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.
Don't miss a tax deadline
WANT to sell your home to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline? Then get your pad on the market by September 26
The tax break – which sees buyers save up to £15,000 on a new home – ends on March 31 and has seen a surge in market activity. But with conveyancing and searches taking longer than normal due to the Covid crisis, buyers and sellers need extra time to ensure sales complete.
Mark Hayward, head of estate agency body NAEA Propertymark, said: “Listing by September 26, following all social-distancing measures and making sure everything is in order will help maximise chances of completing ahead of March 31.”
Here’s how to clinch your sale by March 31.
❶ CHOOSE AN ESTATE AGENT: Shortlist three or four and ask them to value your home. This is a chance for you to check their communication skills, professionalism and knowledge.
❷ SET A REALISTIC ASKING PRICE: Avoid the temptation to overprice as you know buyers will be saving on stamp duty. Most viewings happen in the first 30 days of the listing, so don’t risk your house being stigmatised by an unrealistic price.
❸ PHOTOS AND VIRTUAL VIEWINGS: More buyers are viewing virtually first before deciding to look at a property in person. They make up their mind in seconds so use an agency with a professional photographer to get the best images.
❹ SHOW YOU ARE SERIOUS: Rearrange any cluttered furniture to aid social distancing at viewings and ensure you are out when estate agents show round buyers.
❺ GET YOUR PAPERWORK IN ORDER: Appoint a conveyancing solicitor so you are ready when you get an offer, and collate copies of relevant paperwork such as the lease for leasehold properties and a Gas Safety certificate for a new boiler.
BUY OF THE WEEK
GARY LINEKER may have accepted a £400k pay cut from the BBC, but most of us will still struggle to afford a home in Barnes, West London, where the Match Of The Day presenter lives.
However, his home city of Leicester is a lot more affordable – you could net this two-bedroom, bay-fronted Victorian terrace for £215,000 at onthemarket.com/details/9229720/
Go West Midlands
AFTER more for your money? Move to the West Midlands.
A new survey from self-storage firm Space Station reveals homes in the heart of England are the roomiest, with houses in this region boasting around 30 per cent more space than the average UK pad.
Deal of the week
TIDY up in serious style. This Kirkton House velvet storage stool is just £24.99 at Aldi and will add a touch of luxe to any room.
SAVE: £5 on similar styles elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘My thousand-pound pooch has a genetic disease . . . but why should I be left as the pedigree chump?’
Q) I BOUGHT a pedigree dog for £1,400 on the understanding it was Kennel Club-registered and healthy. Six months later, I got a message from the breeder telling me there was an error and the wrong father was listed on the pedigree.
The pedigree had to be changed and the new male listed had a genetic disease, so I can’t breed mine – and she may have health problems later. I wouldn’t have bought her if I’d known. What should I do?
A) Although this is an issue about your dog (who you no doubt love and cherish), it is also a straightforward issue of contract law.
You bought your dog on the basis of an inaccurate description. The seller clearly made representations about its pedigree which were wrong. This is the same as purchasing a “silk” purse at a shop only to find it is nylon. You would be entitled to take it back and get a full refund.
In this case, it is irrelevant whether the seller made an honest mistake about the pedigree. You should have received the dog described.
You are almost certainly entitled to the difference between the actual value of your dog (the price if the true pedigree had been known) and what you paid, which will be a substantial refund. Write to the breeder asking for this sum as soon as possible.
Q) PRE-Covid we booked some flights with BA to Kuala Lumpur for December. BA has since refunded our fare.
At the same time we booked internal flights in Malaysia and Thailand with another airline. We have communicated with that airline via its online “chat line” (it is impossible to do so on the phone). We have been advised that as the flights are still operating, we cannot cancel and claim a refund. The fact Malaysia and Thailand’s borders are closed to visitors is being completely ignored. Is there anything we can do?
A) I wish I had a more helpful answer. Check the terms and conditions on your ticket. The small print will almost certainly be vague but should be clear enough to strongly imply you are entitled to a refund, a voucher or alternative flights if you cancel within a certain period of time or have been unable to enter the country through no fault of your own. The problem is how you get through to this airline, particularly as several carriers in these countries operate under national laws limiting consumer rights. Some have filed for bankruptcy.
