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Poor credit rating and house rental (should I give up and claim benefits?)

(31 Posts)
copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 12:30:40

So, long one... We are renting a house, have been renting since 2010 - in this house since 2013. The landlord has issued us a Section 21 and we need to be out from May 19th. The issue is that both my partner and I are self employed, him for 2 years, me for 1. I'm the main earner, but my earnings have dropped by £500 a week (turnover) since the last time I was self employed (freelancer). He has been out of work since pretty much May last year, though we have been paying childcare as he could get work at any time and has had the odd month here and there.

When we took on the house we are in now, I was PAYE and on my salary alone we passed. We have to prove that we earn 2.5 x the annual rent.

So we found a house, thankfully slightly cheaper rent than where we are now (which is 2300 a month). And we had to pay a holding deposit that was £900 - a week's rent and all the referencing fees.

The referencing has been done and we failed. They didn't even get as far as asking our accountant to verify our earnings. We have poor credit history due to 2 pregnancies in 3 years and my last baby having been very poorly. Before I get judged, I had a perm job, and I went back when she was 5 months old simply because we couldn't pay the bills unless I did.

So we have a little over a month until the landlord expects his property back. And we are unable to secure another home. Oh - and we will not get the £900 back that we paid to the letting agent on the house we put an offer in on. We have also paid several hundred pounds for the accountant to prepare accounts for us to validate our earnings.

The local housing office have said that with my earnings, it's unlikely they will do more than put us in temp housing and introduce us to landlords they work with to try and secure another private let. But we will face the same issues and if they deem we can't afford it (at 2.5x the annual rent) they will force us out of borough or even out of London.

I have 4 kids. 2 from my first marriage - who I receive nothing for (that's a whole other post). The eldest is half way through her GCSE syllabus - so moving her school would be awful timing. And my ex would take me to court if I tried to move them far away.

I really feel like we have no options. I have just secured a 3 month contract, but I hate it. My partner has no prospect of work though both of us are applying for 10-15 jobs per week, both self employed and PAYE.

I did a benefits calculator - telling the truth - and we were entitled to nothing. I did one saying that I was sick and unable to work, and that he wasn't working - and it came back that if we would both take jobs paying minimum wage and working 30 hours a week, with that and all the benefits we could get, we would earn more than we did last year with me busting my a** and paying 2k+ a month rent. I'm currently undergoing some invasive tests and there is a chance it could be the big C. The stress of this has bought my psoriasis out like mad, I can't sleep, I can't eat and honestly, I think my GP would happily say I am not well enough to work. But where would that leave us, would they help us?

I've worked my whole life. I've paid taxes since I was 16 and I'll be 40 this year, and it seems there is no help unless we give up completely. It just seems so wrong. But I can't be on the streets with 4 kids. We are already having to rename the dog, it's literally heartbreaking.

ComtesseDeSpair Wed 05-Apr-17 13:28:00

It sounds tough OP, I sympathise. flowers

Why does your partner have no prospect of work? I think the focus needs to be on getting him into work, regardless of what it is. If you're in London then there really are jobs out there, it's only a matter of time. Even if you were to stop working, you can't just "give up and claim benefits", one of you will be expected to be actively seeking work.

If you can't leave London because of your DC's contact with their father, can you look at other parts of London? There are definitely plenty of areas where you can rent a three bedroom flat of house for well under £2,000 a month.

Hellmouth Wed 05-Apr-17 13:40:20

1. You should look to move to zones 4 and 5 or even beyond! I live in Kent and fast trains get me to work in about the same amount of time from when I lived in zone 5.

2. Before putting down any money for another property, you need to explain your circumstances to the lettings agent. In some cases, if you have told them upfront, they might be more accepting

3. Every agency is different so shop around. I have a satisfied CCJ and one agency said we needed a guarantor, another one said they didn't think we did, and that they wouldn't charge us for one if the referencing company asked for one. Both agencies used the same referencing company funnily enough.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 13:42:18

Thanks ComtesseDeSpair. I'm just really at the point where I feel we have run out of options.

