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
THE UK housing market is in the grip of a mini boom, confounding experts who predicted it would crash after lockdown.
Asking prices have hit a record high, averaging £320,265, the latest Rightmove figures show.
Buyers have been rushing to get their homes on the market and if you’re one, we’ve teamed up with experts NAEA Propertymark to help you secure a speedy sale.
Mark Hayward, its chief executive, said: “With housing market activity picking back up this summer after a two-month hiatus, it’s more important than ever to go the extra mile and take every possible measure to help your property stand out.”
Windows. Paint old wooden windows, carry out repairs and use a professional window cleaner to ensure they sparkle.
Fix faulty DIY. Patch up areas such as holes in walls, broken doorknobs and cracked tiles.
Make the most of the garden. Lockdown means buyers are placing more emphasis on gardens. Pluck weeds, mow the lawn and trim bushes and trees. Set up outdoor furniture, such as a BBQ and sun loungers, to show how the space can be used.
Neutral décor. Potential buyers will never have identical taste in interior decoration to you, and they must be able to picture themselves living in the space. Keep decoration simple and colours neutral to offer buyers a blank canvas.
Eliminate smells. Pets? Smelly cooking? Air out the property in advance of any viewings.
Buy of the week
LEEDS UNITED have just been promoted to the Premier League and now the Northern city has topped the league for post-lockdown home mover numbers too.
This gorgeous traditional stone two-bed terrace hides a trendy interior and the sellers are looking for offers over £200,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/55600045
First time buyer help
HOME moving price comparison site Reallymoving has launched a new First Time Buyer Hub to help Brits get on the property ladder.
The new resource features information on local markets including average purchase prices and whether they’re rising or falling, the proportion of FTBs vs next-steppers plus the percentage using Help to Buy or Shared Ownership schemes.
Rob Houghton, CEO of Reallymoving, said: “More than ever, first- time buyers need reliable data to help them make informed decisions.”
For more info go to reallymoving.com/first-time-buyers-hub.
Deal of the week
THIS cute garden crate is perfect for growing herbs or flowers on your windowsill, and is available for just £1 at Poundland.
SAVE: £4 on similar crates elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q) MY marriage has broken down after 20 years. During this time I bought bedroom furniture which is still under finance.
I left it at the property and my wife said she was happy to deduct her share from the child support I pay her.
But as she has now has gone through the Child Support Agency this is no longer the case.
Can I take her to the small claims court for this? James, Brighton
A) Although you claim to have an agreement with your estranged wife that she would pay the remaining finance on the bedroom furniture you left in the house, I doubt this is in writing.
Even if you had some evidence of this agreement, a court might be reluctant to enforce this as your legal obligation to pay child maintenance is entirely separate from any other contract you may have with your ex.
In the course of your divorce proceedings (which you should commence as soon as possible), a court could consider any joint debts you acquired during the course of your marriage but would also consider who was responsible for the payments.
Rather than taking your wife to the small claims court (where you are unlikely to succeed) you should invite her to mediation and agree the financial terms of your divorce in writing.
Remember that, whatever your views about your estranged wife, your children come first.
Park and hide
Q) MY son got a parking ticket in 2016 for £100. He didn’t pay.
The private company that issued the ticket contacted him in January asking for £348, reduced to £260 if paid in 21 days.
He didn’t respond and the firm has now taken out a county court judgment which is on his credit file. It says if he doesn’t pay it will take steps to recover the sum.
This will add fees and costs of £265. He lives with us. Can they send bailiffs to our house? Kate, Kent
A) The bailiffs are legally permitted to go to your house as it’s your son’s last address and named on the CCJ, but strict rules govern what they can take and the rooms they can enter.
They would not be permitted to remove property that belongs to you – but it would be up to you to prove the goods are yours.
I would urge your son to settle this debt.
Q) MY mum died in April this year. She had always told my elder sister, younger brother and myself that she had written a will, but we never saw it.
My mum was in her second marriage to a man that had also been married before; he had one daughter from his previous marriage.
My mum had been married to him for more than 33 years and they owned their home together.
About five years ago, my mum’s husband said to my sister, my brother and myself that half the house belonged to my mum, and that if anything happened to them, then his daughter from his first marriage would get half, and the other half would go to my mum’s children from her first marriage, meaning my sister, my brother and myself.
Since my mum passed away, he is now saying my mum did not write a will at all, and is also saying that the house [valued at over £300,000] is now his, meaning it will all go to his daughter.
Please, please advise me on what to do next, or if my sister, brother, or myself are legally entitled to any share of the house.
As of yet, none of us have received a penny. David, Somerset
A) The first thing you need to do is to confirm that your mother did not have a valid will and died “intestate” as her husband claims.
It would be difficult for him to lie about this as you could get hold of the will once it has been legally administered (gone through probate).
If your mum did die without a will I’m afraid you may have an uphill struggle in this case. The law is very clear about who gets what in these circumstances.
Your late mother’s husband is legally entitled to the first £270,000 and half of whatever is left over, with the rest of the money split between you and your siblings (which would be very little in this case).
I am very concerned about the representation that was made to you about your mother’s intentions for the property before she died so I would urge – in the strongest possible terms – that you and your siblings get some legal advice.
You must act quickly too or you could be prevented from bringing a claim.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) MY husband and I booked a cruise with P&O costing £4,000. We were due to sail on March 23 but it was cancelled.
I have tried phoning the company but it just goes to voicemail. I have written twice but had no reply. I emailed, but the email was returned.
I also tried filling in the online form, but when I pressed “submit” nothing happened. It is more than three months since we should have sailed.
I would be very grateful for any help you can give us.
My husband is high risk otherwise we would drive down to P&O’s head offices in Southampton to demand our money back. Lynda, Wokingham
A) It is amazing how many letters I am still receiving from people waiting for holiday refunds, more than four months after Britain was locked down, and even longer since cruises were cancelled.
I have given a lot of leeway to travel firms, but I really would expect those due to travel in March, April and May to have been refunded by now.
Your case caught my eye because you said you hadn’t even been able to get hold of anyone at the cruise company to move things forward.
I got on to it for you and finally sorted your refund, although P&O didn’t offer an explanation for the communication difficulties you’d had.
It told me: “We apologise for the delay to issuing the refund to Mrs Wells. As her refund form was sent by post to our office this caused a delay to the response as, due to Covid-19 and the impact upon our business, all staff are working from home.
“The issue with her booking has now been rectified and her refund has been processed.”
Q) WE had only just moved into our bungalow when lockdown occurred, and because we are in the vulnerable group, we needed to buy things online.
On April 30 I ordered some garden furniture from DIY and gardening marketplace ManoMano, paying £599.
I have had no receipt or order confirmation.
Despite emails, live chats and texts, I am still waiting. I have had replies from various staff saying my query had been forwarded to the finance dept but I am getting nowhere. Janice, Derbyshire
A) At a really difficult time, this ongoing saga caused you a huge amount of extra stress.
You were told on at least six occasions that the finance department was looking into your query, yet over nearly two months nothing moved forward at all.
ManoMano fobbed me off with the same string of excuses.
But persistence paid off and with both of us applying pressure, we finally managed to get you your money back. I pushed further to get an explanation.
A spokesperson for the Paris-based firm told me: “We sincerely apologise for the delays and issues and any stress this may have caused.
“This is absolutely not the usual level of service we strive to offer our customers.
“We are investigating the case further with our seller and we are re-briefing our customer service standards to ensure this is an isolated incident.”