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
SPENDING a few quid on basic maintenance during the autumn months can save you forking out thousands for more major repairs when the winter weather sets in.
The experts from supplies firm mytoolshed.co.uk share their top change-of-season tips.
Autumn fixes to save cash
BOILER SERVICE: A standard service costs about £220 but it is ten times cheaper than the average cost of a new boiler.
Get a qualified tradesman to check it is functioning at full capacity and make sure radiators are working at their optimum level too.
INSULATE PIPES: Protecting pipes in garages and colder rooms only costs around £20 and could be a huge saving.
Burst pipes can cause flooding damage, averaging £7,500 to clear up.
WINDOW AND DOOR MAINTENANCE: Replacing a window frame or front door sets you back around £300.
Repair cracks with sealant which is less than £5 a tube.
Wooden window or door? Consider a new coat of paint for extra protection.
GUTTER CLEAN: Blocked gutters can lead to damp, so check them now and after the leaves have fallen.
A professional gutter clean for about £135 is much cheaper than around £1,000 to repair damp. Also check drains for leaves and debris.
CHIMNEY SWEEP: Open chimney or stove?
Get it professionally cleaned to make sure the fume outlet is clear. Costs start at £50.
Blocked chimneys can be hazardous and cost £500, plus scaffolding, to fix.
Buy of the week
THE end of the stamp duty holiday this week saw the threshold for payments go back to £125,000.
But pick up this bargain two-bed Barnsley semi for less the £125,000 asking price and you won’t pay a penny in extra tax.
STUDENT living is going more eco – with more than half of this year’s freshers claiming they chose their digs based on environmental issues.
Almost a third are willing to pay more for features including solar or renewable energy, or recycled furniture, the study from Student.com discovered.
Dan Baker, general manager for the accommodation website, said: “Students are looking to balance their education with personal passion points.”
Deal of the week
YOU will fall in love with the latest home trend for autumn door wreaths.
This light-up artificial wreath by Symple Stuff was £36.99, now £29.99 at Wayfair.co.uk.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘Decades ago a wall was built between my house and my neighbour’s, limiting my access . . . but she wants to keep it’
Q) I’VE been in my house for more than 20 years.
The previous owner built a wall between us and my neighbour, blocking my access.
I can’t walk round the other side due to our garage. I can only access my back garden by going through the house.
I have to keep the bins in my garage due to this.
I asked my neighbour if she would mind if we knocked down the wall and put up a fence with a gate so we could keep our bins there and access our garden via the side of the house.
But she wants to keep the wall. How do we stand on this?
A) It’s a pity you didn’t object when the previous owner built the wall.
You might have inadvertently caused a legal mess, as your neighbour almost certainly believed she had exclusive access to this land when she purchased the property, which could cause a legal problem moving forward.
Scottish land law can differ from the rest of the country but in this case it seems to me the original wall was built illegally, as it prevented you from accessing a legal right of way on land you own.
To this extent, you could force the issue with your neighbour by taking legal steps forcing her to knock the wall down.
I’d advise you do everything you possibly can to avoid this, however. Send an email (as kindly as possible) reminding your neighbour the wall was unlawfully constructed and offer to partly pay for it to be removed.
If this doesn’t work, I’m afraid you are going to have to instruct specialist lawyers.
Q) I AM confused by my mum and her will.
As the executor, I need to make sure I get it right so I hope you can help.
Mum won’t pay for a solicitor and has done an online will. It has been witnessed correctly, so it should be valid.
She doesn’t have a lot to leave. She has been told there won’t be any probate, as there’s no house to sell and it’s a small estate.
She has a little policy to cover her funeral. In her will she has left her grandchildren and great-grandchildren a small gift each. And that’s it. Nothing more in it at all.
Along came a new great-grandchild after she did this, so she needs to add a codicil to include him.
There may be others in the future.
I have told her a solicitor would know how best to cover future additions to the family but this falls on deaf ears.
But I don’t know what to do with anything left after everything is paid out. It won’t be much.
I know she wants me to share what is left between myself and one of my brothers, but this doesn’t seem right as it is not noted in her will.
I have another brother and sister who she has no contact with, so I see this as a potential issue.
I am tempted to just give what’s left to a charity. Or am I not allowed to do this, as that isn’t in the will either?
A) What a great job you are doing as executor by pre-empting all these issues before your mother passes.
Just to be clear, once any monies have been handed out after your mother dies, you could distribute whatever is left according to the wishes she expressed to you, so there is no reason why you and your brother should not keep that money.
On the other hand, as your mother is prepared to amend her will by drafting codicils to take into account her growing family, it would be wise for her to draft another one making it clear any residual sums should go to you and whomever else she would like to leave it to.
Just to be clear, a codicil is a new written instruction that must be signed and witnessed in exactly the same way as the will.
Dutch and go
Q) IN 2019 I booked an Amsterdam trip, for April 2020.
Obviously we couldn’t go but the website only offered a voucher for the hotel, not a refund.
That expires in December.
There are no available dates in school holidays, so the voucher is useless.
A) Hmm. There is availability outside school holidays so the firm may be within its rights to say you’ve breached its terms unless you go then.
But were you told you could only use the voucher when there were vacancies?
Write to the head of customer affairs to demand a refund or for them to find you an equivalent hotel in school holiday time.
If they refuse, take them to their regulator’s ombudsman service.
Mel Hunter, reader's champion
Hotel hassles with Groupon
Q) I BOUGHT a voucher from Groupon for B&B and an evening meal for two adults and two children in Blackpool.
Groupon told me it was booked for August 29 and said I didn’t need to confirm with the hotel.
I did call the hotel anyway, two days before we were due to travel, and found it had no booking for us and no rooms available.
I called Groupon, which said it would get back to me.
But it didn’t respond in time and I had to pay more than £200 for another hotel so my grandchildren would not be disappointed.
Groupon is refusing to refund my money, insisting the hotel had the booking.
Janice Watson, Carlisle
A) You were left high and dry for the bank holiday weekend. Telling your grandchildren the trip was off was not an option.
Instead of helping you out, Groupon added to your stress, only contacting you after the trip to ask if the problem had been sorted.
I made it clear to Groupon it should refund you without delay, whether the problem lay with it or with the hotel.
I was particularly concerned about this in light of a Government investigation raising concerns that Groupon did not always provide customers with the refunds they were entitled to.
I got your account credited with £230 but feel the company could have gone further to make up for the stress.
A Groupon spokesman apologised for the inconvenience, saying: “Our customer service rep was correct in seeing a confirmed booking but there seems to have been a human error on the merchant’s side, which resulted in it not being held.”
Q) WE booked a holiday with Teletext in May 2020 to Lanzarote, which then didn’t happen.
Teletext wouldn’t give our money back but said we could go another month, so we booked for Spain in October 2020 – but again this was cancelled.
My nan paid the £800 for this holiday for her, me and my daughter.
We’ve got nothing back.
Kirsty Mead, Beds
A) Teletext Travel customers have had a rough ride.
I was deluged with letters about the company earlier this year but struggled to make headway.
Finally, the Competition and Markets Authority took action in April this year, calling on the company to issue the refunds it owed.
That sped things up for many people, with more than £7million paid back.
But the CMA issued another warning two weeks ago, telling Teletext it risked court action if it didn’t sort out the remaining £600,000 owed to customers.
You are one of these customers who seem to have somehow fallen through the net.
I raised your case with Teletext and, unlike earlier in the year when my requests hit a brick wall, this time your refund got sorted within a few days.
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