or similar.
Opening times for banks are usually:
- Monday to Friday - 9:00-9:30 until 17:00-17:30
- Saturdays - 9:00-9:30 until 12:30 or 15:30
Banks in England and Wales remain open over lunch, but many of their counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland close for one-hour.
Payments in the UK can be made by cash, debit or credit card including Chip and Pin and contactless payments and Apple pay.
Cash machines, or ATMs, are located in numerous places throughout the region. They are accessible 24 hours a day and allow you to withdraw cash using a debit card for free (mostly). You are able to withdraw a maximum of £250 per day. ATMs also have other functions such as viewing your balance and changing the PIN number for your debit or credit card.
The NHS Pension scheme is one of the most comprehensive and generous schemes within the UK.
If you are aged between 16 and 75, and are working in the NHS, you are eligible for a NHS pension. You will automatically become a member of the 2015 NHS Pension scheme when you start work.
Pension contributions will be deducted monthly (before tax) from your income and will appear on your payslip as ‘Pension contribution x%’. The percentage that you will contribute to the scheme will be dependent on your annual income (or whole time equivalent if you work part time) as shown in the table below:
Up to £15,431.99
£15,432.00 to £21,387.99
£21,388.00 to £26,823.99
£26,824.00 to £47,845.99
£47,846.00 to £70,630.99
£70,631.00 to £111,376.99
£111,377.00 and over
As well as your contribution to the scheme, your employer will also make monthly contributions. This amount is currently fixed at 14.3% of your annual income (or whole time equivalent).
There is no limit on the number of years you can be a member of the scheme.
The Normal Pension Age (NPA) of a member of the 2015 NHS pension scheme is currently the same as their State Pension age. Your State Pension age is dependent on your date of birth and gender and can be calculated here. The State Pension age is currently under review and so may change in the future. Please be aware that you can keep working after you reach State Pension age – a forced/default retirement age no longer exists.
Similarly, you can retire before this age, although this must be considered carefully as it will affect your pension amount. There are flexibilities in the current NHS pension scheme that allow for early retirement; more information on these flexibilities can be found in the ‘2015 NHS Pension scheme: Guide for members’.
If you have cumulated at least 10 qualifying years on your National Insurance record upon retirement (they do not have to be consecutive years), you may also be entitled to a State Pension. This would be in addition to your workplace pension. More information on the State Pension can be found at gov.uk.
Further information on NHS pensions can be found here.
Registering with your own GP and dentist
Just as you place significant importance on looking after your patient, it is equally as important that you look after yourself. This includes not only your physical health but also your dental and mental health, and that of your family, as well.
It is therefore very important that upon your arrival in the UK you register with both a GP and a dentist of your choosing.
To help find either a GP or dentist in your area the following websites can be useful:
For a GP: https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/GP/LocationSearch/4
Information on NHS GP services can be found here.
For a dentist: https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Dentist/LocationSearch/3
In the UK, you are expected to pay a contribution towards the cost of your dental care. The amount you will pay will differ depending on whether you are a NHS patient or a private patient. Most dentists will provide both NHS and private treatment so it is important to check whether the treatment you are paying for is NHS or private or a combination of the two.
Currently, costs associated with NHS dental treatment are as follows:
- Emergency dental treatment - £20.60
- Band 1 course of treatment - £20.60 and covers an examination, diagnosis (including x-rays), advice on how to prevent future problems, scale and polish if clinically needed, and preventative care.
- Band 2 course of treatment - £56.30 and covers everything listed in Band 1 plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or removal of teeth.
- Band 3 course of treatment - £244.30 and covers everything listed in Band 1 and 2 plus crowns, dentures, bridges and other laboratory work.
Further information on NHS dental services can be found here.
In the UK, there is a charge attached to most NHS prescriptions. This charge is currently £8.60 per item.
If you require more than 3 prescription items in 3 months or 12 items in a year, it would be worthwhile paying for a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) as this will save you money. PPCs are available either 3 monthly, or 12 monthly and charged at £29.10 and £104.00 respectively; this is paid over 10 monthly direct debit instalments.
In some situations, you may be provided with a free NHS prescription. A list of those who do not have to pay is provided on the back of the prescription (part 1) and includes those who:
- Are aged 60 or over
- Are aged 16 or under
- Are between the ages of 16 and 18 and in full time education
- Are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
- Have a specified medical condition
- Have been prescribed the medication at a hospital, NHS walk-in centre or hospital clinic
- Have been prescribed contraceptives
For more information about prescription costs, and getting help with these costs, please click here.
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