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
SELLING your home? Then get ready for the Boxing Day Bounce – the period from today to New Year’s Eve is traditionally the busiest time of the year for property portals, with Rightmove reporting a 231 per cent surge in traffic this time last year.
Here, Sam Mitchell, CEO of online estate agent strike.co.uk, shares his top tips for boxing clever.
Get your home ready: Fix leaky taps, fill cracks and clean carpets and upholstery.
Create kerb appeal: Make your home stand out. Pick up litter, clean or paint the front door, hide bins and make sure the path to your home is inviting.
Spruce up the garden: Remove dead leaves, cut back overhanging plants and clear any clutter so your garden looks as big as possible.
Maximise your online presence: Marketing during lockdown relies on buyers looking online. Choose a digitally-savvy agent who will use keywords in your listing such as garden, annexe, study or playroom / office.
Get the photos right: Ensure your agent takes top-quality photos so your house looks its very best. Your main image needs to be perfect to draw people in. Showcase the best parts of your home.
Price realistically: It’s usually the biggest factor in how fast a home sells. A competitive price can trigger offers above the asking price – research what similar homes are selling for locally.
Buy of the week
HAMPSHIRE residents are the UK’s keenest home movers, with 40 sales completing between Christmas and New Year last year, according to website yeshomebuyers.com.
Join them with this stunning one-bed garden flat in Southampton. It’s on sale for £175,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/57217434.
Deal of the week
ADD storage, seating and style to your lounge with this Safina Ottoman.
Was £239.97, now £149.97 at furniture123.co.uk.
Q. IN September we were quoted a total of £3,300 for refitting our dormer windows. We agreed to this and paid a £660 deposit.
A provisional date for the work was set as December 1. It then changed to December 10. That date passed without contact from them.
When I chased the company it said we would need to pay £2,000 extra for scaffolding. This is far more than we want to pay. Am I entitled to the deposit back?
The firm says not because we already agreed to the work being done, but we didn’t have the full figure at that stage.
A: It was an extremely bad idea to hand over a deposit without having a clear agreement in writing as this is precisely the sort of problem that can arise.
That said, it seems to me you are almost certainly entitled to a full refund because the window company does not appear to have given you any indication whatsoever (either verbally or by providing you with written terms and conditions), that it was going to be charging extra for the scaffolding.
You were either explicitly told when you agreed to the work or you reasonably assumed that £3,300 was the total price for everything. By demanding an extra £2,000, this firm is attempting to vary your verbal contract, which you do not have to accept.
Either insist the company does the work for the price quoted or insist it returns your deposit. Email it at once making clear that, unless it returns your money, you will bring legal proceedings in the small claims court.
Q) MY gran died in May and my mum is her executor. As the estate was more than £32,000, my gran’s solicitor had to obtain court confirmation (we are in Scotland) before the estate could be distributed among the named beneficiaries.
It took more than six months to get confirmation, with much of the delay down to a catalogue of mistakes on the solicitor’s part.
When it was finally sorted, my mum paid the solicitor’s bill, all other bills/debts related to the estate and distributed the remainder to the beneficiaries.
Now the solicitor has written requesting payment for a court fee of more than £250 which they omitted. Does she have to pay it from her own money or should the solicitor be told they are too late to claim on the estate?
A: Despite the appalling mistakes these solicitors have made, they could in principle ask your mother (as the executor) to get the money back from the beneficiaries.
However, it seems to me the solicitors will have a tough time getting anywhere, given their behaviour. Your mum should write to them reminding them that the funds have already been dispersed to the beneficiaries and that this new charge has come to light because of this firm’s admitted negligence.
She should make clear she will not be paying this fee given the solicitors’ conduct and is considering reporting them to their regulator.
Q. I BOOKED a mini cruise to Amsterdam for March 28 this year. It was cancelled due to lockdown but because the ferries were still running I was told I was not entitled to a refund.
Instead I was offered a credit note, which expires at the end of December. I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel before then. What should I do?
WENDY, South Shields
A: The law has evolved a little since the first full lockdown but it is still a mess so there are thousands in the same boat (sorry) as you.
I understand why the cruise firm took the view it was only bound to offer you a credit note in March, but this was probably incorrect.
Either way, this travel company must fully honour your credit note.
You have several options: You could simply use the credit now to book a cruise some time in the future.
You could get in touch with the company asking for a Refund Credit Note with a new expiry date if you need more time to decide. Or you could make clear you want to exchange your credit for cash.
Whatever you decide, do not delay. If the company refuses to assist, make clear to it that you will be registering a complaint with ABTA.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q: I SAVED up for almost a year to surprise my husband for his birthday. I wanted to take him to Dallas and do the JFK tour.
I booked flights with Aer Lingus through Expedia but, because the US borders closed to tourists, we would not have been allowed on the plane. Expedia told me to contact it two days before departure. I did, but Expedia couldn’t get through to Aer Lingus.
I’ve been told that because Aer Lingus didn’t cancel the flight, I can’t get a refund or credit – I would have been happy with either. My only option was to change the dates but my original flights cost £1,000 and I am told I must pay another £1,400 to change them, which I can’t afford. I am distraught.
Kathryn McGowan, Dundonald, Co Down
A: You had planned a dream trip to Dallas but ended up in your own soap opera.
Your trip was planned for a couple of months ago and, when I stepped in, you had basically been told you had lost your £1,000 unless you paid £1,400 more. Aer Lingus had told you the flight had flown, and Expedia offered no alternative information.
But that turned out to be incorrect. Pressed by me, Expedia checked again and discovered your flight had been cancelled. As a result, you were entitled to all your money back. You should have been told this long ago.
An Expedia spokesperson said: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. In this instance, we can confirm that the customer can get a full refund, as the scheduled Aer Lingus flight was cancelled. We apologise for any miscommunication.”
Q: IN May 2019 I bought an iPhone from musicMagpie for £299.99 but this April this year it would not connect to my service provider.
I had to wait until after lockdown to contact Apple, who said the phone was not meant to be sold in the UK, so I would have to pay £180 to get it fixed.
MusicMagpie finally agreed to send a replacement when I returned it, but then said it had not received the parcel, despite me providing proof it had been delivered to it.
MusicMagpie then said it had sent a replacement but the tracking number showed a parcel that had been delivered to an office in Rotherham. Finally it agreed to a refund, but I haven’t had it.
Dean Large, Birmingham
A: You were led a merry dance, starting with being told the phone couldn’t be repaired by Apple in this country.
The email chain that followed was farcical with musicMagpie even suggesting you had moved to Rotherham, when you have lived in Birmingham for years.
With me on the case, a full refund was processed by the company, which buys and refurbishes used phones before selling them on.
A spokesman for musicMagpie said: “We ensure all phones are functional for use in the country from which they are bought, as was the case here. However, we always respect our customers’ right to seek a replacement if they are not completely happy, and we apologise for the uncharacteristic delay experienced in this particular case.”
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