March 1st, 2017

Rats are quite common in both rural and urban areas, but having one move in can be like having your own personal horror movie, live and at home.

A rat colony will often start with a single pregnant female, and unless there are obvious signs of damage, such as torn packages or droppings, the infestation may not be noticed in the early stages. Except when there are a lot of rats, or food is scarce, they will only come out at night, and daylight sightings are unlikely.

You may notice damage to food containers and cartons as rats gnaw at them, droppings (black, about the size of a peanut) become noticeable, and a rat running across the attic in the quiet of night can sound as if it is wearing boots.

Getting rid of rats is a job for the expert. Rat traps and cats will only remove some rats without eradicating the infestation and rats are resistant to some of the older poisons on sale to the public. A pest control operator can choose the more effective poisons which are only on sale to trained users, and can vary the way the bait is laid to take advantage of the rat’s natural habits. They will also explain how you can help by removing other sources of food.

Most rats will die underground and out of sight. If a rat dies under the floor or behind fitted furniture there may be a smell. This can be unpleasant, but if it is not possible to get at the body to remove it, the smell can be masked with an air freshener, and it will go away in about two weeks. If you find a dead rat leave it alone and get a pest control operator to remove it on the next visit.


Your local council does provide a pest control service for a small fee. Contact them direct for advice and accessing their services.

Pension Advice

August 5th, 2015

Citizens Advice Taunton are offering Pension Wise appointments across Somerset giving people access to free and impartial pension guidance in their local area.


Following pension reforms on April 6, people approaching retirement have greater freedom over how they can use their pension pots. People will be able to take a lump sum, take out an annuity or a mixture of both. Pension Wise is a new Government service designed to help people make sense of their pension options, and empower them to make the right choices for them.

Citizens Advice Taunton is delivering free face to face Pension Wise sessions which are available to book now. The 45 minute appointments will be tailored to the individual, taking into account the value of their pension and their plans for retirement.

A Pension Wise appointment may help you if you are approaching retirement or are 50 or over and have a defined contribution pension. Guidance appointments are also available on the telephone, delivered by the Pensions Advisory Service. People can also get information and general guidance online at

Liz Fothergill, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Taunton, said:

“Citizens Advice Taunton is delivering Pension Wise appointments in Bridgwater, Minehead, Shepton Mallet, Taunton, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil, giving easy access to Pension Wise.

“Pensions can be a confusing topic and Pension Wise appointments will help people to make sense of their pensions choices. Citizens Advice Taunton already helps people with retirement issues and we’ll continue to offer this service outside of Pension Wise.”

To book a telephone or face to face appointment, call 0300 330 1001.


For more information contact:

Tel: 01823 448958



August 6th, 2014

You do not need permission to keep fish or one or two small caged animals or birds, but you do need permission from the Association before keeping any other animal, such as cats, dogs and poultry. Permission is usually granted on the understanding that your pet will be kept under control at all times. If you allow your pet to cause a problem to your neighbours or any other person in the vicinity of your home, the association may withdraw permission to keep the animal. If you fail to comply we can take court action against you for breach of tenancy.

If a neighbour who keeps an animal which you consider causes a nuisance, for example a dog that barks constantly or a crowing cockerel, as well as contacting us you can also report the matter to the Environmental Health Department at your local council. They have a statutory duty to investigate animals kept in a place as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

If you feel that you wish the matter to be resolved without official intervention you could take advice from Mediation Somerset by contacting them on 01823 352210 or Devon Mediation Service on 01363 777734.



May 2nd, 2014

Prices for heating oil have risen in the last few years causing concern for consumers dependent upon it. But there are a number of ways to keep the costs down.

Compare heating oil prices. Heating oil prices vary across the UK depending on the time of year. Compare as many quotes as possible from different companies. You can use the FPS Directory to find suppliers in your area.

Bulk buy heating oil. Generally speaking the more oil you order the cheaper it will be. Joining a heating oil club is a good way to buy cheaper oil as your order will be clubbed together with other orders in your area. This can reduce your bill by up 10%. You should be able to find out if there is a club in your area by searching the internet.

