EVERY Saturday, 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 selling your home and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
Stewart Williams – The Sun Jane Hamilton gives tips on buying your dream home
WAITING for your dream home to come up for sale? Try taking matters into your own hands.
Three times as many homeowners are thinking about selling their property than those actually listed, new research shows.
And more than half of homeowners whose properties are NOT on the market would respond to a sales enquiry.
Here’s how to get started.
Getty – Contributor Use our tips to bag your ideal home before it even hits the market
What will you target? Is it just one house or a whole street you love? Or a wider area?
Check out the sold prices in your target roads using Zoopla and Rightmove. It will help you budget and decide what you are willing to pay. Remember, the seller’s asking price may be higher than what they could realistically get.
Write a letter telling sellers what you are looking for in a home and saying you are keen to buy privately – meaning THEY won’t have to pay estate agent fees either.
Make your note personal. Maybe you have a young family and want to send your kids to the local school. Perhaps you have memories of the area from childhood or you want to move closer to family. MoneySavingExpert’s forums have sample letters you can use.
Set up a new email account or mobile number for replies to come in so your wider personal details aren’t shared.
Don’t have time to drop off a leaflet yourself? Or are you targeting a town far away? Specialist site knockforsale.com prints and distributes leaflets for would-be buyers.
When you have found the home you want, make an offer. From there on, the process is the same as a traditional transaction.
Buy of the weekNOT had enough chocolate so far this Easter holiday? Then take a look at this “chocolate box” thatched cottage.
The pretty two-bedroom property in Chard, Somerset, has a big garden in which you can burn off the calories.
It is available for offers around £230,000. See onthemarket.com/details/4777346.
APRIL 16 was “Mortgage Freedom Day” – when the average borrower has earned enough to cover their mortgage payments for the rest of the year.
But the actual date depends on where you live. Borrowers in Brent, North West London, have to wait until September whereas in Copeland in the North West it was in February.
Work out your own mortgage freedom day, using this calculation from the Halifax. Divide your monthly mortgage repayment by your take-home pay, and multiply by 365.
The result is the number of days into the year you will have “mortgage freedom”.
Deal of the weekPICK up Aldi’s trendy hanging Egg Chair for just £129.99 – hundreds less than some designer versions.
You can order it online from tomorrow at aldi.co.uk/garden-shop/garden-furniture.
Q) FOR the past 18 months, our daughter has been the only cleaner for an independent living home where 40 residents live. Recently another cleaning contractor has taken over. Last week she was told she will be given a tracking device to wear around her neck and that she will have to charge it up at home.
She is very upset and feels this new contractor doesn’t trust her. In all her years of doing this type of work, no one has ever asked her to do anything like this. Legally can she refuse to wear the device?
A) This new cleaning contractor can only change the terms of your daughter’s employment if it has a contract with her. If not, her original contract with the care home will apply. She needs to find this document.
Unless this original contract specifies that the care home may alter your daughter’s terms of employment at any point, then the new cleaning firm is unlikely to be able to force your daughter to wear a tracker. But she will need to tread carefully in this case if she wants to keep her job.
This new firm may look at your daughter’s length of service (only 18 months) and her refusal to comply with its requirements and take the view it would be cheaper to pay whatever is owed on her current contract. Or it might (despite it being unlawful) dismiss her.At the end of the day, your daughter has very little power against this. She can try to negotiate an alternative approach to being monitored but I’m afraid that this company will get its way in the end.
Alamy Judge Rinder gives a reader advice on whether her daughter needs to wear a tracker for her cleaning job
Q) MY property backed on to a plot of land with garages. It was bought by a housing developer who got permission to build a two-storey building of 12 flats. The garages originally on the plot made up the party wall, but the developer wanted to knock it down and put a fence along the same line.
I told the firm I wanted to keep the wall because the development plot was so small my property would be really overlooked by these flats. The wall was 2.1m high, so at least I would have a bit of privacy.
To cut a long story short, the firm agreed to knock the party wall down and build a new one, which I assumed would be on the same party line. But now the new wall has gone up it has been moved by about 1.5ft without any explanation.