In my view you are entitled to a refund but it might be wiser to ask by email for a voucher to be used within 18 months. You should also get in touch with your travel insurer, which should be able to assist, as you purchased these tickets before the international shutdown.
Q) I LIVE in a block of flats where we share the freehold. Us freeholders are meant to pay £50 per month into a joint account for a sinking fund but one owner has missed three months’ payments. How do we get him to pay?
A) I don’t know whether the shared freehold you have with the other owners is governed by a trust or held in a company. Either way, this tenant appears to be in breach of the agreed rules, which every owner is legally bound by.
Assuming this sinking fund has been put in place according to the rules of the company or the trust, you have a number of remedies including, ultimately, taking him to court for arrears and even more serious measures if he fails to pay up.
The problem, of course, is that you need to deal with this sensitively, especially in the current climate. Your first step is to set up a meeting according to the rules of whatever management structure you have in place, then to write to this owner asking what the situation is and whether he is likely to be able to pay.
If he is out of work and can’t afford the money in the short term, it may be you decide (as a group) to waive the fees until the economy improves.
The bottom line is that you need to do everything you can to avoid conflict in this situation.
Mel Hunter, Reader's champion
No hotel on Teletext hol
Q) USING Teletext Holidays, I booked for five of us to go on holiday to Spain to celebrate a 50th birthday. Shortly after the final payment was taken from my account, I contacted the hotel to double-check it was open.
The hotel staff told me it was shut until next year and that they had explained this to holiday companies two months earlier. I now can’t get through to Teletext Holidays and no one has acknowledged the emails I sent.
How can a company take money for a holiday when there is no hotel to go to?
I’ve not yet told my friends about this and am hoping to get something sorted so they won’t be disappointed.
KAREN, Brierley Hill, West Mids
A) With just a few weeks to travel when you contacted me, it was important to get a hotel roof over your head.
I explained the urgency to Teletext Holidays and managed to get a second hotel sorted out . . . or so I thought. The next day, the Government advised against travel to Spain, throwing your plans into disarray once again.
After explaining to your friends, you ended up in Blackpool with the birthday girl – and had a great time. You are now waiting for a £1,700 refund from Teletext, which I’ll help with if you don’t get it soon.
The moral of the story: Check with the hotel yourself before packing your bags. This is vital when travel plans are literally changing overnight.
Teletext told me: “We are seeing some hotels cancel their bookings almost immediately after new quarantine measures are announced. This is due to the high level of customers cancelling their stay, resulting in it not being commercially viable for the hotel to remain open.”
Teletext insisted it has no record of the hotel closure and suggested this might have been because it came through a third-party supplier.
SHELL SHOCKEDMorrisons shoppers ‘disgusted’ to find bags of 'wet eggs' in supermarket
PRICE IS TIGHTLondon's narrowest home that is only 5ft 5in wide on sale for almost £1M
BAG A BARGAINExact date to buy popular Christmas gifts revealed - it could save you £100s
BARGAIN HAULHouse of Fraser shoppers snap up £20 bath towels for £2 in online glitch
CHEERS TO THAT Wetherspoons to cut prices by 7.5% for one day only next week
TOY JOYAsda launches massive toy sale with up to 50% off hundreds of toys
Q) MY grandson is disabled and needs a wheelchair. His mum, my daughter, got a charitable grant towards a CleverSpa hot tub to help his muscles and I paid the rest to The Range.
But the hot tub wouldn’t heat the water. The Range told us to contact CleverSpa but we couldn’t get through.
She went back to the store in Bournemouth twice and contacted The Range’s head office three times – but was told to contact the spa company.
MALCOLM HERRIDGE Bournemouth
A) Consumer law is clear on this. It is up to the store where you bought an item to organise a repair, replacement or refund in the event that something goes wrong.
The Range was therefore wrong to pass the buck to CleverSpa.
I told the store this and it did eventually sort this out, contacting the hot tub company and getting a new one sent out, which your grandson has since been able to enjoy.
The Range had no comment. CleverSpa confirmed it had delivered the new hot tub a few weeks ago.
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