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
These fixtures are a knockout
THE stamp duty holiday ended this week, meaning buyers will once again pay normal rates on the controversial tax when buying a house.
Around 1.3million buyers took advantage of the relief in place since last July, with savings up to £15,000 each.
But if you missed out, there are still plenty of ways to save when you move home. Sam Mitchell, CEO of online estate agent Strike, shares his top tips.
1) Time is money: Some times of the year are quieter for sales than others. A less competitive market may mean you can pick up a property for a lower price. There are often lulls in school holidays and around Christmas.
2) Move your mortgage: Most lenders allow you to “port” your mortgage from your existing property to the one you’re buying. But check if you can get a better deal elsewhere as it can potentially save thousands of pounds.
3) Cut your moving costs: Do a major declutter so you have less to transport. Be flexible on your moving date, too. Fridays tend to be most expensive as they are most in demand, while Sunday is cheapest. Some removers offer discounts for keyworkers, Armed Forces or OAPs. Or rent a van and do it yourself.
4) Hammer down your household bills: Moving home is a perfect time to re-evaluate all your subscriptions and bills. Do you really need them or can you get a better price elsewhere? Check everything from insurance to phones and TV.
5) Sell for less: If you are selling, compare the costs of local agents as fees can vary widely. If you are confident doing your own viewings, online agents can be cheaper or even list your home for free.
Buy of the week
SNAP up a slice of style by the seaside. This two-bed converted miller’s cottage is part of the trendy Bread Factory development in Ramsgate, Kent.
Offers over £235,000 at zoopla.co.uk/ for-sale/details/56492676.
New income streams
MORE than 1,500 people applying for a mortgage over the last year have cited adult subscription site OnlyFans as their main source of income.
The site has 30 million users and 450,000 content creators.
Pete Mugleston, of online mortgageadvisor.co.uk, which compiled the figures, said: “Who are we to judge how they make their money, as long as it’s above board and legal.”
Company boss Jonathan Kini said: “With hybrid working set to continue, we’re investing more.”
Deal of the week
DOUBLE your looks for half the cash. This reversible on-trend Jungle Cat duvet cover is just £14.99 at studio.co.uk for a double, £9.99 a single.
SAVE: £20 on similar designs elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘It’s the neighbours’ fence but they are asking my elderly parents to cough up half the cost to replace it’
Q) MY parents have lived at their property for 55 years. During that time the next-door property was sold and rebuilt as a care home.
During the rebuild, the care home took down the fence and put a new one up. My parents have never had to maintain this fence as they have the deeds which state the fence is not theirs.
However, it is now in a poor state of repair and they have asked the care home to put in a replacement.
The care home says it will arrange this but my parents need to pay half the costs. Are they really liable?
A) The law governing whose responsibility it is to maintain a shared fence is very unclear. There is no strict rule, which makes things rather difficult, to say the least.
In your parents’ case however this doesn’t seem to be a problem because the deeds clearly state the fence is on the neighbour’s side of the boundary.
In addition, the fence now seems to be in a potentially dangerous state which could cause damage to your parents’ property or, more importantly, to them.
Your parents should write to the care home asking for them to explain why they believe, as a matter of law, your parents owe half the money for the repair. I suspect they won’t have a reason.
I would also suggest getting their local ward council representative involved. They can often be of help especially when there is a hazard on a property housing elderly people.
SINCE November 2020 we have received around nine enforcement notices at our address for a named person and vehicle(s) that have nothing to do with us.
They don’t all originate from the same area. The advice I was given was to “return to sender, not known at this address”. But they keep coming, threatening us with further fees and bailiffs.
We have lived at our address since 2002, and have no idea who the person is and have never had anything to do with the vehicles. Can bailiffs turn up on our doorstep and demand to see proof that none of this has anything to do with us?
A) This is an extremely stressful and all- too-common situation. I’m worried your address appears to be connected to a vehicle you have nothing to do with, which could be a fraud.
I am also concerned that, although you have done nothing wrong by returning the letters “to sender”, this isn’t getting the debt companies off your back, which could result in bailiffs showing up forcing you to prove that you are nothing to do with this vehicle.
You are going to have to contact these debt collectors and write to them in the strongest possible terms that if they continue to harass you, you will take legal action.
I strongly urge you to get in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau to get help with this letter. At the same time, I would advise you to contact the police and report this is as a fraud.
Q) MY mother died a year ago and left £11,000 to pay for her funeral and headstone. The rest of her estate was to be divided between her five children.
My brother, the executor, arranged the payment for the funeral but he exceeded the £11,000 budget, partly because he spent money on things that were not part of her wishes.
He has taken an extra £300 out of three of our shares, without consulting us. Is he able to do this?
A) Your brother had a legal duty to keep the funeral within a reasonable budget and, as far as possible, not to spend more than the amount specified.
However, he is well within his legal rights to take money from the estate to cover funeral costs, so the question is whether the overspend was unreasonable or negligent in some way.
It would be far too costly to bring an action against him. While you could challenge him and demand to keep your money, the wiser course may be to keep the peace and ensure he properly distributes the remaining funds.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
In hot water with boiler
Q) I HAVE my central heating insured with British Gas. The contract is for an annual service and repairs. My boiler was last serviced in August 2019 but in May last year it started switching itself off at least twice a day.
When I contacted British Gas I was asked if I knew how to restart the boiler. I said “Yes” and the company decreed that therefore this wasn’t an emergency and because of Covid it wouldn’t come out.
I was turning the boiler back on twice a day, despite being a disabled 78-year-old.
At the start of April this year I rang and said I needed an engineer to come out. The first appointment was a month later. Then that got cancelled. Another appointment was made for the next day but the same thing happened.
I emailed to say British Gas was taking £53 from my account every month for a service it could not provide and that I expected compensation, but the email was ignored.
A) Not being a priority is one thing, but having to wait a whole year left you boiling mad!
In my view, you shouldn’t have been a low priority at all. Your age, disability and the fact you were paying a stonking £50-plus a month to insure yourself against this exact situation should have put you close to the top of British Gas’s list.
When you did finally get on its radar, it cancelled your appointments, until eventually, just before I got on the case for you, your boiler got fixed.
The question of compensation, though, appeared to be ignored, so I raised it loud and clear with the company. British Gas agreed it had let you down. A manager contacted you by phone and offered you £300 for your poor experience, which you accepted.
Q) OUR landline has not been working for months.
At the beginning of March, an engineer came out and said the cable in the road needed replacing. The job was arranged for the next day.
No one turned up. I called customer services and they gave me another appointment.
Since then we have had three or four dates and they just don’t arrive. I am getting so stressed trying to deal with Virgin Media.
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A) I got on to Virgin Media, and at first they insisted the two and a half month delay was because construction work needed to be carried out on your road and they had to wait for the necessary council permits.
Strangely though, when an engineer did finally turn up after I demanded action, he fixed the problem in an hour – no digging required.
A Virgin Media spokesperson told me that it had found an alternative solution: “We apologise to Mrs del Greco for not fixing her services sooner. Mrs del Greco’s services are fully restored and we have provided her with a gesture of goodwill, which she has accepted.”
You had already received £175 for cancelled appointments, and Virgin gave you a free month’s service, adding £31.50 on top.