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
SCORE big with a footie update to your outside space. Whether you’re having pals round to watch the knockout phase of the Euros or you simply want to overhaul an unloved garden, soccer-style makeovers are the latest trend.
Here Jade Shaw, DIY expert at MyToolShed shares her top tips.
1) Add a per-goala: A simple pergola or sail shade costs around £300 but adds a stylish shady area. It’s perfect for keeping cool as the game gets tense.
2) Install AstroTurf: Low-maintenance and hard-wearing, AstroTurf is great for garden gatherings and encouraging the kids to play sport all year round. The average installation cost is £1,500.
3) Multi-functional ice pit: Keep the beers on ice in a 3-in-1 barbecue, fire and ice pit. Costing from £100, they are a focal point which can add up to £3,000 to your property value.
4) Outdoor cinema screen: Watching your team score a last-minute winner will look even better on a big projector screen. Grab a home cinema projector online for less than £35 and outdoor projection screen for around £25.
5) Seating and table area: Make your own team bench. Knock up a budget version using wooden pallets with a protective stain.
6) Pizza oven: Grab a slice of the action. Outdoor pizza ovens are on-trend and although brick- built models cost from £500, they are a hot item on buyers’ lists, adding around £2,500 in value.
7) Show your colours: Add bunting in your team’s colours for the final touch.
Buy of the week
LOOKING for the perfect getaway? This two-bed stone-built cottage is on the edge of the stunning Lake District, perfect for holidays or a total lifestyle change.
Snap it up for £195,000 at onthemarket.com/details/10557111/
Improve your work from home
THOSE of us working from home have spent a combined £2.7bn on creating office space in the last year, according to research by TalkTalk.
Two in five of the workforce did some work from home during the pandemic and 35 per cent of us are planning to upgrade their home offices further this year.
Company boss Jonathan Kini said: “With hybrid working set to continue, we’re investing more.”
Deal of the week
SIT in style. This Vonhaus cotton rope double hanging sofa was £155, but you can use code SUMMER60 to cut the price to £62 at isawitfirst.com
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Landlord’s trying to evict daughter and family, falsely claiming they’re in arrears. He’s given them three weeks to leave . . .
Q) LAST week our daughter received a letter from her private landlord’s solicitor, giving them three weeks’ notice to vacate the house she and her family (husband and 11-year-old twins) have been living in for over six years, saying they owed rent.
They missed one month’s payment last year due to furlough and have been paying this back every month. They have since heard that the landlord is in financial difficulty and that he wishes to sell the property.
Three weeks is too short a time to find other accommodation and pack up their belongings, etc. The twins start secondary school in September and it is really upsetting for them to be put in this situation.
Do they have any legal right to more time to find alternative accommodation?
A) From what you say, these solicitors are attempting to evict your daughter and her children unlawfully.
She is not in any rental arrears at all, but even if she wasn’t able to pay her rent for one month, that would not have been close to the necessary period of non-payment that a landlord would have to be able to show a judge in order to evict your daughter.
This landlord is clearly trying it on in order to get possession of the house so he can sell it. Whilst he may ultimately be legally entitled to do this, your daughter has a right to reasonable notice to vacate the property which should be far longer than three weeks.
She must write to the solicitors making clear that she does not accept that she is in any rental arrears and demand time to find alternative suitable accommodation (at least three months).
If these solicitors reject this or send other threatening correspondence, she must get in touch with the Shelter legal team at once.
Q) I hope that you can give me some advice on rights of way. We bought our semi detached ex-local authority house in 2011.
There are two ways up to it – one via some narrow steps, which is a private entrance, and one via a path, which runs in front of the neighbour’s windows. We were advised this path was our right of way by our estate agent when we bought the house, and we were entitled to use it.
We used the steps, but our circumstances have changed, and we are visited weekly by our granddaughter who has two babies in a pram. She needs to use the path, as lifting a heavy pram up steps is impossible.
The neighbour has placed a large pot plant on the walkway, so it is impossible to pass, and has allowed a spiky tree to partially block the path.
I contacted the local authority, who own the path and walkway, and although they got him to cut back a large thistle plant, he still has the tree and pot blocking the walkway. Are we able to get a solicitor to make him move these obstructions? We have already had problems with this man.
A) Given the local authority own this path and your estate agent clearly stated that you have lawful permission to use it, your neighbour is not allowed to obstruct it.
It’s a pity that you can’t reason with your neighbour but sometimes that isn’t possible.
A solicitor could obtain a court order forcing your neighbour to remove anything from the path and making clear that it must be accessible for you to use as you have a legal right of way. This should not be difficult and will be relatively inexpensive.
Make sure you shop around before deciding on a lawyer you are comfortable with.
Estate so late
Q) MY cousin died in 2013 leaving an estate worth £14,000. She did not have a will. A solicitor was put in charge and my cousins and I assisted with names and addresses. Eight years later the estate is not sorted.
A) The procedure to lawfully distribute the funds (probate), should have been dealt with years ago. I am concerned that a good deal of your cousin’s money has been eaten up in “fees”.
All of the beneficiaries are entitled to know what has happened. Get in touch with the law firm and write a joint email to it, demanding answers and an account of any fees charged. If this firm has sat on this and done nothing, you may have a strong case against it.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
Debt stress as I grieved
Q) MY wife and I booked a trip with Cruise & Maritime, but the holiday was cancelled because of Covid. Instead, we were offered another cruise to Greenland later in the year.
But the cruise company went into liquidation and we were advised by ABTA to claim the total cost from our credit card company, HSBC.
We raised a section 75 claim with HSBC, attaching a letter including the full amount we lost. We settled on the sum of £2,782, which was paid to us, but three months later we discovered HSBC had charged our credit card with £696 without explaining what this was for.
We got this reversed but two days later the charge was back on our account, and now it was over £700. We keep being told this is a mistake, but nothing has been done and we feel like we are going around in circles.
A) You’d been trying for a long while to sort this out. I manage to untangle things for you and get the bank to resolve it in your favour, also securing you £200 compensation.
A spokesperson for HSBC said: “Unfortunately, there was an error on our part with one of the disputed transactions not raised for processing.
“This, alongside confusion over money that was returned to the account and then re-debited, led to a credit card payment being missed.
“We appreciate the Bambers have not received the high level of customer service we strive for.
“We have apologised, provided them with a gesture of goodwill for any stress and inconvenience caused and taken action to correct any information held by credit reference agencies.”
Unfortunately the incident left a bad taste in your mouth and both you and your wife are now looking to close your long-standing accounts with the bank.
Q) I BOUGHT a TV from Currys PC World online last December but in March it started to show signs of failure, overheating with a white mark on the screen.
I reported it to Currys, who took it in but they returned it unrepaired saying it was due to negligence on our part.
I disputed this as the TV had been on a bracket on the wall since we bought it. I am now £320 out of pocket and furious.
A) If a fault occurs within the first six months after purchase the onus is on the retailer to prove the fault was not caused by a manufacturing defect.
I did not feel enough evidence has been provided here to support that, and asked Currys to reconsider.
The retailer stuck to its guns, insisting the examinations showed damage, which you strongly dispute. However, it agreed to exchange the faulty TV for a new one.
A Currys PC World spokesperson said: “We are sorry that Ms Grant did not receive the level of customer service we expect of ourselves. We have agreed a product exchange in lieu of a repair.”