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
Cool ideas to beat the heat
THE nation is getting ready to sizzle in a seven-day heatwave.
But while you may love the sunshine, the high temperatures can harm your home.
Here are six signs of heat damage on property and ways to combat it.
1) Dazzling sunshine and high humidity strains doors so they swell or even crack. Consider painting external doors a lighter colour to reflect heat or add a layer of varnish. Wipe down composite and UPVC doors with cold water to cool them.
2) Is your hardwood floor creaking or buckling? Summer humidity can cause them to warp. Use as little water as possible to clean them and get airflow through the house to dry them out.
3) Check your roof. Many attics do not have good airflow and hot days can cause the roof to expand and warp. Install vapour barriers to reduce moisture, choose lighter tiles or seal the roof with a UV-resistant coating.
4) Extreme heat can make locks expand and jam. If this happens, ask a locksmith to install a more durable mechanism.
5) High temperatures may lead to external paint cracking and blistering, while UV light attacks the emulsifiers in it, causing it to disintegrate. Paint the outer walls white to reflect heat or consider using a specialist exterior wall coating to protect your home.
6) Filling paddling pools, hot tubs or watering the garden? Check your pipe connections as the extra use can make them burst. Also, get a plumber to inspect the caulking and sealing.
Buy of the week
DIP, hooray! A studio flat with this heated pool in communal gardens in Bournemouth is £129,950 at rightmove.co.uk/properties/108569015.
WARRINGTON in Cheshire has been dubbed our most house- proud town, with an average of 313 online searches in every 100,000 focusing on tips for cleaning and kitchen storage.
Overall, the North East, Northern Ireland and Scotland are the neatest regions, with no southern area in the top ten.
Ally Dowsing-Reynolds, chief executive at home decor specialist Dowsing & Reynolds, which carried out the research, said: “Following last year’s DIY boom, it has been amazing to see the nation take more of an interest in interiors than ever before, especially the power they have on our overall mood.”
Deal of the week
YOU’LL be on cloud nine with this treat for your home – the Cloud Cushion at morrisons.com is just £9.
SAVE: £9 on similar elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘‘The roots of neighbour’s nuisance tree are creeping into my garden but who must pay for it to be chopped down?’’
Q) THERE is a large tree growing in my neighbour’s garden. Its roots have come into my property and suck moisture from the lawn, leaving it dry.
I am also worried that the roots are getting so big they are approaching the foundations of my house.
Who would have to pay for a tree surgeon to remove this tree? Is it down to me or my neighbour?
A) In circumstances like these, your neighbour would have to pay for the problem tree to be removed because it is situated on his property.
But I must emphasise your suspicion that the roots are causing damage to your lawn and the foundations of your property is not enough to force your neighbour to have the tree pulled down.
You would need some evidence of this from a qualified expert. Before approaching your neighbour, do bear in mind that it is extremely important to attempt to resolve this without generating unnecessary conflict.
The first step is to discuss your concerns as amicably as possible.
If you approach this with care and a modicum of emotional intelligence, this really should end happily.
Q) I HAVE been trying unsuccessfully to extend the lease on my maisonette for nearly four years. The leasehold company has been extremely difficult.
I served notice on it for a statutory 90-year extension and last December we agreed on an offer. I paid the legal costs and valuation fees. Last week I asked my solicitor what was going on and she told me the offer had been withdrawn.
Has my solicitor been negligent? And can the lease company withdraw the offer?
A) I don’t really understand what has happened in this case, which is troubling.
As soon as your offer was accepted by the freehold (or leasehold) company, the relevant paperwork should have been pretty straight- forward to complete and you should have been instructed to make the payment to extend the lease, whatever that amount was.
It is certainly possible that your solicitors have acted without due care and expedition. But at the same time, the fault could have been with the other side’s lawyers.
I would strongly urge you to go and see a new solicitor who should be able – pretty quickly and without charging you much – to help sort this.
Do not delay.
Q) I ORDERED two sofas and when they were delivered, the armrest on one was damaged.
I reported this and was told a specialist would come back to me. It was more than a month before they were in touch.
The specialist said he could stuff the armrest but I said I wanted a refund as it wasn’t good enough. The sofa cost more than £1,000.
But the shop is now saying if I refuse a repair, I cannot have a refund. Is this correct?
A) No this is probably not correct. Although the firm may have offered to “repair” the sofa, it was faulty as soon as it arrived and – importantly – you notified the company about the problem within 30 days.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 would, in most cases, legally require the company to refund you if that’s what you preferred (instead of a repair).
I suggest you write to the managing director of the sofa firm asking why this person believes the law doesn’t apply to them and make clear that you are considering taking legal action unless you are issued with a refund.
Mel Hunter, reader's champion
Locked into mobile plan
Q) I AM battling to be rid of a Virgin Mobile contract I started in September 2019 to cover me for data usage while I was between homes.
I did not use it for calls and haven’t needed the data since settling into my new home in June 2020. Despite phone calls, emails and letters to Virgin, I can’t get free of the company.
If I phone, Virgin asks for letters from my password, which I have forgotten.
In the end, I cancelled my direct debit. But a recent letter says my credit rating could be affected. I am getting more and more frustrated.
A) Shortly after you wrote to me, a letter from a debt collector arrived – all for the meagre sum of £24 Virgin said you owed.
I got on to the phone provider and sorted things out, getting the account closed, the late payment charge removed and your credit file amended.
Virgin insisted the problem occurred because you had not passed on your service termination authorisation code (STAC) to a new provider, which would have ensured your Virgin account closed.
But you didn’t have a new provider, so this wasn’t possible. Virgin didn’t tell you what you should do in this situation. Nor did it guide you through the process of closing your account, as it should have done when you called.
Furthermore, it did not close your contract when you wrote requesting this.
A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We apologise for any difficulty Christine experienced when trying to get in touch with us. We are pleased her query has now been resolved.”
Q) I BOOKED a holiday with Hoseasons in 2019, paying a £400 deposit for the July 2020 trip to Great Yarmouth. The pandemic changed everything and in spring 2020, I phoned Hoseasons to cancel, expecting a refund.
I spent lunch hours at work on hold but could never get hold of an advisor.
Instead, I would be directed to the website for assistance – but then directed to call the number I’d already been phoning.
When I finally got through, I was told it was now too late for a refund. Have I just lost my money?
A) Back in the height of the pandemic last summer, getting through to holiday companies required perseverance, patience and a lot of luck.
You showed plenty of the first two but still struggled to speak to anyone at Hoseasons until it was too late.
When I contacted the Suffolk-based firm, it confirmed the holiday was cancelled because you hadn’t paid the rest of the balance. But with me on the case, it agreed to offer you a £400 voucher to use in the future, which you were happy with.
A Hoseasons spokesperson said: “As a gesture of goodwill – and in recognition of the fact that exceptionally high call volumes meant some customers struggled to get through to us last year – we are offering to move this customer’s deposit to secure a future holiday with us.”
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