There is no prospect of work for my partner simply because it's been over 6 months of him applying for 10-15 jobs per week and nothing has come off. Both of us are now applying for both perm and self employed jobs, I applied for 20 last week. It's exhausting and we are doing all we can but just can't get a break. Our childcare alone costs us close to £400 a week. Yes we could move to other parts of London, but a) there is the issue with my daughter's schooling at the stage she is at and b) there is the issue with access with my ex. We need a 4 bedroomed house (or flat, not fussy) and that's what the council have deemed also, due to the ages/sexes of the kids.

My partner served in the military for 12 years and has lots of driving qualifications. In the past 2 years he has been out of work more than he was in it, when he has worked it's been for less per day than we pay in childcare.

It's not hard to see why so many people are on benefits and not doing much to get off them. I have worked my whole life and now I'm literally at risk of homelessness, I'm still not entitled to help because I work? Where is the sense in that?

Also the issue will be the same wherever in the country we go, we will fail the checks to rent a property, we didn't even get as far as the affordability part of them, because our credit rating was so bad.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 13:46:43

Thanks Hellmouth.

Believe me I have spoken to a lot of agencies, many wouldn't even entertain us simply because I don't have 2 years' books for my business.

I've been up front with all of them. This is the third house we have put an offer in on, each time we have had to pay money - granted the first 2 the offers weren't accepted so we got it back.

Between our debts and our self employed status, we just don't tick the boxes. My parents offered to be guarantors, but this would mean they need to prove that they earn 2.5x the annual rent - as they are both retired, they wouldn't qualify either.

I don't mind a commute at all, but we will still have the same issues wherever we try and it's a really tricky time with my eldest being half way through GCSE syllabus.

I honestly feel like we have done and are doing everything but nothing is working. The council have said we will have to wait to be physically evicted from our home, but if that happens, we are then liable for the landlords court costs - so more debt.

It's endless.

Hellmouth Wed 05-Apr-17 13:52:30

I'm guessing you don't have enough money to pay some of the rent up front?

I understand, it sounds like a horrible situation to be in and is a prime example of how much we need rent reform sad

It's possible to tick all the boxes and still be a crap tenant!

ComtesseDeSpair Wed 05-Apr-17 14:00:31

Has your partner asked anyone in his industry to review his CV? Is he getting interviews? If he's applying for that many jobs then all I can say is that it's only a matter of time until he strikes lucky, and it sounds like he just needs to tweak his CV or interview technique. When you say you pay £400 a week in childcare, I assume you don't mean you're paying that at the moment on the off chance that your DP secures a bit of self employed work? If so, you need to knock that on the head immediately!

I know it feels like you're not being helped much by the council, but the reality is that you're in London, where every council has waiting lists for housing tens of thousands of households long. They can't help everybody, and so they have to prioritise the most vulnerable - and you have a partner who is able bodied and capable of work.

Have you looked at Gumtree for rentals? Not all landlords will insist on credit checks and fees upfront, those who don't use agents are often content to go with bank statements or accounts. And if your options are A: Homelessness or B: Smaller than ideal home with the living room used as an extra bedroom, then is there really any question which to pick? Also have you asked your council about their deposit guarantee scheme?

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 14:02:42

@Hellmouth yep - we just don't have that kind of money.

Just the deposit alone if we could get accepted is close to 5k. My parents had said they could give us maybe 3 months rent as a loan up front, but with our credit rating as it is, the landlord would be unable to secure a rental guarantee (insurance) as the referencing agency advice is not to touch us with a bargepole. So he would have to go against all professional advice and take a risk on us, and he just isn't going to do that. The annoying things is, I've been speaking to Step Change about the debts and it seems an IVA is the best solution for us and would give us more disposable income each month, though the issue of work for both of us still looms... but I was advised not to do it now as it would stop us being accepted and to wait.

Obviously I may as well progress that now and at least get that resolved and in place.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 14:15:27

@ComtesseDeSpair his CV is fine, he gets a lot of positive feedback on it for the roles that would pay a decent wage. For the others they say he is overqualified. I'm a professional writer and I work in the comms industry, so I wrote his CV ;-)

He gets interviews, twice has been offered jobs that have then not materialised.

