Great Britain

Five ways to re-arrange your home to create more living and working space

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

WITH the nation ordered to work from home again, open-plan living is falling out of fashion as families are now spending much more time together.

The latest John Lewis Flexible Living Report reveals Brits are seeking to create separate “zones” in their homes since the pandemic hit.

Johnathan Marsh, category director of Home at John Lewis, explains: “Lockdown changed everything. There was immediate pressure to adapt open-plan designs to maximise space for work, exercise, home-schooling, play and dining.”

Here are the most popular ways to change your home’s space, with cost-effective ways to do it.

Repurpose a room for a home office: All you need is a desk, plug socket for a laptop, natural light or a desk lamp. Or try tucking a desk under the stairs, on a landing or even in a garden shed.

Set up an area for hobbies like painting or puzzles: Storage is key here. Create a “hobby corner” by stashing items in stacked boxes. Wilko and Ikea both have stylish options.

Create spaces where family members can be alone: Open-plan living area? Divide it with draped curtains or room-divider shelves, or re-arrange ­furniture into groups that face inwards to create “pods” of space. Small space? Bedroom door signs can say “please do not disturb”.

Make a home gym area or yoga space: All you need is a workout mat and a storage box for equipment. Find a garage, shed or bedroom corner and get a full-length mirror to check your fitness moves.

Create a dedicated space for home-schooling: Older kids want a private corner but younger children need a place where parents can supervise their work. Set up a table and a pen and pencil holder and avoid distractions like the TV.

Buy of the week

AMBLESIDE resident Vera Bunting made the news this week celebrating her 100th birthday in the house she has lived in since she was six months old.

The pretty area on Lake Windermere is a wonderful place to spend a century, so snap up this two-bedroom mid-terrace cottage in the nearby village of Staveley for just £200,000 at

New buyers want ready made home office

TWELVE per cent of first-time buyers are keen to bag a pad with a home office – a sign of how society has changed this year.

A garden, double glazing and high-speed broadband top the list of desires, the poll for Shared Ownership Week found.

And tenants would happily move up to 20 miles to get onto the property ladder.

A spokesman said: “The situation this year has changed our outlook on life and with people spending more time at home.

“As a result, it seems things like high-speed broadband and an ­outdoor space are now among the most important features.”

Deal of the week

WITH autumn evenings drawing in, add serious glamour to your living room or bedroom.

This Dutch Glam Florence the Peacock Table Lamp is a decadent touch at an affordable price, at just £45 from Argos.

SAVE: £10 on similar elsewhere

Judge Rinder, legal expert

Q) MY daughter has recently moved into a new-build house as the first occupant and, after the first time she took a shower, water stains appeared on the ceiling below the bathroom.

She has been told by the builders that the two-year warranty has expired because the house was built more than two years ago, even though it is only now that it is being lived in.

Is this really correct? Or are the builders at fault for the problem and therefore liable for repairs? PAUL, Bedfordshire

A) The two-year warranty period that covers your daughter’s home should ordinarily have started from the date when she completed on the purchase of her new-build property, i.e. when she moved in, and not on the date when the builder claims the work was completed.

It seems to me that this builder either simply doesn’t want to carry out the work or may have failed to insure themself properly.

Either way, email the building company asking them to provide evidence of their warranty, making clear your daughter remains covered by it.

If they continue to refuse to complete the remedial work, I would strongly urge you to get further legal advice.

Refund row

Q) I BOOKED a holiday through a package holiday provider in February and the break was due to happen in May.

Of course, we were then unable to travel due to the government Covid restrictions.

The package holiday provider has refunded us the cost of the hotel but, because the flight still took off and was not cancelled, it has not refunded us the cost of the flights.

Is this legal? If not, how can I challenge it? Melinda, Manchester

A) You booked through a package holiday provider which means that in all likelihood you were entitled to a refund within 14 days of your holiday being cancelled.

I do not understand how this company can claim they are are lawfully entitled to withhold your money for the flights – regardless of whether they took off or not – when you could not have taken them.

Write to this company at once, asking them to identify the law which permits them to keep your money in these circumstances.

Make clear to them that you will be referring them to their governing body, you will be publicising their disgraceful behaviour and, if necessary, you will be taking them to court.

Q) IF a tenant leaves a property after a court possession order but leaves all their furniture and belongings, with no forwarding address, what does the landlord have to do with these items?

 I find myself in this situation, as a landlord, and am keen to know what I should do because I want to have new tenants move in as soon as possible. Jamie, Bradford

A) The law is very clear on this issue. Even though you have gained legal possession of your property by obtaining a court order, you are nevertheless required to keep or store your former tenant’s furniture for a reasonable period of time and to give them sufficient notice before disposing of any of it.

You should photograph and make a complete list of all of this stuff, and do what you can to obtain your ex-tenant’s current address or contact details before doing anything else.

You may be able to charge your ex-tenant for fees you have incurred but, in the mean-time, your best bet in this situation is to do everything possible to persuade him to collect his things as soon as possible.

Mel Hunter, consumer expert

Q) DURING lockdown, we ordered garden furniture from ManoMano.

It was dumped on our driveway and the delivery team left before we were able to inspect the goods.

As soon as we did, we realised the glass table top was completely smashed, along with other problems.

We tried multiple times to return it and get a refund, but ManoMano failed to collect it or give us our money back.

The company then said it was out of stock and asked if we would accept an alternative, but we declined.

ManoMano made various promises, but still did not give us our money back.

The table and chairs cost nearly £800. My husband lost his job at the start of the pandemic and I work for the NHS so this money means a lot to us. Kate, Nottingham

A) From the long timeline of events you sent me, it was clear that ManoMano’s customer service had fallen woefully short.

The French DIY and garden marketplace actually agreed, with a spokesperson thanking me for ­flagging the problems you’d had over the past four months.

A spokesperson said: “This is absolutely not the usual level of service we strive to offer our customers and we sincerely apologise to Kate for the length of time this has taken. We have investigated with the seller and can confirm a refund has now been processed.”

Four days after I took up your cause, the money was back in your account.

Q) I WOKE to find my eBay account had been hacked and my username, password and phone number changed.

My bank details stored there were used to order two Apple watches to be collected from a Leicester store that day.

I told eBay, assuming it would try to stop the items being picked up. The agent said they would sort it.

But this was not the case when I rang to check on the refund I’d been told I’d get.

I logged a dispute with eBay and was told I would be refunded £199 for one item but not £229 for the other. Julie, Stockport

A) You called eBay at 8am on the day you spotted the fraud, but the watches were picked up, presumably by the crooks, four hours later.

Ebay refunded one trans-action, then insist­ed this was an error. It refused to refund the second watch, suggesting it was your responsibility to secure your account.

I felt eBay could have done more, and should not completely pass the buck.

I got the full £429 refunded, which the web- site told me was a “a one-off ­gesture of goodwill”.

An eBay spokesman said: “When a third party accessed Ms McMurdo’s account, we took the appropriate steps.

"Also, we advised her to contact her bank and PayPal to avail herself of the protections they offer.

“As a gesture of goodwill, we stood by the decision to refund her for the first purchase of £199, and have issued a refund for the second purchase of £229.”

Mrs Hinch blasts eBay sellers for upping the price of their £10 storage racks to £150 after fans flock to copy her super-tidy kitchen cupboards

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