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
THE housing market is enjoying a January jump, seeing the biggest New Year price surge ever. A combination of post-election confidence and greater certainty over Brexit has unleashed a flood of pent-up demand.
Rightmove registered a 2.3 per cent rise in the price of properties coming to market, adding an average of £6,785 to the cost of a home.
And estate agents have seen 1.3million buyer enquiries since the General Election, up 15 per cent year on year.
Rightmove housing market analyst Miles Shipside said: “While a substantial rise is the norm in January, this is the biggest New Year price surge we have ever recordedThe early birds are on it, with the number of sales agreed up by 7.4 per cent on this time last year. Whether you are a buyer or seller, here’s how to make the most of the January jump.
- Seen your dream home? Don’t sit it out, make an offer to secure it now – prices may carry on rising. But don’t be bounced into paying over the odds. There is still room to negotiate, especially if a property has been marketed before and hasn’t sold.
- Not seen anything that grabs you? Wait until spring as more homes come on to market then.
- Get your mortgage agreement in principle and line up a solicitor. Then you can move fast when you do see the home you want.
- Don’t wait for spring – market your home now. There will be more properties coming on to the market at Easter so you could get a better price now.
- Dress your home for spring not January. Use bright accessories and breezy scents.
- Get your sales photos done on a sunny day to maximise appeal online. Declutter and tidy outside to maximise kerb appeal.
Buy of the week
HARRY and Meghan have retired from royal life by heading to Canada and you can do the same, too – almost.
This smart one-bed retirement flat is near the upmarket village of Canada, part of Wellow in Hampshire.
It is £150,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/53681844.onthemarket.com/details/5171460
Year of the Rat
WE’RE set for a property sales boom, thanks to the Chinese Year of the Rat, which starts today.
More homes are sold in Rat years – 1,473,950 typically change hands – than at any other time in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.
The Year of the Ox – most recently 2009 – is lowest at almost half that level.
Marc von Grundherr, director of estate agent Benham and Reeves, which conducted the study, says: “Much like the Chinese zodiac, the UK property market is cyclical.”
Deal of the week
DECLUTTERING is on all our January to-do lists, so clean up with this peg board for just £2 at Poundland with accessory trays and posts costing £1.
SAVE: £8 on similar items elsewhere
Q) MY daughter’s employer has told her that he has overpaid her for the past year. Can he claim the money back and would he be able to claim all of it? It’s going to be difficult to pay back now it has been spent. Her employer has also told my daughter that it is his fault, but that she should have noticed she was being overpaid?
A) This is a difficult legal problem. As a matter of straightforward law your daughter’s employer is entitled to claim the wages they have overpaid back (this is covered by section 14 of the Employment Rights Act 1996). The problem is that the law in your daughter’s case is not straightforward.
If these mistaken overpayments had only been made to your daughter for a month or two, her employer would be able to deduct these overpayments from her salary, preferably after discussing this with her. But because your daughter appears to have received this money for a year in perfectly good faith, she might have a strong legal defence preventing her employer from recovering the full amount.
If the employer intends to ask for this money back, she should ask to have a meeting, she should explain she did not realise she was being overpaid and that returning the money would place her in financial distress.
Q) I DIVORCED my wife 18 years ago. She kept the marital home – which I had paid the deposit for – because I wanted our daughter to have a stable home as she grew up.
I also continued to pay child maintenance over the years.
However, I have recently discovered that I am not the biological father of my daughter.
Could I claim money back for the property or child maintenance? Patrick, Stoke
A) Given your wife’s deceit, you may have a claim against your ex-wife’s property.
The maintenance issue is less clear. Courts dealing with this situation have considered it to be like a bereavement (as if your daughter had died) and have assessed any compensation to be paid accordingly, which would amount to substantially less than the total you have paid in regular maintenance.
A great deal might depend on when your ex-wife knew that your daughter wasn’t biologically yours.
I would urge you to instruct a specialist family solicitor.
Q) IN early December I visited a photo shop in order to have my wedding video transferred to DVD. The firm advised me it would take ten working days but sometimes could be done earlier. Over the next couple of weeks, I called in to the shop to see if it was in yet but to no avail.
It was only this week – clearly after Christmas has come and gone – that it admitted the tapes were lost. It seems a courier has marked the items as delivered and signed for when, in fact, there was no-one in the shop at the time. This is a treasured item from 1998 which I will now never see again and, although it is not about the money, I feel my wife and I should be compensated for the emotional distress.
Can you advise me what can I do in order to take action against them. I know I could write to the store’s head office, but where do I stand legally?
Christopher, North Lanarks
A) You are legally entitled to a full refund for any money you paid upfront for the video and the actual value of the video itself (if that has been lost). But it would be difficult to sue this company for emotional distress. it must be awful to have lost this precious memory but being upset does not give rise to a legal claim.