We were paying the childcare, because he was in and out of work and it' not something you can find at the drop of a hat. Every childcare provider needs a commitment. He found a job in October, but a month in the work was less than £100 a week and then died completely. He worked a month in Jan, then they refused to pay him - so we have to take them to court to get that money. So yes, we have had childcare we were paying for because it seemed he had work. We have given her notice now, but we will then have the same issue trying to find someone else if he finds work. Being self employed, you need to be available immediately, so if you don't have childcare, you don't get the work - hence we are both trying to get perm work.

Yes he is abled bodied and more than willing to work. He does have PTSD however, and this whole situation really isn't helping that. But if he simply can't find work or it pays less than we will pay in childcare, it makes no financial sense.

As I mentioned on a previous post, the same issues apply with a smaller house and cheaper location. I look on Gumtree daily and there is nothing. As soon as you filter down to private you get about 2 or 3 options, none of which are suitable, either in location or size. I've looked on open rent too, as this is a site where landlords advertise directly. I think in this day and age, most if not all want credit checks and large deposits - understandably. Our references from the existing letting agent are fine, we have paid the rent at that level for the past 4 years, but they are not enough.

With regard to the council, they won't give us anything until they have looked at our Section 21 and tried negotiating with our current landlord - as their priority is to get you to stay where you are. But that's not an option as he lives abroad and wants to sell the house because of Brexit.

So it's not really quite as simple as homelessness or a smaller house at all. If it was, I wouldn't be 3 months down the line since being served a Section 21, at the point of a nervous breakdown and several thousand pounds out of pocket. Trust me. All of that while holding down a full time job (my contract was terminated earlier, I finished last Friday and had a new contract to start on the Monday - I'm no slacker) and while worrying I may have cancer. We are literally doing all we can, with zero support. Yet my taxes have for the past 24 years have been paying for many people who seem to be given the world and give nothing back for it. The system is fundamentally flawed.

QueenofWhatever Wed 05-Apr-17 14:31:03

If you're having to move because your landlord wants to sell the house, have you tried to negotiate with him directly? You could offer to stay whilst he is in the process of selling it (possibly at a reduced rent) on the understanding that you would move out at very short notice.

I'm assuming he has given you notice to move because he thinks the house will be easier to sell that way. But it easily takes 3-6 months to sell a house and the London market has slowed rapidly, so it's worth a go.

I agree with PPs though that I struggle to understand why your DH isn't working. If he has driving qualifications, he should be able to get casual work quite easily. Even if he works around you so that you don't have childcare costs. He could be driving an Uber at night or doing deliveries.

To be brutally honest, I think your situation is looking precarious and the two of you need to make some hard choices very quickly. Can your ex not have your GCSE DC move in with him? That would minimise the disruption on her and allow you to move to a cheaper area. I can't see how you will be able to keep living in your current area I'm afraid.

ComtesseDeSpair Wed 05-Apr-17 14:48:08

I'm not suggesting at all that you're a slacker, you sound quite the opposite flowers If DP is getting good feedback then it really is just time - even if that doesn't feel any reassurance. But you can't keep on paying the better part of £2,000 a month on the off chance that your DP might be offered some self-employed work - particularly since you say yourself that the value of any work he has had has almost never exceeded what you pay for the childcare. That's a ludicrous situation to be in. I think he needs to accept that at the moment he has to be a SAHP whilst looking for full-time employment. That makes you several hundred pounds a month better off immediately - surely that would be a huge chunk out of your debts, or take the pressure to earn such a huge chunk of extra money off you.

If you're made homeless, the council will step in and help with temporary accommodation and then finding you a private rental which they will guarantor for you, negating the need for credit checks and going through agents. Yes, you'll have to negotiate their homelessness procedure, but they genuinely won't leave a family with children living on the streets. Which borough are you in? I work in housing in Haringey, but would be more than willing to offer a supportive hand with the process regardless of the borough.

Don't focus on what you should get out of the system because you paid taxes into it. I mean this kindly, because that way madness lies.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 14:56:41

@Queenofwhatever the landlord wants the house empty as really it needs work doing for him to sell it. It has been rented for years, there is damp in areas, so I guess it's just easier for him to do that empty. I have emailed him and been honest about the situation as it stands. As I know that the agent don't pass on anything. They really don't give a crap.

