EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
WITH a new decade on the horizon it is a great time to bring a fresh set of interior trends to your home.
Here is what’s hot and what’s not according to style experts.
OUT: Cool, grey walls, sofas, kitchens and bedding has defined the past decade. But style gurus are predicting a hot new look.
IN: Warm, earthy tones such as burnt orange and sienna. They look stunning on a statement wall. Try a throw or cushions until you get used to the shade.
OUT: Fast furniture. Like fast fashion, buying cheap throwaway furniture is not the way to go.
IN: Buying sturdy secondhand pieces and upcycling. Check nextdoor.co.uk and freecycle for cheap or free items from your neighbours you can adapt to your taste.
OUT: Boring bathrooms. White may be functional and easy to clean but can lack character.
IN: From coloured tiles to wallpaper and chandeliers, we will want fun bathrooms in 2020.
OUT: Over-the-top home revamp shows with six-figure budgets. It is now smart to spend small.
OUT: Fake plants. Big with millennials, the plastic versions are bad for the environment and don’t clean your pad’s air.
IN: Go green with real plants to enhance your home. Cacti and spider plants are good for starters.
Buy of the week
COSY up at Holly Cottage, a charming two-bedroom home near Totnes in Devon.
It even has a wood burner for those long winter nights.
Pop it in your Christmas wishlist for £210,000.
Details at onthemarket.com/details/7738134.
Christmas property cheer
LIVING on a festive-sounding street could land you a nice Christmas bonus when you sell up.
New research from comparison site getagent.co.uk reveals homes on roads with “Christmas” in the name are worth an average of £482,917.
Homes on “Rudolph” streets are fetching an average sale price of £432,500. “Pudding”, “Chimney” and “Joy” all have average selling prices of between £279,000 and £295,000 – well above the national average of £230,000.
GetAgent founder Colby Short said: “With the magic of Christmas, you could sell for much more than a lump of coal when you choose to do so.”
Deal of the week
THIS festive stag-print bedding is an instant way to lift your interiors and is perfect for guest beds or the children’s rooms.
The Catherine Lansfield Munro check stag bedding set was £15, now £10.99 at Argos.
Q) I HAVE to put up with constant noise from a new communal plant room. Last year, new boilers were installed at the sheltered housing where I live.
But they attached the pump to my bedroom wall. Hence, I hear it all night long. My health has suffered terribly, as you can imagine.
I fought with the housing provider and in May it moved the pump. But recently another engineer was doing something and the noise has started up again.
Now I either sleep on my sofa or in a friend’s flat. Where do I stand legally? I can’t afford to move.
A) You are in a very strong legal position in this case. The reason, I suspect, the housing scheme that manages your tenancy agreement eventually agreed to move the pump in the first place was because it was causing you a serious noise nuisance, which it was legally obliged to fix.
The noise may have returned but the legal position is exactly the same as it was. If the noise is as loud as you describe, the housing scheme must resolve this problem as soon as possible.
If it continues to fail to sort this out, you may be entitled to some compensation for your suffering. Before you pursue this, I would email whomever manages this housing scheme and find out who your local council representative is.
Make clear in your correspondence that if they fail to resolve this problem, you are prepared to take the scheme to court. This may do the trick. If it doesn’t, get in touch with Citizens Advice, which can point you in the way of free legal advice.
Q) I WAS given a fixed penalty notice for crushing the remains of a roll-up cigarette on the ground across the road from a train station. I didn’t see the bin.
There were loads of cigarette ends on the ground around me and although that is no excuse, I was given the notice with no opportunity to rectify the problem. People were smoking at the entrance and dropping the ends but I was punished.
I appealed, without success, and feel this was really harsh. Is there anything I can do or am I just wasting my time?
A) Other people’s wrongs don’t make yours right. But I can understand why you feel you have been treated unfairly.
After all, you appear to have been singled out for punishment when other people were doing exactly the same thing.
The problem is you have already failed in your appeal. So unless there has been a serious error of law (it doesn’t sound like there has been) there is nothing you can do.
I know it is frustrating but “I wasn’t the only one” is not a defence in law.
Q) MY partner of five years died in June 2018. We didn’t live together or have children. His only living relative is his brother.
When I found he had a private pension, I passed this on to his brother to contact the trustees. He said we should spilt the money down the middle, calling me twice in a day to make the point.
After learning he’d get £11,000, he shifted the goalposts, saying his brother owed him money so he would give me £2,500, not half. I said that was fine.
I made a couple of calls to the pension firm to see if the money had come in. It had. This brother then said my ringing the company was a reason not to send me the money.
A) You did nothing wrong asking who the beneficiary was. But if the brother is legally entitled to the money, a claim against him will be tough.
You don’t have an enforceable contract (despite his promise of £2,500) and unless you are in real hardship, there are few legal remedies.
Try to reason with him. Despite his awful behaviour, he holds all the cards. If he refuses, get free legal advice. It is unlikely but a strongly worded letter may do the trick.
Mel Hunter, Reader's champion
Q) I BOUGHT a television from Currys two years ago with an extended five-year warranty.
It had to be repaired within the first year. In the second year it has been back twice, leaving our three children with no TV and my husband and I having to take time off work for it to be picked up and returned.
Four weeks ago it was taken away again and we have no idea when we will get it back. Currys will not replace it.
Katrina Shenton, Tarporley, Cheshire
A) Under the Consumer Rights Act, your TV should be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. Currys was entitled to repair it, as long as that fix did not cause you, the customer, too much inconvenience.
But with four repairs in two years, taking weeks to fix each time, you’d put up with enough. Having paid extra for an extended warranty, you rightly expected better.
With the law on your side, I told Currys a new TV was now in order. The store got the message, telling me: “We are sorry to hear that Mrs Shenton has experienced difficulties with her TV. The product is under warranty and we have offered an exchange.”
Q) I RETURNED from holiday to find a red note that had been put through my door from Royal Mail, stating a parcel had been left in my wheelie bin. The bin had been emptied that morning, along with my parcel.
It came from my friend and contained two hand-knitted cardigans and two pairs of socks, that I had paid her £40 for. Royal Mail says sorry but that is not good enough.
Patricia Pock, Bristol
A) Delivery issues are a huge problem at this time of year. I got on to Royal Mail and it paid you back £60 for the lost parcel, although obviously you can’t easily replace the items your friend knitted.
A spokesman said staff had been spoken to and reminded of the correct delivery procedure. He added: “Our policy is to deliver all parcels securely to our customers’ addresses.
“If a customer is not at home or an item is too big to fit through the letterbox, we will leave items in a designated safe place, with a nominated neighbour or post a ‘something for you’ card so that customers can pick up the item from their nearest delivery office or arrange a free redelivery.”
Q) WHEN tidying a drawer, I found some unused Mastercard travellers’ cheques valued at $200 and issued to me by travel agent Thomas Cook.
I remember being told that they never expire, but my bank won’t cash them. With Thomas Cook going bust, are they now dead money?
James Thompson, Sunderland
A) Those heading off for some winter sun may well find a wodge of forgotten Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques and fear, as you did, that they have lost their money.
In fact, I bring some festive cheer: You can still cash your Thomas Cook travellers’ cheques at a Travelex branch or by post to the company, subject to a service fee.
You can find out how to go about this at travelex.co.uk/services/travellers-cheques/visa-mastercard.