THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
Get ready for unlockdown
ARE you ready to throw open the doors and show off your home to guests again?
Most of us won’t have had people over for more than a year. But with lockdown rules easing from Monday and sleepovers allowed, the nation is braced for the year’s biggest weekend of DIY.
Try these top tips and quick fixes to get your home fit for visitors.
❶ First impressions count: Start by giving the front door a freshen-up. If there is time, paint it a bright new colour. If not, door experts Safestyle suggest loosening dirt and cobwebs with an old paintbrush then wiping it down with washing-up liquid and warm water. Don’t forget the doorframe.
❷ Let the light in: Washing your windows is the easiest way to bring in light. Do them inside as well as out, or the streaks can show.
❸ Get guest-ready: Are people staying over? Update your interior with a bright sofabed that doubles as a room centrepiece. Made.com has jewel-toned options from £299.
❹ Spa style: Transform the bathroom for less than £20. Add soft, plush towels from Primark for less than £8 and trendy houseplants in matching pots. B&Q has a range starting from less than £5. Add a luxury soap dispenser from Asda for £5 to enhance the makeover.
❺ Think Insta: Posing for a reunion selfie? Dig out old Christmas fairy lights to add sparkle. Put a bright garland in welcoming colours on the door and check Pinterest for inspirational ideas.
❻ Gorgeous gardens: Clear away weeds, sweep debris and jetwash or scrub patios, driveways and paths.
BUY OF THE WEEK
FED up with the drab May weather? Bring some spring cheer into your life with this colour-popping Nottingham townhouse.
The stylish three-bed home is yours for £230,000 at onthemarket.com/details/10376489.
Deal of the week
IT’S an unlikely style statement, but this on-trend vintage-style eight-litre sage bin from Dunelm will lift any kitchen. Snap it up for £20.
SAVE: £20 on similar styles elsewhere
Water savings up to £400 a year
ARE you splashing out too much on your water bills?
Next week is Water Saving Week and making a few savvy changes can save up to £400 a year.
They include switching to an aerated showerhead, running your bath an inch shorter than usual or reading the washing machine manual so that you use the most water-efficient cycles.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘Son and pregnant fiancée face losing wedding deposit after venue backtracked on re-arranged date’
Q) MY son and his fiancée arranged their wedding for this coming September 10. The booking was made last year.
At Christmas they found out they were expecting their first baby, due on August 5.
If the baby is overdue or a caesarean is needed, obviously it would be a problem.
In January they asked the venue if they could rearrange for 2022. Over the phone they confirmed they would take the option to reschedule for free if they waited eight weeks before the wedding to do so.
All money was paid for the hire. But now they are told that because of the Covid restrictions being lifted, the offer given in January was now not valid and if they want to cancel or reschedule, they are in breach of their original contract and could lose all their deposit.
The CEO has offered two November dates. They can change for free but this is not the time of year they would like.
A) The venue offered a new date in 2022 which was accepted and has been paid in full. This is a legally binding contract.
Unless this CEO is able to point to a specific term or condition (which your son and his fiancée were aware of and agreed to) giving the venue the right to amend its clear offer in the event that Covid restrictions were lifted, the venue must honour its side of the agreement and provide a 2022 date.
I am aware of other venues trying to do this sort of thing now. It is not acceptable. Your son and his fiancée must write to the CEO again reminding them of the clear and unequivocal promise made over the phone and insisting on a date in the new year. The letter needs to be reasonable but firm. The law is on your side.
Q) MY dad died 20 years ago, leaving my sister and I his property in a will.
His second wife could live in it rent-free for life. She was left money to maintain it but it’s in poor repair.
She died three months ago and the house has been emptied. Her son will not hand over the deeds to the property and has keys, and says he has been advised by his solicitor not to hand them over as he is dealing with her estate. But the deeds have nothing to do with her estate as they belong to us. We need the deeds to sell.
How do we get them? When we do, can we submit estimates for work that should have been done to the house and claim against her estate?
Carol, Loughborough, Leics
A) The property is likely to be registered with the Land Registry, which holds official copies. This is extremely easy to get hold of online.
Your bigger problem is likely to be making a claim for the lack of upkeep.
Attempt to be reasonable as issues like this can end up in toxic litigation. If the son is being difficult, consider offering to raise any issues he may have with a professional mediator.
I’d strongly urge you to get specialist legal advice, as determining how much is owed to whom in this case may not be straightforward.
Q) I HAVE separated from my wife and it seems no reconciliation is possible.
We have only been married for two years but were together for seven. As I am an elderly gentleman living on a state pension, I cannot afford expensive solicitors.
It has been suggested to me that you can get a divorce online. There are many firms that pop up but I don’t know if they are genuine or not. Is this worth pursuing?
A) If you and your ex-partner agree there is no hope of reconciliation and if you are both entirely confident there are no contentious financial matters to resolve between you or any issue over who is entitled to your house, there is no reason why you need a lawyer to handle your divorce. All the help you require can be found online and is straightforward.
Assuming you have the agreement of your ex, your best bet is to go along to Citizens Advice, who can help with filling in the forms.
I must emphasise that if there appears to be any possible financial conflict with your ex-partner or any potential claim over your home, you must get legal advice. This should not be too expensive and would save a great deal of money and stress in the long term.
Mel Hunter, reader's champion
Ticket stress adds to grief
Q) I BOUGHT tickets for myself, my husband and son to see wrestling at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro last May, costing £230. The event was cancelled and re-arranged for last October 2020 but again it didn’t go ahead.
Sadly my husband passed away from Covid and I want a refund. I have sent countless emails to Ticketmaster but never get a response. I’ve phoned and left voicemails too. But nothing.
I’ve tried the SSE Hydro too.
Is there anything you can do to help? This is a lot of money for a recently bereaved single parent. It would go towards my husband’s funeral bill, which I’m still paying off.
ELIZABETH JONES, Edinburgh
A) While the pandemic has upended many plans, experiences such as yours show that for thousands of families, the repercussions go far deeper. As the event had been cancelled, you were clearly due a refund. So I contacted Ticketmaster to sort this out.
The company was quick to say you would get your money back and, on investigation, found you had been emailing a “no reply” address.
You are by no means alone in doing this. Under your kind of stress, the mistake is understandable. It is unfortunate that your phone messages went unanswered too.
Most importantly, you got your money back, taking a little bit of the weight off your shoulders at this really difficult time for you and your family.
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FEELING TEE’D OFF
Q) I ORGANISED a golf trip to Spain for 20 friends, due to set off at the end of September last year.
I booked flights with Jet2 and paid £239pp, including sports gear, to a total of £4,780.
I had to change the booking to 2021. The resort was fine but Jet2 told me the flights were more expensive.
The new total was £7,695 – nearly £150pp more. It basically said there was no goodwill for keeping the booking and to take it or leave it. With the pressure of 20 people to deal with, we kept the flights but the price just doesn’t feel right.
Fast-forward to now and I can book the same flight on Jet2’s website for £184pp.
Jet2 has again just dismissed me.
ANDREW Forest of Dean, Gloucs
A) Jet2 has emerged from this torrid past year fairly positively and charging £3,000 extra for re-booking this trip seemed harsh.
You had remained loyal to the airline and did not exercise your right to a refund as so many others did. Your reward? Paying around 60 per cent more. Even given normal fluctuations in price, this was eye-watering.
I asked Jet2 to look again and it refunded you almost £3,000 to put you back in your original position – a great result.
A spokesperson said: “At the time Andrew amended the booking, this was subject to our normal T&Cs. We have since spoken to him and are pleased to say the matter has been resolved.”
I hope you enjoy your long-awaited trip.
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