EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
ARE you knocking thousands off the value of your home by ignoring those little DIY jobs?
A report from sellhousefast.co.uk found more than three quarters of potential buyers judge a house negatively if it is in poor repair or dirty.
Estate agent Mayur Shah, from East London, said: “Viewers can be extremely judgmental. If they see a home in a less than satisfactory state, they conclude the current occupiers have not looked after or adequately maintained other parts of the property.”
Here are six quick fixes to maximise the value of your home.
- Thoroughly clean household appliances including the fridge, cooker and hob, freezer and microwave inside and out.
- In the garden, mow the lawn, trim plants, tidy away toys and take junk to the tip. Dress your outside dining table to look like it is being used.
- Take down family photos. It makes it easier for buyers to visualise their own family living there.
- Fill cracks and painted and scuffed or dirty walls. Watch YouTube tutorials for tips.
- Buy brighter bulbs. Better lighting can make your home seem cleaner and more welcoming.
- Thoroughly scrub the bathroom and remove any mould and limescale. Got an old shower curtain? Consider a shower screen or replace it with a fresh one. Fix leaky taps too.
Buy of the week
THE only pay is Essex. Harlow has been revealed as the town with the biggest gap between newbuild and older properties, with newbuilds commanding 108 per cent more, compared to the 29 per cent national average extra cost.
But this newbuild shared ownership three-bed semi will cost you just £152,000 at zoopla.co.uk/new-homes/details/52238807.
ON the move this weekend? You are not alone.
This weekend is the busiest of the year for house moves, according to lobby group the HomeOwners Alliance.
The last weekend in August has been the most popular month to move home for the past 12 years.
Paula Higgins, head of the alliance, said: “Many homeowners like to move during the school summer holidays so their children can settle into their new place in time for the new academic year.
“It may appear sensible to move on a Friday – you have time to unpack and settle in before returning to work.
“But we advise people to be exceptionally careful, as if there are delays in transferring funds, you may have to spend the weekend in a hotel or on a sofa at the home of a friend or relative.”
Deal of the week
MIRROR, mirror on the wall, what’s the best deal of them all?
Window mirrors are on trend and this gallery Rockford window mirror is down from £199.97 to £99.97, at furniture123.co.uk.
Q) I DIVORCED more than 18 years ago and the court gave an order to remove my name from the mortgage. I signed release papers that day to do this.
But it turns out I have not been removed and my ex kept the account in arrears, meaning I am racking up debt. The mortgage company won’t help because they say I am liable.
The mortgage is due to come to an end in about two years but there is still a lot of money owed.
What can I do to resolve this? I have not lived in the property since my divorce. Gary, Stoke
A) This is a very messy legal situation I’m afraid. When you were divorced, the title of your jointly held property did not automatically transfer to your ex partner.
You and your partner needed to get in touch with the mortgage lender at the time of your split in order to determine whether the lender was prepared to allow your ex partner to take on the mortgage. In some cases lenders refuse to do this.
In law you may still be liable for this house but, as you have had no financial input into the property and the order you obtained from the court when you divorced made clear that your ex partner was to have sole ownership of the marital home, you might be able to make an application to have yourself removed from the title deeds.
Write to your ex-partner asking them to contact the mortgage company explaining the situation. I know it might cost a little, but given what has happened I would suggest getting advice from a family lawyer asap.
Q) AROUND 18 months ago I helped out a friend financially.
He had asked me to act as a guarantor for a loan for £1,000, claiming he needed to pay a solicitor to help him get access to his daughters.
He paid me back here and there, amounting to £200, meaning £800 is still outstanding. But he is now ignoring all communication.
How can I get the money back? I have a lot of witnesses to our arrangement and texts from him where he apologies for late payment etc.
A) I am sorry to say that, as it stands, you probably have no case against this person.
The bottom line is that a court would take the view that you and your ex- friend did not have an intention to create legal relations when you agreed to lend this money.
It is likely that you do not have a legally enforceable contract.
If you wanted to take this further, it would be helpful to write to him asking him to agree to sign an IOU and acknowledging the debt that he owes.
Q) I BOOKED a holiday through an online travel agents.
When I booked I informed them that I was a disabled customer and that I would require assistance.
I paid for the holiday over the phone. It involved flying from Edinburgh to Heathrow and then on to Orlando – the details were read out and I agreed to it, stating again that I am a disabled customer who would need help getting on and off the planes.
But when I got the booking confirmation I noted that there was a detail they had neglected to tell me – I was in fact booked to fly from Edinburgh to Heathrow but would need to get to Gatwick to fly to Orlando. This would involve a bus which I am not fit for.
