Judge Rinder – The Sun’s legal expert
Q: THE rear of my property backs on to a field through which I have the right of reasonable access.
Currently, access is not possible due to very high thick nettles on the route. My question is: Who has responsibility to keep access clear, myself or the farmer?
A: It appears that you have a right of way over the farmer’s land. This is called an easement which is a legal right to cross or use someone else’s land for a specified purpose. Easements like this may be recorded on your property deed and can often be found on the Land Registry database. I would check this as a matter of urgency.
Whether the easement is recorded or not, there appears to be no dispute that you are entitled to “reasonable access” to the field so the farmer is, in all likelihood, legally responsible to remove the nettles (or any other obstacles) that prevent you from getting on to it.
I would speak to the farmer in a non-confrontational way and ask him to remove the nettles. Even though he may be financially liable, you might also consider offering to contribute something to resolve this. You want to avoid court in a case like this at all costs.
Q: I AM an 85-year-old pensioner. I was paying £28 per month to my internet service provider, then in January my contract ended.
The company did not send me a reminder that this was happening and I had forgotten. It then took £65 from my bank on February 28 to renew the contract.
I complained and was told another £32.04 was due for February, which I paid. I then agreed to pay £35 per month for the same service, but the next letter said it would be £45.
I told the company to cancel this and I refused to sign for its equipment which turned up in the post. I then paid an engineer £20 to disconnect me in March.
I have now received a letter from a debt recovery service saying I owe more than £140. Can this be right? What can I do?
A: Your internet provider is required by law to ensure that you have understood and agreed to everything before it starts sending you bills. It clearly hasn’t done this.
It did not send you a renewal letter, its charges don’t seem to make any sense and you have effectively terminated the contract by refusing to accept the new equipment. It may be that the firm has sent you correspondence (either by post or email) that has been lost or, possibly, you have entered into an original contract for longer than you thought – you need to check. Often these cases are dealt with by customer services teams as opposed to anyone with any legal knowledge.
I would write to the debt recovery service and the internet company by email making clear that you do not accept these charges and that you wish to dispute them.
Tell them you will be referring this matter to the Communications Ombudsman who are, by the sound of it, very likely to assist you.
Q: MY car broke down last week and I called a breakdown service. The mechanic said he could repair the problem easily so I agreed to his suggestion but he put screws in the wrong place, damaging the car further. I had to book into a hotel as I couldn’t get home that night and pay £567 to fix the car the next day. The breakdown service won’t take responsibility and pay back the money. What should I do?
A: This isn’t straightforward. The breakdown service was only responsible to do its professional best to restart your car. This mechanic appears to have been negligent, meaning you couldn’t get home. If you can prove this, the recovery service may be liable for your hotel costs.
However, the recovery firm will only be responsible for the cost of fixing the damage resulting from work of its negligent mechanic, not the total price of fixing your car, as you would have had to pay this in any event.
Ask the mechanic who fixed your car what it cost to sort out the damage from the screws, then write to the recovery company adjusting your claim.
You can’t get all £567. Make clear you want a refund for this and the cost of your hotel too. Threaten to take them to the small claims court.
- Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.
Mel Hunter – Readers’ champion on fighting for your rights
Q: I BOUGHT a fridge freezer in November 2017 for £400. It broke down in April this year.
I contacted Hotpoint who told me the callout charge would be £119, but it would be free if I took out insurance for £9.99 a month.
I took out the policy with Domestic & General, but when an engineer came he said he’d have to order the part. A second engineer had the part but found it was not complete. A third engineer still didn’t have the right part.
Because of the delays, Domestic & General told me I would get a replacement, but three days later they said the policy did not allow for that.
PATRICIA Stone, Basildon, Essex
A: A fault on your fridge within 18 months of buying it isn’t acceptable.
But the runaround you were given when you tried to get it fixed was even more frustrating.
You’d paid for the insurance, assuming everything would be resolved quickly, but instead had to wait in for a stream of Mr Fix-its who didn’t come with the right kit.
I got on to Domestic & General who then agreed the right way forward would be to replace the appliance. The appliance insurer told me: “We are sorry that Mrs Stone has had a bad experience with us.
“While we were not directly responsible for the delay in the replacement of a particular part of Mrs Stone’s fridge freezer, we have raised her concerns with our appliance partner and a satisfactory outcome has now been found.”
Hotpoint were unavailable for comment when I tried to contact the firm.
Q: EDF has advised me I owe it £2,972.10 for my gas and electricity.
I have emailed the firm saying I don’t agree with this amount but keep getting the same reply saying to send a picture of readings or to submit the reading. But I am disabled and I don’t know how to read the meters.
I was told someone would come out and check them every three months. This has not happened.
