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
12 Jane Hamilton gives tips to make sure you don’t pay a lot for a small homeCredit: Stewart Williams – The Sun
TIME is up for “rabbit hutch” homes. Theresa May this week promised a ban on greedy developers building “tiny” properties without proper storage.
The PM also pledged to stop builders from hoodwinking buyers by filling show homes with “deceptively small furniture” — a trick used to make rooms look bigger.
So if you are looking at a new pad and worried about its size, here is how to ensure you do not pay big for a very small home.
12 New rules will stop homes being too smallCredit: Alamy
Will your furniture fit? Before you view, measure your beds and the sofa. Take a tape measure and check if they fit easily.
Do not be impressed by a “dressed” home. Some developers pay companies a fortune to stage homes using plush designer furniture, but it is often smaller than normal.
Check the square footage. Take the estate agent’s room plan and measure rooms yourself. Some plans show differing sizes.
Looking at a pad with built-in wardrobes? Take a standard size coat hanger and see if it will fit inside. Some cupboards are not wide enough.
Room for the basics. Factor in where you can store essentials such as shoes, coats, your ironing board and vacuum.
Looking for a family home? Check if there is anywhere to store bikes, buggies and other big items. Some do not allow storage in the hallway or balcony.
Buy of the week
12 Our buy of the week in Kingsley
SCORE a dream pad. Wembley House is a picture-perfect, double-fronted cottage with a lawn big enough for a serious kickabout.
The three-bed home in Kingsley, Staffs, is yours for offers over £230,000 at onthemarket.com/details/7053344.
BoJo bounceBORIS JOHNSON might be losing ground in the race to be the next PM, but when it comes to house prices, there’s a definite BoJo bounce.
During the MP’s time representing Henley, between June 2001 and June 2008, house prices increased there by 10.4 per cent on average each year – 0.3 per cent higher than Oxfordshire as a whole. Meanwhile, rival Jeremy Hunt saw an increase of just 5.9 per cent a year in South West Surrey.
As MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris has presided over a 5.7 per cent annual rate of growth, which is 3.2 per cent higher than London during that time, figures from agent Benham and Reeves reveal.
Deal of the week
12 Bag a bargain at Aldi
GET nesting for less.
This pair of trendy round nesting side tables are £39.99 at Aldi – half the price of similar furniture at Wayfair and a fraction of the cost of designer versions.
12 Judge Rinder helps a reader with a verbally agreed loan
Q) A COUPLE of years ago I took out a loan for my son to buy a car, on a verbal agreement he paid me back £100 a month.
I have also paid out various other amounts for him, such as a deposit on a house. This has now amounted to £8,000 but nothing is being paid back to me.
Where do I stand? The garage knows I paid for the car, the estate agent knows I paid the deposit on the house but I have no written agreement with him or his partner.
This is a lot of money to lose. Please help. Christine, Essex
A) You are in deep legal hot water as it stands. You have no enforceable agreement with your son whatsoever. If he stops paying the £100 instalments, you will have no claim against him as you have nothing in writing.
The court would, in all likelihood, assume the money you borrowed was a gift to your son. If this agreement goes wrong, you would have to prove to a judge you intended to sue your son if he failed to keep up the repayments.
Get this agreement in writing with your son as soon as possible.
Make sure it sets out precisely how much has been borrowed, the amount of the monthly instalments he owes and that you intend to take your son to court if he fails to pay up. You should then both sign that document and have somebody else witness it.
12 One dilemma focuses on a cancelled stay in WhitbyCredit: Getty – Contributor
Q) I USED an online travel agent to book a seven-night stay at a hotel in Whitby at a cost of £665.
Only when I got the confirmation email did I discover I had booked a hotel in Whitby, Canada, not Whitby, North Yorks.
I rang the agent straight away but it said it was non-refundable.
A) Check the terms and conditions on the travel company’s website.
If it is a member of ABTA or ATOL, it will almost certainly have clear rules protecting customers who make mistakes like this.
You notified the company immediately, so neither the firm nor the hotel has experienced any loss.
Unless there was a clear indication your money was non-refundable and all bookings were final, you’re entitled to your money back.
Contact the head of customer services stating you intend to take this further (to court or the Financial Ombudsman) if it refuses to return your money or allow you to book an alternative hotel.
Q) MY daughter will not allow my wife or me access to our grandchildren, who are 12 and 14.
This has been the case for more than 11 years.
One of the reasons is that my daughter thoroughly dislikes my wife (her stepmum and step-grandmother to the children.)