Buy heating oil in the summer. Prices for heating oil tend to be lower in the summer as opposed to the winter, so buying ahead will save you money. This also means you will avoid potential problems with deliveries in bad weather. No matter when you order it is important to keep an eye on your oil tank gauge. Don’t let it get too low before you order, especially in winter.

Negotiate the price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price. The more quotes you have the more information you have to bargain with. Even if you have a regular supplier, if you find a cheaper price talk to your supplier who may be able to match the price.

Be careful how you pay for your oil. If you pay by credit card some companies may charge extra fees. If you pay by direct debit this may mean that you are locked into a contract and you will not have the flexibility to shop around for a better price.


January 31st, 2014

Falcon Rural Housing can help our tenants obtain home contents insurance easily and at a price that is affordable.  While many people often hope that nothing will happen to their belongings, sometimes things can go wrong unexpectedly.


With a special scheme called My Home arranged in conjunction with the National Housing Federation and Falcon Rural Housing tenants can protect their belongings and gain peace of mind knowing if the unexpected happens they have cover.


Go to to find out more                                            


December 16th, 2013

The boom and bust economy has affected many people and some may have been made redundant on many occasions causing them to move around the country to find employment. This may have resulted in payments being made into different pension schemes over a lifetime and these can be difficult to keep track of.


If you are retired or working but think you have paid into such a scheme it should be possible to track this down by contacting the Pension Tracing Service online. This service is free but you will be asked to fill in a form.

You will need to give the Pension Tracing Service as much information as you can, including whether you’re looking for a workplace pension or personal pension.

This can be done by visiting

The Pension Tracing Service will hopefully give you the address of your scheme provider if they can find your pension. It will then be up to you to make any further enquiries.

You can also contact the Pension Tracing Service by phone or by post at Pension Tracing Service between Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm Telephone: 0845 6002 537.



December 10th, 2013

The fire service in the West Country has just seen a large increase in the number of calls to chimney fires. The recent wet spell may mean your logs or coal are damp and this is one of the main causes of chimney fires and not only can this be dangerous, but it is a very unpleasant experience clearing up the mess after a visit from the fire brigade. Here are a few basic suggestions to avoid this happening to you.

Chimney fires causes

When coal soot deposits or wood tar deposits build up to a sufficient level there is the risk of a chimney fire. The heat from the fire warms these deposits which can then ignite.  If the chimney does catch fire you will often hear a roaring noise in the chimney, especially with an open fire, and outside masses of smoke will be pouring out of the chimney.

How to dry or season firewood

Wood should be as dry as possible before burning; otherwise a lot of the heat in the firebox is used to heat up and evaporate the water in the wood. That means you produce less heat and more deposits in the chimney. These are the causes of chimney fires, so wood should be dry and well seasoned before it is burnt. The bigger the pieces the longer they will take to dry.

When storing wood it should be protected from direct rainfall and ideally kept on a dry base. The sides of the stacked wood are best left open so that the wind can get to the wood to dry it out.

When buying firewood make sure that you are buying seasoned firewood.

Ways to reduce tar and soot build up in your chimney

  • Regularly have the chimney swept – at least once a year before the start of the burning season.
  • If burning wood then a second sweeping in the middle of the burning season is advisable.
  • When burning wood only burn seasoned wood.
  • Regularly have hot fires once a day, this will help to dry out the tar that has built up. You can also occasionally burn dry untreated skip wood as this has a very low moisture content.

All these recommendations will help to reduce the amount of tar build-up in the chimney and therefore the risk of having a chimney fire.


What to do if you have a chimney fire

  • Call the fire brigade – 999
  • If you have a stove then shut all air vents and flue dampers to reduce the chimney fire’s oxygen supply
  • If you have an open fire then gently splash water on it to extinguish the fire.
  • Move flammable materials, furniture, ornaments away from the fireplace
  • If you have an open fire then (as long as there is no risk to you) block the fireplace opening with something non combustible
  • Feel the chimney breast throughout the house – if it is getting hot then move furniture away from it
  • Do not pour water on the fire if you have a stove
  • Do not pour salt on the fire – this can create chlorine gas which is damaging to the chimney and toxic if it gets into the room
  • Ensure that the fire brigade can access the loft space
  • In severe cases where there is deemed to be a risk of the fire spreading to the roof use a hose to wet down the roof near the chimney but not the chimney itself

All these above suggestions have been vetted by the Avon Fire Brigade


October 17th, 2013

What would you do if you suffered a serious break in, and your Christmas presents got stolen, or you got locked out and had to change the locks, or your TV got accidentally broken. Would your Festive season be ruined?

