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
THE Great British Bake Off’s return to our TV screens was seen by 10.8million viewers, making it Channel 4’s most-watched programme since 1985.
The show has also sparked a national baking frenzy, with supermarkets ordering extra stocks of flour and eggs. If you are planning your own showstoppers, these top tips from interior design site Houzz.co.uk will help get your kitchen ready.
- Plan in a pantry – Great bakes need a lot of ingredients, plus pans, utensils and recipe books. Have everything to hand, with a pantry. Searches for pantries are up by 49 per cent this year and range from cupboards to full walk-in larders.
- Prepare the surface – Your worktop material could affect how your cakes turn out. Pick materials that are hard-wearing enough to withstand food prep. Professionals recommend quartz and granite, as they resist stains and scratches and can handle a hot cake tin fresh out of the oven.
- Carve out a workspace – Make the most of your space so you can juggle ingredients, bowls, cooling racks and timers. Think about simple space-savers such as a recipe book/iPad stand.
- Suitable flooring – A baker’s floor needs to be practical and hardwearing. Consider what will happen if you drop a ceramic bowl or hot cake mixture. Also, how will it feel to stand on for long periods? Rubber, cork, vinyl and wood are more forgiving than stone, concrete and ceramic.
- Get the lighting right – Good lighting is key to cake decorating. Spotlight the areas where you will be working and avoid casting a shadow across your worktop, by installing lights under wall units.
Buy of the week
BRITISH boxing legend Frank Bruno made the news after being floored by his own punch bag at his home in Leighton Buzzard during a small earthquake.
This modern, two-bedroom, end-of-terrace house, set over a single floor, is on a sought-after development in the Bedfordshire town.
It is a knockout at just £219,995. See onthemarket.com/details/9054225
ALMOST one in ten homes have not got a working smoke alarm, according to figures from the Local Government Association.
Of those alarms, only one in four are tested monthly.
This year the risk is greater, with more people working from home and turning on fires and heaters as temperatures drop.
Ian Stephens, chairman of the LGA’s fire-services management committee, says: “Smoke alarms are proven life-savers and can make the single vital difference between surviving and dying in a fire.”
Deal of the week
GIVE your sofa a luxury look while doing your bit for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
For each Jasper scatter cushion sold in October, Sofology will donate £5 to Breast Cancer Now. Buy in-store or online at sofology.co.uk.
Q) I AM currently trying to sell my house. However, my neighbours have a load of rubbish and old furniture in their front garden, which I believe is a major turn-off to potential buyers.
I have raised it with them several times in as polite a way as possible and they always get aggressive and confrontational.
Now I don’t know what to do. Is there a way I can compel them to clean up their mess?
A) If your neighbour’s home was owned and managed by your local authority, then it would have the power to force your untidy neighbours to clean up their garden.
It seems, however, that your neighbour’s house is owned privately. If so, this situation is rather more tricky.
You could in theory bring a legal claim against your neighbours for the nuisance they are causing.
But that would be tough, and rather complicated to pursue.
Depending on the amount of stuff that’s been tipped on to their front garden, you could also report your neighbours to the authorities for fly-tipping.
This might result in action being taken against them, forcing them to clean up.
Your best option might be to approach your neighbours again and offer to pay for the clean-up yourself.
I know that this isn’t an ideal solution – to say the very least. The law in this situation ought to be straightforward and helpful to you but I am afraid it isn’t.
Q) I WAS furloughed in March, with my employer topping up my wages by the remaining 20 per cent. I’ve now got a new job and handed my notice in. My boss was angry and said in my final pay check he won’t add the extra 20 per cent. Is this legal?
A) This is relatively new legal territory. When your employer furloughed you, he made clear you would be paid your full salary.
In doing so, it might be argued you were contractually promised your full salary until you returned to work or handed in your notice.
He will have an uphill struggle persuading a court he is entitled to reduce your money now, especially as he appears to be retaliating against you for leaving.
I strongly urge you to try to settle this amicably with your employer.
If you can’t, you may have to accept the reduced amount, then, depending on how much is at stake, take your employer to court.
Citizens Advice can point you in the direction of free legal advice.
Q) I RENT my flat and have recently realised that we have got a major problem with mice.
When I told my landlord, he said it was for me to sort out, as it must be down to my level of “hygiene”.