Unfortunately it's not quite as simple as having qualifications and getting a job. His qualifications are in driving (everything from a motorbike to a tank) and in security - close protection - which is the field he has been working in, that and chauffeuring. So, as a result, the casual driving jobs or agency temp work for things like HGV (which he is qualified for) require you to have a CPC card and digi tachograph - basically for driving legislation, anyone in these roles has to keep these updated on the job, min 35 hours against the CPC card (it's like an ongoing training, legislation thing) and as the past two years, all his work has been in chauffeuring and security so doesn't have his CPC up to date - so that immediately rules him out of those jobs - except in rare cases where some would take him on as long as he completed it on the job.

Its certainly not that he isn't trying or doesn't want to work, he really does, because he certainly doesn't want the prospect of being a stay at home dad if he doesn't. I find jobs for him, he looks himself, and applies every day, by email, he makes calls, but just nothing has come off as yet. He went back to an old job that he had left, which paid £102 a day, he worked 16 hours a day and slept in the car, coming home once a week. He did it for a month and then they refused to pay his invoices. It's pretty easy to sit and make judgements and I would be the last to stick up for him if he wasn't doing all he good to find work, believe me, we have been there and had those conversations.

My daughter can't live with my ex, he currently only has regular access with his/our son. She went through a very difficult time with self-harming and her relationship with him is not great, she hasn't had overnight access with him for over a year, and to be honest, her behaviour and mental wellbeing has improved ten-fold in that time. So I certainly couldn't put her in that position and I'm certain her CAMHS worker and Social Services (who she was involved with, but now isn't due to such great progress) would not advocate that either.

The point I have made is that it isn't just about finding somewhere cheaper, affordability if both or even just me are working isn't the issue - the places we have been looking at are cheaper than what we pay now - we have paid that for 4 years and have no rental arrears - it's that we can't even get to that point because our credit history is poor and I can't provide 2 years worth of accounts as my business has only been running 12 months.

I am getting to the point where it's really affecting my health. I'm about to undergo some very invasive diagnostic tests which will mean that I can't work - and being self employed, if I don't work I don't get paid. Part of me feels like just giving up, getting signed off and then maybe we will be entitled to benefits to help us, at the moment it seems the only way. And frankly, my Dr already thinks I'm doing too much, so that would mostly likely be her recommendation.

It just seems insane that people who have fallen on hard times, through no fault of their own, have paid taxes, served their country on the front line, can't get help when they really need it.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 15:08:28

Thanks ComtesseDeSpair - we actually live in Barnet. Previously I lived in Haringey for 9 years. My eldest 2 attend a secondary school which comes under Haringey.

I'm just really looking at every conceivable option. If I have something serious wrong with me, I won't be able to work, so we will have to go down that route.

We are not currently paying the childcare, but still means we have just one wage to pay over 2k a month rent, all the bills and the debts. So I'll pursue the IVA to at least have something in place for the debts. So even with saving the childcare, there is no spare money to pay off the debts. And especially now we are £900 down from the estate agents and £1000 in accountant fees.

To the other point someone made about Uber, you need to own a car that is of a certain model and year - neither of our cars are Uber suitable. You also need a PCO license which takes several months to get - my partner currently has one, but it expires this month and right now we don't have the money to renew it, he will need a new DBS check and have to pay £80 for a medical, plus the actual license fee. We have just paid to renew his SIA license as he needed it for the job he was in - which was a waste as they then refused to pay him, and to take them to court will cost us too.

Maybe I do need to accept I can't keep on as I am and let the GP sign me off. I just find it incredibly frustrating that we can't get any help until we are actually evicted and then we will be liable for the landlord's court fees too. Where is the sense in that?

QueenofWhatever Wed 05-Apr-17 15:11:57

Not judging, just looking at it from a different POV. I understand the thing about HGV diving, but he could do minicabbing or courier work. As others have said, paying childcare is an expense you really can't afford at the moment. It could be a stopgap while he keeps applying for something that he's better suited to.

Sorry to hear about your daughter's struggles with MH, that's tough. If her Dad is not supportive, I would take his wishes about where you/she lives out of the equation. Let him take you to court if you move. - if he's not willing to help and is not actively involved in parenting, then he doesn't really have a case. I have an unhelpful ex so know what it's like.