You or your wife would have to prove to a court that you had developed a medical condition (such as anxiety or depression) as a result of their negligence . This would need to be supported by proper medical evidence. Even then, a claim would be difficult to bring.
If you do have a condition which has been brought on by what happened, there are a number of personal injury lawyers (check online reviews with care) who might be able to assist.
Mel Hunter, Reader's champion
Q) WE moved house last year and paid Royal Mail £100 to redirect our mail to our new address for a year. We then discovered that our post was going to another address which meant we didn’t receive any letters for a week. I contacted Royal Mail and was given an apology and was promised it would be put right.
Two months later the same problem occurred again, but this time missing mail cost us a lot of money. One of the letters required an urgent response but, as we missed it, we had to pay £450, which we could have avoided if we’d received the original letter. I’ve tried to claim this back from Royal Mail but it has rejected this and sent me just £10.
A) Most of what we get through the post these days tends to go straight in the bin but, sometimes, that daily delivery contains something crucial, as it did in your case. You had a contract with the Royal Mail to deliver your post to your new address and as such I held it responsible for this failure and steep fee you had to pay as a result. After I contacted the Royal Mail it offered £100, but neither you nor I thought this was good enough, and I told the postal service so. It finally came back agreeing to a full refund and the case was closed.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Having revisited the details of this case and having spoken again to the customer, on this occasion we have offered £450 as a gesture of good will. At Royal Mail we typically pride ourselves on the high quality of our redirection service. We have put a fix in place to ensure this does not happen again.”
Problem with DFS
Q) NINE months after we bought a new lounge suite from DFS, we saw it was fading on both arms and seats.Someone from the store came out to look, but said it was not a manufacturing fault and must have been due to an accident, which isn’t the case. Then we were told someone must have been wearing jeans on the seats, but neither my husband nor I own a pair. This suite is now ten months old with a 15-year guarantee.
A) With a 15-year guarantee, your sofa was worth fighting for. DFS agreed to a second inspection but, again, you were told it was not a manufacturing fault. If the wearing of denim was the problem, the furniture would not have been fit for purpose, as wearing jeans is fairly commonplace. I also asked DFS if the problem was wear and tear? Because after nine months use, that excuse would not wash either.
I got DFS to consider your case again and it has taken the option to repair the sofa, which it is entitled to do as the furniture was more than six months old, recovering both arms and seats. This is due to be completed next month. If it doesn’t fix the problem, you should be entitled to ask for a replacement. DFS told me no manufacturing fault was found on any of the inspections but that it was pleased to have reached a “satisfactory resolution”.
BUST UPYou could be fined up to £2,500 for arguing in your own home
JACK'S LAWMum who lost toddler helps bring in new law for paid bereavement leave
YOU WOTYou can now get bags of GIANT Wotsists that are twice the size of normal ones
CHECK YOUR CHANGE8 rare and valuable coins you can spot in your change worth up to £319
POT OF GOLDMartin Lewis explains how to get 50% savings interest if you receive benefits
BANK ROBBERSI'm furious that Lloyds won't refund £1.4k stolen by fraudsters
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
My top five freebies this week
Top 10 deals
- Save 20 per cent on Reebok orders. Get a unique code from vouchercodes.co.uk, bit.ly/20reebok. Expires tomorrow.
- Save 25 per cent on Funky Pigeon card orders with code VCO25 from vouchercodes.co.uk. Ends Friday, bit.ly/25funkypigeon.
- Get up to eight per cent off hotels. com bookings with vouchercodes.co.uk code VCUK120. Ends February 2, bit.ly/hotels8off.
- Get an extra 20 per cent off ladies’ fashion at Roman. Use code VCUK20 from vouchercodes.co.uk. Ends Friday, bit.ly/roman20off.
- Save an extra ten per cent on clearance orders at Joules with code 10JAN from vouchercloud.com. Ends tomorrow, bit.ly/joulesextra10.
- Buy one main and get one for £1 at Carluccio’s with voucher from vouchercloud.com. Ends February 11, bit.ly/carlucciosmain1.
- Get ten per cent off Hobbycraft orders with code CRAFTY10 from vouchercloud.com. Ends March 29, bit.ly/10hobbycraft.
- Zero joining fee at PureGym with code ZEROJF from quidco.com, with £3.25 cashback for new member subscriptions. Ends February 3, bit.ly/quidcopuregym.
- Get 20 per cent off UK Parcelforce services with code JAN20 when booking online until Friday, bit.ly/20parcelforce.
- Get 20 per cent off Barry M vegan products with code bmvegan20. Ends Fri, bit.ly/barrymvegan.