I always keep the flat tidy and clean and my argument is that he has not pest-proofed the flat. Whose responsibility is it to pay for pest control?
A) By law, your landlord will be liable for pest control if the infestation existed prior to you moving in, AND the reason that mice got into the property in the first place was because of any disrepair.
It seems to me that unless you are deliberately living in squalor, you will have very little difficulty proving that the mice got in because of a defect in the property.
On top of this, your landlord is legally required to make sure that your home is safe and inhabitable.
He is clearly in breach of this. You should email your landlord at once, giving him seven days to pay for pest control and to make necessary repairs so that this does not happen again.
If he ignores you, you may have to take court action.
Do not let him get away with this. Too many landlords try to fob tenants off like yours has.
- 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.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) I BOOKED an Airbnb for April in Dublin as a surprise for my mum on her 70th birthday. Airbnb took the £120 deposit in January and the last payment of £120 on April 6, though it was lockdown then and there was no hope of going.
I tried to contact the host to ask for a refund but got no response. I tried to contact Airbnb, which said there was a delay.
Airbnb then sent me a message saying the case was closed.
I’ve now been told I’m being made redundant, so that money would be really helpful to me and my family right now.
ALEXANDRA McCOMBIE, Harlow, Essex
A) I KNEW Airbnb had a policy whereby stays booked before March 14, to be taken over the following months, could ask for a refund.
On that basis, I could not understand why this wasn’t an option for you.
I got on to the site and quickly got this sorted, with Airbnb refunding under the “extenuating circumstances” policy and apologising to you for the hiccup. It claims you didn’t respond to a message asking if you still needed help, which triggered an automatic reply.
It insists it did not close the case.
The policy that eventually helped you currently means that hosts or guests with reservations booked before March 14, with a check-in date in the next 45 days, can cancel without penalty.
This would cover families who made advance travel plans for the October half term.
Given the current upward curve of cases in the UK, the policy also covers customers who need to cancel a booking because they actually have coronavirus, regardless of when they booked the stay.
Q) MY mobile phone stopped working so Vodafone told me to securely package it up and a courier would collect it.
The courier arrived before I’d had a chance to pack up the phone, so said he would return later – but he never did.
I tried to get hold of the courier and ended up going back to Vodafone who eventually sent me a package to return the phone.
I sent it two months ago, but no one can tell me where it is.
I have been told I will be charged £250 if I cancel my contract but I haven’t had a phone for ten weeks, so what can I do? I’m 76 and can’t afford that.
EDWARD CLARK, Weston-super-Mare Somerset
A) Vodafone should have employed a bit of empathy and common sense here before I had to step in.
Once I did, I am pleased to say that they replaced your old phone with a newer model at no extra charge and refunded the three months of line rental you had paid but hadn’t been able to use.
A spokesman said: “We apologise to Mr Clark for the inconvenience caused by the delay in replacing his device.”
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
MY top five freebies this week are:
Ten best deals
- SAVE £10 on orders over £90 from Coast. Offer ends Wednesday. See bit.ly/coast1090.
- GET 15 per cent off orders over £75 from The Perfume Shop by Tuesday. See bit.ly/theperfumeshop15.
- NEW Asos customers get 15 per cent off their first order with code ASOSNEWSUMMER. Offer ends on Monday. See bit.ly/asos15new.
- GET 50 per cent off your first month’s membership at Pure Gym and £0 joining fee at selected gyms with code SAVEHALF until Monday. See bit.ly/puregym.
- GET 50 per cent off main meals at All Bar One, Monday-Wednesday, next week. Just show the voucher from bit.ly/allbarone50.
- SAVE 20 per cent on River Island orders over £60 with the code from bit.ly/riverisland20. Code expires on Sunday.
- GET 20 per cent off selected Footasylum orders with code SECRET20 by Tuesday. See bit.ly/footasylum20vc.
- SAVE an extra 20 per cent off the Disney sale at outlet store shopDisney. Use VoucherCodes code EXTRA20 at the checkout. Expires on Sunday.
- SIGN up to free student discount site Student Beans and get £5 off a £40 spend at Iceland. See bit.ly/icelandstudent5.
- Get 15 per cent off orders from The Body Shop until Monday. See bit.ly/bodyshop15vc.
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