I also think you would be affected by the new benefit rules and would only get benefits for two children, so I would bear that in mind. I'm also sorry about the tests you're undergoing. That's an added stress so I hope the news is positive.

copycara Wed 05-Apr-17 15:31:50

Thanks @Queenofwhatever.

The ex does have our son 2 nights a week, so he will argue that me moving will impact that. Ultimately he would have to take me to court, and I'd have to represent myself due to funds.

To be a minicab driver you need a PCO license, and that's going to cost us in the region of £400 to renew, between DBS checks, fees and medical. So again, it's a lot of money we don't have for something that may not materialise. He could do courier work, but again, we would have to pay childcare for him to do that no?

Right now our nanny is working elsewhere for a few weeks, hopeful that she can come back if he gets work. So not paying right now. But the contract I have just started pays £350 p/w less than I was earning. But I had to take it or we would have had no income at all.

It seems he may be able to claim JSA while looking, even though he is self employed, and we have just had his accounts back for 2015/16 and his earnings were only 15k for that year. I think he will have to pursue that too, as it will ultimately help us when we get evicted, as seems the most likely outcome.

copycara Thu 06-Apr-17 11:52:23

So update, emailed the landlord explaining our situation, being completely transparent. His response "Acknowledging receipt of your email. Let me know of any developments." Thanks for the compassion mate - I've paid over 100k in the last 4 years.

OH took the Section 21 to the Housing Office today who will give us an appointment. However, they say we have to wait until the end of the notice, then wait for the landlord to go to court and give us a date to leave, then let that date pass, then wait until Bailiffs actually turn up and physically evict us.

It seems insane and incredibly stressful for us to have to live this way and then be liable for the landlords costs when we have 4 kids and have paid rent for 4 years. We are good tenants.

QuiteLikely5 Thu 06-Apr-17 11:59:15

The very exciting news is that as your dp was in the military you should contact the British legion or google armed forces charities. I'm in no doubt that you will qualify for there help - they also own homes around the country that the rent to ex servicemen and their families

Don't delay contact them today

copycara Thu 06-Apr-17 12:06:27

Thanks @QuiteLikely5 he has been out a while, but will look into it. He is talking to Combat Stress also about his PTSD, so hopefully this will all help one way or another.

Dancingtothemusicoftime Fri 07-Apr-17 16:16:52

OP , it's irrelevant how long he has been out of the military - he is a Service veteran and therefore can get help from the many sources that exist to help serving and former Service personnel. Google Veteran's Gateway - it is a one-stop shop lead by the Royal British Legion and has just gone live (earlier this week). It has a call centre and the staff there, many of whom are ex-military themselves, can put your DP in touch with organisations and charities that can assist in absolutely this case. Combat Stress is great for the psychological and medical side of things but Vets Gateway can connect you with organisations that offer housing advice, assistance and funding. If your DP has PTSD does he not get a military medical pension? This is disregarded when benefits are calculated. I strongly urge that he or you (Vets Gateway will deal with family members too) to contact them today. Best of luck, what a terrible position to be in.

copycara Mon 10-Apr-17 17:34:47

Hi @Dancingtothemusicoftime thanks very much for this. I will look into it. He doesn't yet have a medical diagnosis of PTSD - well, our GP has had many conversations with him about it but the help she referred him for really wasn't appropriate. Hence he is going through Combat Stress. We were supposed to have a meeting on Friday with the landlord of the property we have paid all the money and failed the checks for, but it's been postponed until tomorrow eve.
I've spent all weekend looking at alternatives like caravans or park homes, to try and save some money and get back on our feet, but drawn a blank.
I've got a permanent headache, I hate my current contract, it's £250 a week less than my last one and I really feel like I could just cry all the time. I'm honestly not sure how much longer I can actually keep all the balls in the air.
It seems we may be entitled to the new Children's Tax Credit or whatever it's called, so I have requested an application form for that, and my OH has also applied for JSA while he looks for work, and has an appointment for that.
But none of this is guaranteed or solves our housing problem.
The landlord is unsympathetic.
People keeping saying it will get better, but honestly, it doesn't.
We will look into this, and get some more advice. Thank you.

Kiroro Tue 11-Apr-17 21:48:31

Sounds like a tough situation.

Can you and DH access some benefits advice to make sure you are getting the help you are/could be entitled to?