My daughter has said that if I divorce my wife then she will be happy for me to have contact with my grandchildren. But this is something I am not prepared to do.
It is so difficult because I love my wife very much but equally I love and want to see my grandchildren.
I would be so upset to leave this earth and not to have had time with them.
Is there anything I can do through the courts to see my grandchildren? And will my wife also be allowed access?
12 Grandparents also have rightsCredit: Getty – Contributor
A) This is a very tricky subject. The bottom line is that, as a grandparent, you do have a legal right to see your grand- children.
In the event that your daughter continues to refuse to allow you access, you could apply to the Family Court seeking contact with them.
You should try to avoid this at all costs, however.
Not only because of the expense involved but, more importantly, because it will make the situation far more toxic.
Unless your wife has been part of the grandchildren’s lives, I am afraid she is unlikely to have a legal right to see the children, which places you in an almost impossible situation.
My advice, at first, is to attempt (perhaps through mediation) to get your daughter to agree to contact with your grandchildren and you on your own.
From that point on, once you have built a relationship of trust with your daughter, you could then slowly introduce the idea of your wife being part of the picture.
This is an appalling position to find yourself in but kindness and compromise is far more likely to produce results than any aggressive legal action.
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.
Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
12 Mel Hunter advises on consumer issuesCredit: The Sun
Q) IN October 2017 my boiler broke down and I requested a repair from 247 Home Rescue, who I had a repair policy with.
My boiler was more than ten years old and I was told there would be an excess to pay, so I decided to cancel the contract.
The company suggested I leave it to run until the policy expired a few months later, but I said I did not want it to be renewed at that point.
At the conclusion of the telephone call it was my belief that the contract with 247 would be terminated in January 2018.
That year I received three phone calls regarding servicing my boiler.
Each time I said I did not have a contract any more. An apology was made each time, saying these were just promotional calls.
I asked the firm to check that my contract had been cancelled, but the phone was put down.
I then found that £176 had been taken from my bank account in January 2018.
I contacted 247 in a distressed state as I was also dealing with the loss of my husband and they agreed to reimburse me in full, sending a confirmation email.
This never happened. I only received £29 and 247 insist they owed me nothing further as I had never cancelled.
Sheila Gray, Wirral, Merseyside
12 Boilers can be expensive to fix so insurance is importantCredit: Alamy
A) The repair company said you should have confirmed the policy cancellation in writing.
Ordinarily, this would hold some weight, but you had not been asked to do this and had been led to believe that your policy would not be renewed by 247 Home Rescue.
Crucially, the company had agreed in writing to pay you back – confirming this by text and email, which you forwarded to me.
Instead of doing this it put you through a stressful complaints procedure.
Once I got involved 247 did finally process the promised refund, as “a gesture of goodwill”.
A spokesman for 247 Home Rescue told me that asking for written confirmation is “standard industry practice”.
He added: “We understand this period must have been tough for Mrs Gray and apologise for any extra distress this situation might have caused.
“But we have no record of any request for cancellation between the renewal in January 2018 and the call in October of that year.”
12 Parking companies don’t like to give out refundsCredit: Alamy
Q) MY partner got a £70 fine by Parking Eye last October when parked at our hospital.
Because he is in ill health, he paid the £40 reduced fee and successfully appealed the fine, being told in January that a refund was being issued.
Then, in April, the company fined him again, when he used the disabled car park at the hospital with his blue badge on display.
Again he paid the reduced fee and appealed successfully.
But we have still not had the cheque promised back in January.
Jenny Banwell, Cardiff
A) I asked Parking Eye where the promised refunds were. It has processed the pay-back from the most recent ticket and insisted the earlier payment had been sent.
But with me on the case, it issued the refund again and your partner finally got the money he was owed.
HIGH STREET WOE Boots confirms plans to axe 200 UK stores over the next 18 months BEG BORROW STEAL ‘I stole sugar from McDonald’s as Universal Credit wait left me penniless’ STEAK SLY Wetherspoon diner spots menu gaffe where meal deal doesn’t save you any cash CHILD’S PLAY Mum reveals she makes £500 A MONTH selling her kids’ old toys on eBay HOT DOG Pets at Home is selling £25 paddling pools for dogs to keep them cool in the sun FINANCIAL ABUSE Martin Lewis advises woman whose partner built up £26,000 debt in her name
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
12 Maddy Tooke shares her best high street dealsCredit: John McLellan
My top five freebies this week
12 Get a free pint of Carlsberg this weekendCredit: PA:Press Association
Top 10 deals
Our top eight apps to help you save money in 2019