Angela Day Gillingham, Kent
A: Once I got involved, EDF responded brilliantly. Within two days it had thoroughly investigated, noting the reading given by your son when you moved provider had the decimal point in the wrong place. The firm admits it should have picked this up, especially when it sent its own engineer to look at your meter a few weeks later.
EDF contacted your previous provider, the now defunct Extra Energy. The readings it had kept helped calculate a new bill showing you owed just £170.
In the last few days EDF has fitted a smart meter so it can take your readings electronically.
A spokesperson told me: “We were provided with an incorrect opening meter reading and subsequently estimated her consumption based on this.
“We apologise that we did not identify the issue sooner and have added a £75 goodwill payment to Ms Day’s account.”
Jane Hamilton – Property expert with the best advice for your home
RENTAL costs are eating up a third of household income for poorer families, a Shelter report revealed this week.
The housing charity’s chief, Polly Neate, said: “Families in lower-paid jobs are having their bank balances bled dry by expensive private rents.”
If you are struggling, here are tactics to negotiate a better deal with your landlord.
- Signing a new lease? Ask if the rent is open to negotiation before you commit. If you are facing a rent rise on your home, it is still worth talking to your landlord and making a counter offer.
- Showcase your strengths as a tenant. Most landlords will not want to lose a good tenant and have a “void period” without rent. Demonstrate you pay on time and look after the property.
- Ask about extending the lease. If you can show you want to stay for a long period, the landlord may be more open to a lower rent.
- Check the market rate. Look on Rightmove and Zoopla to see what similar rental properties cost in your area. If it is less than you pay, use it to negotiate with your landlord.
- Can’t get the rental cost cut? Check if you are eligible for extra benefits help at benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou.
- Think of a back-up plan. Make sure you have two or three other properties in mind you can move to if you cannot afford your current home. Start looking at least a month before you may need to move out. Get advice on whether you qualify for social housing at citizensadvice.org.uk.
Buy of the week
THE Government has announced plans to stub out smoking in Britain by 2030 – but it won’t hurt to get a head start.
Chorley in Lancashire is the most affordable “low-smoking” town, according to One 77 Mortgages.
This townhouse is yours for offers over £180,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/51260524.
THE time taken to get an acceptable offer on the average home has increased by three days compared to last year, new figures show.
Homeowners now have to wait 60 days, up from 57. And it takes 168 days to complete the sale and move into a new property, the report from data company TwentyCi reveals.
Deal of the week
MAKE the most of the sunshine.
This country snuggle garden chair is perfect for lazy days and fits even the tiniest garden.
It was £200, but is now half price at Wilko.
Maddy Tooke – Coupon Queen finding you the best bargains
Five fab freebies:
- Italian recipe books from Filippo Berio. Choose from Summer Recipes, Italian Entertaining, Speedy Italian Suppers, Perfect Potatoes and many more. Request printed copy or download. See bit.ly/freeitalianrecipe.
- Wild flower seeds from Grow Wild. There are only 50,000 packs available. Sign up at bit.ly/freewildflowerseeds19 to get your seeds in October.
- Monday night MoveGB fitness class for O2 Priority members. Get your weekly code from bit.ly/freefitnesso2. Do a class a week until August 26.
- Bottle of ice tea. Enter your details at bit.ly/freewasabitea to get a code to redeem at Wasabi eateries. Ends July 24 or when all codes are claimed.
- St John Ambulance first aid guide. See bit.ly/stjohnszambulanceguide.
Top ten deals:
- Save up to 50 per cent in the Nike end of season sale, get an extra 20 per cent off with code JULY20 and order through Quidco.com to earn 20 per cent cash back. Expires Tuesday. See bit.ly/nikesale20off.
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- Save 10 per cent on all Converse with VoucherCodes.co.uk. Ends July 21. See bit.ly/10offconverse.
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- Get £75 off a case of wine and free bottle of prosecco from Naked Wines with code until September 6. See bit.ly/75offnakedwine.
- Get 25 per cent off everything at Coast with code from Money SavingExpert. It can also be used in the up to 70 per cent off sale. Expires Monday. See bit.ly/25offcoast.
- Save an extra 35 per cent on Hot Diamonds outlet jewellery with code MSE35. Expires Tuesday. See bit.ly/35offhotdiamondoutlet.
- Get up to 50 per cent off orders from photo printing firm Snapfish with code SFUK950. See bit.ly/40offsnapfish. Expires July 29.
- Get 20 per cent off orders over £60 at gifts and gadgets retailer I Want One of Those. Code expires tomorrow. See bit.ly/20offiwoot.
- Save 15 per cent on first month PayAsUGym day passes. Ends August 17. See bit.ly/25offpayasugym.