The vets support is a good idea, hope something comes of that.

What about looking for a property on open rent or gumtree? Often more flexible re affordability than through agencies.

Re a 4 bed... might have to compromise on that. Three bed with you in the sitting room on a sofa bed or even a 2 bed if it has decent room sizes and you could put in bunks..

copycara Wed 12-Apr-17 10:24:33

@Kiroro thanks. Yes we are looking into benefits, especially now we have some official accounts, OH has an appointment to see if he is entitled to Jobseekers Allowance as he hasn't had work in a few works. He has an appointment next week. We also have an appointment for housing advice with the council, and I've started the process to see if we can get Children's Tax Credit as an online calculator suggested we were eligible.

Re: 4 bed, to be honest, 3 or 4 bed, makes absolutely no difference, we will still fail the referencing checks, so it's not a matter of affordability and us being greedy. We have looked at decent sized 3 beds also, though they would need to be 3 double bedrooms. My oldest two cannot share a room as I have a 15yo girl and a 12yo boy. So that's a minimum requirement of 3 beds anyway, as my littlest 2 are both girls and can share (we currently have the littlest in with us as our 4th bedroom isn't big enough for them both). The council's own guidance says we need a 4 bed due to the sexes and ages of the kids.

We were supposed to meet with the letting agent and landlord of the place we have paid the money for, first on Friday eve, but they cancelled claiming the landlord had forgotten he is going away. We were then due to go last night, I contacted them as they hadn't confirmed a time, and they cancelled again, claiming someone was off sick.

The stress is really getting to me now. I can't sleep. We are living in limbo and need to know either way.

AndNowItIsSeven Wed 12-Apr-17 10:35:31

"I also think you would be affected by the new benefit rules and would only get benefits for two children, so I would bear that in mind. "

No you can claim until November 2018.
Op why did you pay nearly £2k a month for a nanny since October that was really unwise. You could have saved that money and your dp looked after the dc until her secured work , its not that hard to find a nanny in London.

AndNowItIsSeven Wed 12-Apr-17 10:37:50

Also look for two beds , a room for the three girls a room for the boy and you and your dp sleep in the living room.
Better for your older dd to share than leave her school. I have a triple bunk in one of my bedrooms.

copycara Wed 12-Apr-17 11:06:08

@AndNowItIsSeven both my partner and I are self employed - luckily I am pretty much constantly employed, my partner had been in and out of a few driving jobs that would start and be busy for a few weeks then really start to tail off. But he needs to be available for work immediately.

It isn't actually that easy to find a nanny in London, not unless you have endless amounts of money. Many of them have no formal qualifications and expect to be paid in the region of £12 an hour, which with TAX and NI equates to over 50K a year. It took us a long time to find one we could afford and who we felt could take care of our kids - and it takes time to settle kids into childcare. And then once you have taken someone on, you have to be fair to them in terms of giving notice. My OH has had a few jobs that just haven't been busy enough or paid enough, so he has been in and out of work.

It's not quite as simple as making snap judgements like 'it was unwise' - but it was the only thing we could do. He started a job in October where he was told he would earn a minumum amount per month, he started it and 2 weeks in wasn't making nearly what was promised. When he question it they said it had been quiet but was going to pick up, another month is it had tailed off completely. That took us to November, when ordinarily it can be busy with driving work and he had a few leads that came to nothing. He went back to a previous work place in Jan, worked for a full month 16 hours + a day, sleeping in the car because it was so far away, then they just didn't pay his invoices - so we are a few thousand pound down because of that. So it's not that we have just been throwing money away on childcare we can't afford. It's not quite so simple.

I honestly don't know anyone who would just pick the first available nanny and leave their kids with them without a significant settling in period.

My eldest has had significant mental health challenges and for her health needs her own space. There is no way even social housing would expect a 15 (almost 16yo) to share a bedroom with 2 toddlers.

As previously stated, 1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bed - it really makes no difference because the credit checks are the same and we will fail. They don't even get as far as affordability based on earnings. Our reference from the letting agent we currently rent through was very good and we have paid a higher level of rent than the place we had put a deposit on for 4 years. We are making cuts and compromises wherever we can, but if we can't pass the checks we will literally end up having to wait until we are homeless and the council will then temporarily house us.

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