Every time I try to contact the company, all I get is a recorded message or email saying they will get back to me in 72 hours. Ray, Edinburgh
A) You have been treated disgracefully and you need to be tough. You entered into a contract with this travel company setting out the arrangements you required and you clearly explained your disability.
You only entered into a contract with them on the understanding that you would fly from the airports that you agreed to.
It is the responsibility of this company to find suitable transport between Gatwick and Heathrow or to give you your money back without a fee. Email their managing director explaining what has happened and, if you don’t hear back, get in touch with their governing body (Atol or Abta).
- Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.
- Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) LAST October I had a letter from Scottish Power saying I owed more than £2,000 for gas. I ignored it because as far as I was aware my gas and electricity were supplied by Eon.
After a few more letters demanding payment, my husband told Scottish Power we were not its customers, but it responded that we had been transferred to the company in May 2015.
Knowing this wasn’t true, we went to Citizens Advice. Scottish Power said we’d get no more letters while the situation was being looked into, but I’ve now received another two demands. I’ve been stressed out over this for months. Nicola Patterson, Paisley
A) This one took some unravelling but the good news is the huge bill has been cancelled. Scottish Power admits it took over your gas supply in error four years ago.
So while you thought you were paying Eon for both energy supplies, it was only the electric you were being billed for and, unknown to you, a bill for gas with Scottish Power was gradually stacking up.
As you’d never signed up with the firm, you had no reason to take the bills seriously, particularly as they were initially sent to “the owner/occupier”. Once the mistake was spotted most of the bill was wiped under back-billing rules, where energy companies can only charge for the year before the error was detected. As a goodwill gesture, Scottish Power then agreed to clear the rest of the bill.
A Scottish Power spokesman explained this all to me, saying; “We sincerely apologise to Mr & Mrs Patterson for the inconvenience this has caused.”
Q) I POSTED a parcel of presents to my daughter for her birthday, paying £17.60 for guaranteed signed-for delivery and tracking.
The tracking showed that for two days it had left the depot and was on the van for delivery, but my daughter never got it.
One person at Parcelforce told me it was still on the van, another said it was back at the depot and a third said it had not been delivered and had disappeared.
I’ve been advised the agency driver could not account for the missing parcel and would no longer be used by Parcelforce.
My daughter’s birthday present has still not appeared. Alison Maitland, Crewkerne, Somerset
A) Millions of items pass through the hands of Parcelforce and almost all arrive safely at their destination. But that counts for nothing when your own carefully chosen gift for your daughter goes missing and no one seems to want to help you find out why.
I asked Parcelforce to look into it urgently.
Rather than finding out what had gone wrong here, Parcelforce took the easy route – compensating you for the lost gift, postage paid, and giving you £25 as a goodwill gesture. You would much rather it had found the parcel.
A Parcelforce spokesman said: “This is a rare occurrence and all of our employees are regularly reminded of the high standards expected of them. If anyone has concerns they should contact the Parcelforce Worldwide customer service team on 0344 800 4466.”
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
My top five freebies this week
Top 10 deals
- Save 20 per cent off full-price Reebok. Code from bit.ly/20off reebok25offsale. Ends September 30.
- Get £15 off Asos orders over £100 with code 15SAVE or £10 off orders over £80 with code 10SAVE. Ends Monday. Order via Quidco.com and earn up to eight per cent cash back. See bit.ly/quidcoasos10off.
- Get 20 per cent off Moss Bros. orders over £100 with code CLOUD26819. Offer ends tomorrow. See bit.ly/20offmossbros100.
- Save £5 on John Greed jewellery orders over £50 with code 5OFF50. Ends September 29. See bit.ly/johngreed5off50.
- Get £10 off No7 cosmetics over £50 with code NO7SAVE10 or £20 off orders over £80 with code NO7SAVE20. Ends September 30. Order via Quidco for two per cent cash back. See bit.ly/10offno7.
- Take out a pay-monthly O2 contract over £45 a month and earn up to £90 cash back. Limited number available. See bit.ly/02cashback.
- Get 20 per cent off orders from New Look with code FAMILY20 at Vouchercodes.co.uk. Code expires September 2. See bit.ly/newlooksave20.
- Get 22 per cent off from Morphy Richards goods at bit.ly/22of morphyrichards. Ends Tuesday.
- Sign up to the Harvester email newsletter and get £5 off when you spend £20. Claim your voucher at bit.ly/harvester5off. Until October 7.
- Get 20 per cent off at PrettyLittleThing. See bit.ly/20offprettylittlething for code. Expires tomorrow.