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
Welcome to grout Britain
THE ‘don’t move but improve’ trend means tiles are having a moment.
Sales were up seven per cent last year as Brits update their kitchens, bathrooms and even their outdoor spaces with colourful styles in unusual patterns.
But getting tiling wrong can be costly.
Here are the five most common mistakes and how to avoid them, according to the experts at tile specialists Sarsen Stone Group.
- Not ordering enough tiles: Calculate how many tiles you will need for the space and then add extra, in case of breakages. A ten per cent contingency should cover it, or 15 per cent for a herringbone pattern. Different batches can vary in colour, so order all your tiles at once.
- Picking the wrong-sized tiles: Large tiles work best in larger rooms, as small tiles can look fussy. Similarly, large tiles in small rooms seem out of balance. Get samples first to test.
- Not planning the layout: Ahead of fitting the tiles, carefully consider the layout and how you would like them to appear. Creating a rough sketch can help.
- Selecting the wrong tile for the job: Will the tile be used externally or internally? If externally, is the material weatherproof and slip resistant? If internally, is the tile suitable for heavy foot traffic? Can it be used with underfloor heating, does it need sealing regularly or is it light enough to be used as a wall covering?
- Choosing the wrong grout colour: Not only will grout colour affect the final project result, choosing the wrong colour could also affect and even damage your tiles. Use lighter-coloured grouts for most products, in particular natural stone, encaustic and terrazzo tiles, as black or bright coloured grouts can stain.
Buy of the week
AN Englishman’s home might be a castle, but this charming two-bed Welsh cottage boasts stunning views of both Conwy Castle and the famous Carneddau mountains.
Move in for £235,000 at onthemarket.com/details/10339272/.
BOLTON and Bristol have been named the UK’s Japanese Knotweed hotspots in a new report by specialists Environet.
The fast-growing plant can damage your home’s foundations and spring usually sees an upsurge in cases.
See your local knotweed threat level at environetuk.com/exposed-japanese-knotweed-heat-map.
Deal of the week
HERE’S a blooming good deal to brighten up your outside space.
Lidl is selling a trendy Marguerite Tree for just £7.99, less than half the price of other retailers and garden centres.
SAVE: £10 on similar trees elsewhere.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘I bought a house and discovered the built-in oven doesn’t work. Can I get money for a new one from the seller?’
I JUST bought a house and, on moving in, have discovered the built-in oven is completely broken.
The repair man said it was not worth spending the money to fix it and it will have to be replaced.
Nothing was flagged on the survey I paid for or by the sellers.
Is there any way I can recoup the money I will have to spend on a new oven?
A) A surveyor would not normally check whether appliances are working in a house.
And, although the seller was legally responsible for ensuring that any representations made about this oven were accurate, they were not necessarily required to give you any sort of guarantee that it was in good condition.
The first thing you need to do is to find out from the seller (via your solicitor), whether there is an outstanding warranty on the appliance. If so, your problem is solved.
If not, you need to ask whether the seller’s solicitors confirmed in writing that the oven was in “working order”.
If this is the case, you may be entitled to claim for the cost of the repairs.
You will need to be tough.
Be mindful though that the cost and stress of pursuing this matter might be considerably more than the price of a new oven.
MY neighbour’s dog attacked my elderly cat in the street.
As well as the cat being completely traumatised, the resulting vet bills came to more than £200.
My neighbour is refusing to foot the bill saying it was an accident and as the cat was not on private property at the time of the attack, she is not liable.
Is this right?
A) Your neighbour is wrong.
Although there is no criminal penalty against an owner whose dog attacks a cat, you could still be entitled to compensation for any damage the dog caused, whether the attack took place on a public road or not.
The bottom line is that your neighbour’s property damaged yours, which means they are liable for the vet bill.
I would try to approach this as delicately as possible.
Disputes like this often escalate into full-scale war as emotions run high.
Start by writing a kind and conciliatory note.
If your neighbour refuses to budge, you will need to consider whether the £200 is worth the conflict.
It often isn’t.
How can I shop our rude doc?
Q) MY 89-year-old mother suffers from dementia and often exhibits very challenging behaviour.
She is visited regularly by the local doctor.
While I accept that it is necessary to be firm with her, recently I overheard the doctor talking to her in a way that I found unacceptably rude.
I brought this up with the doctor and he has denied that the incident occurred at all.
I wish to make a formal complaint – how do I take this forward?
A) You are perfectly entitled to make a complaint.
In fact, I would strongly urge you to.
It is never acceptable for a doctor to be rude, however challenging the patient is.
Your first step is to write formally to the head of this doctor’s practice.
You should also get in touch with the NHS England Customer Contact Centre.
If things do not improve after you have done this, your next step is to lodge a formal complaint at the General Medical Council.
Don’t be worried about making a fuss, your mum deserves to be treated with dignity.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
Q) LAST year, my friends and I bought tickets costing £280 to see the Dreamboys, to celebrate a 40th and 50th birthday.
The show we booked for April 2020 was cancelled because of Covid, so we postponed until the October, but that was cancelled too.
We have been asking for our money back, as the special birthdays have now passed.
I have been emailing for months and all they say is we can use the tickets up to next year.
Julie Rostron, Manchester
A) It’s been a devastating time for the entertainment industry, but you had a right to get your money back.
I approached Dreamboys, which said customers had been offered credit to be used any time in the next three years.
If that wasn’t possible, it was offering refunds, minus unrecoverable costs.
You insist you had not been offered that option, and questioned the 20 per cent you stood to lose.
Ultimately, though, you decided to cash in your tickets and get most of the money back.
Q) MY wife and I have been chasing Together Energy for three months for a final bill.
Our new company, E.ON, said it would pass our meter reading to Together Energy for a final statement, but Together says E.ON only sent the gas reading.
I then sent both readings again to Together Energy, but the bill still hasn’t arrived.
John Rowntree, Sunderland
A) Together Energy insisted it could not issue the bill until the readings came from E.ON, even though you had sent these details yourself and given the two companies plenty of time to confer.
I finally got Together Energy to bill you based on estimated usage instead.
That left you £200 in credit, plus you received a £30 goodwill gesture from your old supplier.
Q) WE booked a break to Catalonia for 16 of us with Teletext Holidays for our 40th wedding anniversary.
Teletext Holidays said we couldn’t have a refund until after December 31 last year as it was its policy to give a credit note.
I’ve tried contacting the company since but have had no reply.
It owes us £6,375.
Paula Rickett, Sheffield
A) Your letter is one of many I have had about Teletext Holidays.
I have tried to address readers’ concerns with the company, but consistently hit a brick wall.
After issuing a warning to the firm back in February, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has threatened in recent days that it will take Teletext to court if it does not repay £7million in outstanding refunds, or commit to do so, soon.
While I have not yet been able to help you get your £6,000-plus back, I hope the CMA’s intervention will mean that you and other customers will soon have success.
In a statement, Teletext said it was “disappointed” with the CMA’s announcement and committed to repaying all customers whose holidays were cancelled due to the pandemic.
It added: “We would like to sincerely apologise to our customers for the delay in processing their refunds.”