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
BUILD your very own love nest this Valentine’s Day. Upping the romance factor while renovating is easy and can even boost the value of your pad.
Get your heart racing by showing your home some love, with these great tips – whatever your budget.
HANG TWINKLE LIGHTS: Use your old Christmas lights to save cash. Drape them around the garden, over your bed or across the dinner table for a cosy glow.
GET A LOVE SEAT: The tiny two-seater sofas are on-trend and can cost from just £150. Or hire a carpenter to create a swing chair or bench from £35 a hour.
REDECORATE: Painting a room in a sensual shade like romantic pink or romantic red costs £190 a day for a professional decorator. Kitchens, bedrooms and dining rooms top the list for Valentine’s repaints, according to Checkatrade.
INSTALL A HOT TUB: Perfect for getting cosy whatever the weather, home spa tubs cost between £1,000 and £10,000. Sales soared ten-fold in lockdown but you’ll also need to factor in running costs of around £720 per year.
CREATE A CINEMA ROOM: Want to snuggle up and watch rom-coms togethers? Building a cinema room costs on average of £8,450 but can add value to your pad. To make it worthwhile, you will need to buy a quality projector and surround-sound speakers, but you can save money by painting the wall white to act as a screen and using beanbags in place of pricey chairs.
Buy of the week
LOSE your heart this Valentine’s Day to this picture perfect two-bed cottage.
Located on Love Row in Drayton Parslow near Milton Keynes, it’s yours for £230,000 at onthemarket.com/details/8797263.
What’s in a name?
LIVING on a road with a meaningful name can increase your property’s value.
A study by Online MortgageAdvisor.co.uk found homes on streets with the name “chivalry”, which tend to be old and well established, are worth £391,089 more than the average for the nation.
Having the word “love” in your address is no cause for heartbreak either, it pushes prices almost £80,000 higher than the norm.
Deal of the week
GIVE your settee an instant update.
This hearts-print purple sofa cover fits most sofas including L-shaped ones and is just £49.99 from covermysofa.com for a three-seater.
SAVE: At least £100 on the price of a new sofa
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q) In January 2020 my niece set her heart on a £300 black prom dress. The shop owner said that if we put down a £100 deposit, she would reserve it.
Then we’d go back at Easter to have any alterations made and pay the remaining £200. I paid the deposit and got a receipt.
Then came coronavirus and lockdown, so we couldn’t go back as planned.
As we’re in Tier 3, the school cancelled the prom. I wrote asking for my deposit back, as no alterations had been made. But she has refused, saying I am not entitled.
A) When you handed over a deposit, you entered into a legally binding contract requiring you to pay the balance when the time came. The shopkeeper could reasonably argue she is entitled to keep your money.
However, a business is usually only able to retain a deposit to cover any loss that resulted directly from your cancellation.
This shopkeeper could have sold the dress but this is not your fault and the dress is still available to be sold. It would be wholly unfair for this shopkeeper to hold you responsible.
Email her at once, reminding her that at no point did she make clear the deposit was not refundable and that any loss she may have incurred is not your fault, particularly as the contract was cancelled due to circumstances wholly out of your control. Be tough but kind in your correspondence.
Fee a bad call
Q) MUM is 78 and depends on her landline, which links to a fall alarm. But there’s been a fault for two weeks and counting. Her phone provider was no help so we decided to switch. Then she got charged for breaking the contract. Surely they broke the contract by not providing a service?
A) This is disgraceful. Look at this firm’s online T&Cs. I suspect she is bound to pay a fee, as there is often something in the terms saying technical faults are not their responsibility.
Either way, you are correct that its failure to repair her phone in a reasonable amount of time amounted to a breach of contract. Email its head of PR demanding to know if this is how the firm treats all its elderly clients.
Make it clear you expect their charges to be cancelled and that you reserve the right to publicise this matter. Don’t let them get away with it.
Q) I bought a new-build home four years ago and now the roof is leaking, with water coming through the en-suite ceiling. My first port of call was the National House Building Council, which provides an eight-year guarantee on the property.
It dismissed my claim, saying the cost of repairs fell below its £1,750 minimum.
It did not inspect the roof, just a few pictures I sent over. It has no idea what the defect is but insists it will cost less than £1,750 to make good, which I doubt.
Next I went to the builder, asking it to inspect the roof and make any repairs.
I did not consider a roof leak acceptable after just four years. The firm responded by saying that because the problem occurred outside its own two-year warranty period, it would not be able to assist me any further. This can’t be correct. What can I do?
Andrew, Hinckley, Leics
A) All new-build homes in this country should be covered by a ten-year home warranty and insurance guarantee, which should have provided you with comprehensive protection – including the damages to your home from this leak.
I do not understand what happened here – or why the National House Building Council requires a minimum of £1,750 before it will assist you. But assuming this is the case, you should write asking it to review its initial refusal to pay out – especially given its failure to properly asses the damage to your home.
You must also get in touch with the house builder again, asking why the warranty it gave you was only for two years. (I am troubled by this.) Lastly, this may be a case where legal advice is required. An initial consultation should not cost you anything and a specialist solicitor’s letter is likely to help.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
Q) I ORDERED a laptop in September for my son from very.co.uk, which he was paying for with his student loan.
A £30 discount code that I’d been sent was applied at the checkout. The website also showed there was another discount which entitled me to change my payment to Buy Now Pay In October and get a further £100 off.
Normally I find that companies will only allow one discount code to be used so I was surprised when the system accepted the second one.
When I received my next statement my account still confirmed that it was Buy Now Pay In October, but the £100 had not been applied.
Customer Care confirmed that it would be credited to my account.
But it was not on my next statement and, when I called again, I was told I could not have both discounts, neither would it let me remove the £30 code and replace it with the £100.
Dawn Craddock, Norwich
A) Very got you in a pickle over these discounts. You would have swapped the £30 code for the £100 discount in a flash, but the website seemed to accept both. It was only when you got your statement, you realised the £100 hadn’t been applied.
I got in touch with the retailer and managed to get this resolved. A spokesperson for The Very Group said: “We’ve contacted the customer to say sorry and applied the £100 credit to their account. We will honour the original £30 discount to make up for the inconvenience caused. On this occasion, we failed to meet our high standards of service.”
Q) MY husband and I were due to go on holiday to Portugal last September. We booked via LoveHolidays.
In August we had an email from Ryanair saying the flight times had changed.
LoveHolidays then couldn’t find another flight, so cancelled our holiday and said we would get a full refund. I received the hotel money, but not the £324 for flights.
Kim Curtis, Cheltenham
A) Like many other LoveHolidays customers, you were told you would only get money back for flights once the airline had reimbursed it.
But the Competition and Markets Authority rapped LoveHolidays for this practice last year.
Under Package Travel Regulations, online travel agents are legally bound to refund customers for cancelled package holidays, regardless of whether the agent has received refunds from the airline or other suppliers.
I reminded Loveholidays of its obligations. It told me it had initiated a successful chargeback transaction with Ryanair and that it would refund you when the money was in its account. This happened a few days later.
The CMA is currently probing Teletext Holidays over refunds. It is also investigating whether airlines breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer repayments for flights they could not take when the Government imposed travel bans. Watch this space.
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