The National Housing Federation My Home Contents Insurance in conjunction with Thistle Tenant Risks offers you a scheme, which is both convenient and good value, from just £1.70 a fortnight (for tenants aged 60 and over) and £2.57 a fortnight (for tenants aged under 60), (premiums may vary depending on your postcode).  You can have the peace of mind of knowing that your furniture, belongings and decorations are insured against theft, fire, vandalism, burst pipes and other household risks. Extended accidental damage and other optional extensions are also available for an additional premium.


Below are just some of the benefits of the My Home scheme:

  • There’s no minimum security requirements
  • No excess (you don’t pay the first part of a claim
  • Covers freezer contents, loss and theft of keys
  • Contents in the open and contents of sheds and garages covered as standard
  • The option to add extensions such as personal possessions (cover away from the home)
  • Tenants responsibility and improvements


Exclusions and limits apply to all covers, further details are available within the free information pack.

Want to find out more?


1)      Call My Home on lo-call 0845 337 2463 or 01628 586189 to apply for cover over the phone

2)      Ask a My Home representative to call you at a convenient time by completing the slip below and return it to Thistle Tenant Risks, FREEPOST RTEH-ZGA-KLGY, Oakwood, Grove Park Ind Estate, Waltham Road, White Waltham, Maidenhead, SL6 3LW (no stamp needed)

3)      Email the information below to:


I am a tenant of ……………………………………….. and I would like a member of the My Home Team to call me to discuss cover and costs.  I would prefer a call AM / PM (please delete as appropriate).





Telephone No:

I am aged under 60 / I am aged 60 or over (please delete as applicable)



October 11th, 2013

Many of you will have seen Martin Lewis on the television giving his money saving tips. Well now he has listened to his customers grumbling about how difficult it can be to find and switch your gas & electric supplier, and he now has an ‘Energy Club’ which is completely free to register with, and has a built in internet search facility that will constantly get you on the cheapest tariff with the minimum of effort. To get permanently cheap energy with Money Saving Expert’s free Cheap Energy Club read on.


PMS’s unique Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you permanently on the cheapest tariff – fighting the fact cheapest deals only last 1-2 years before their rates rise. It does this by…

  1. Finding you the cheapest deal. If you’re already on it, great. If not, they will help you switch and you may get £30 cash back on top.
  2. Then constantly monitoring your tariff. Each month, without you doing anything, they do a background comparison to check your tariff is still cheapest.
  3. Alerts you when it’s time to switch (again). If you can save money switching either because your rates changed, or others have, they will tell you.

If you want to know more click on the above link, alternatively you may consider using other energy comparison sites such as Simply Switch, Energy Choices, U Switch


September 11th, 2013

April 2013 saw the introduction of the local Healthwatch Devon and is part of the Care Quality Commission. It is an independent autonomous body run by local people for local people and driven by local people; they only take up the issues that locals tell them about. This is the communities’ opportunity to highlight issues on activities such as simplifying bureaucratic assessment forms, improving health screening, influencing strategy on how carers support and maternity services are provided. Therefore, the more people, the more issues and services are looked into.

There is a huge scope for people to get involved; from simply signing up and receiving Healthwatch monthly newsletters and reading Healthwatch news to attending events, taking part in local and national consultations, attending ‘work groups’ and suggesting issues to be looked at. Anybody can be elected to be on the Healthwatch Devon board if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Healthwatch can request information from local organisations, commissioners and providers. The trained members of Healthwatch have powers to go to a service unannounced if appropriate and have a look at the work and standards at that particular service. Healthwatch has worked very hard to have partnerships and a collaborative relationship with all local services and providers and they will discuss issues together. Once local people bring up an issue, this is then tackled jointly by Healthwatch and the service provider or organisation. Once decisions have been made on the status regarding the issue a report is written up and made public. The report will include the recommendations and suggestions both from the public involved in the Healthwatch and the response to these and steps taken from the organisation concerned.

For more information visit their website at or telephone 0800 5200640.