This means my property is now closer to the development, plus it has ruined my garden and fencing. Does this make the developer in breach of the planning application they submitted?Martin, Kent
A) If this new wall has been built beyond the boundary of the agreed party line, and it has consequently encroached on your land, then the developer may be in breach of the planning application. More importantly to you, it may also have unlawfully annexed some of the land that you own, which might entitle you to compensation.
Before reporting this matter to the planning authorities – and certainly before considering any legal claim you might have against this developer – it might be worth instructing a chartered surveyor to give their assessment of this situation.
Assuming their conclusions are in your favour, you will have a number of legal remedies against this developer. At that point I would advise you to obtain legal advice and to pursue them all.
Q) I PURCHASED a chain necklace from a jewellers for a pendant I have. I explained to the sales assistant I wasn’t sure if it was suitable. At no point was I told it would be impossible to get my money back. I returned less than 24 hours later to find out it was exchange only.
Is this legal?
A) Yes, this might be legal. When you shop on the high street (rather than online), the retailer does not have to accept returns on non-faulty items. However, if this jeweller has a returns policy (as this one clearly does) then it must stick to it.
You need to investigate this by going back to the shop or perhaps looking at your receipt to check where this returns policy is displayed and what it says.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
The Sun Mel Hunter advises on consumer issues
Q) BOUGHT a Samsung television from John Lewis in June 2018 and have had problems with the picture since day one.
I complained to the store which sent a person to try to fix it. He told my wife it was all OK and to just watch programmes in movie mode, which I felt was an insult. John Lewis sent another engineer, who agreed the picture was not right, but we heard nothing further until I chased the store myself. It then replaced the screen and a component but the problems continued.
John Lewis arranged to send the set for repair and leave us with a temporary TV, but ended up not bringing a replacement so we told them not to take ours. John Lewis has now told us to ring a different repair firm to arrange a time for a temporary TV to be delivered while ours is fixed.
I feel like we are doing all the running and that it shouldn’t be this way.
Jimmy Crofts, Rickmansworth, Herts
A) You were fed up with having to do everything to sort out a TV that has been faulty from the start. In your eyes, it made a mockery of the five-year guarantee offered by John Lewis – a big reason for buying the TV from the store in the first place.
I put all this to John Lewis which I am pleased to say did change its stance, replacing the TV and giving you £50 off the model you chose as a gesture of goodwill. The store apologised for the delay in replacing your TV, which it should have done after the first repair failed.
Alamy This customer believes their computer wasn’t fit for purpose from the start
Q) I BOUGHT a computer in May 2017 from Currys PC World for £319.99 and also paid an extra £55 for its KnowHow installation and set-up of email and anti-virus software. From the start the computer didn’t work well – I couldn’t open some websites and it was running slowly.
Currys took the PC back, admitting the installation hadn’t been done properly, but the problems persisted. Currys then blamed our broadband signal. We plodded on for nearly two years with a computer that was hardly used because it wouldn’t load anything and ran so slowly it was impossible to do anything on.
We recently learned the broadband is working fine and an IT technician friend told me the hardware had never been installed properly. Currys has told me I must pay for any repairs as it is out of warranty, but I don’t believe it was fit for purpose from the start.
I am out of pocket with a PC I can’t use.
Jane Bailey, Milton Keynes, Bucks
A) With a computer nearly two years old, the onus is on you, the customer, to prove that the problem existed from the start.I am glad to say that once I got in touch with Currys PC World it accepted your version of events.It picked up your computer, repaired it for free as a gesture of goodwill and, for the first time in two years, you were able to use it as intended.A Currys PC World spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to hear that Ms Bailey experienced issues with her computer and have apologised for any inconvenience caused.”
ALLERGY WARNING Go Ahead! recalls hazelnut bars sold in Asda & Tesco over nut allergy fears TOP OF THE MORNING Asda is selling an all-in-one family breakfast pack for £2.75 NOT IN THE SPIRIT Smirnoff launches new fruit-flavoured vodka but it contains less alcohol RevealedGET SAVVY TO SCAMS Online fraudsters could cost you thousands — here’s how to keep safe LUCKY DIP The rare McDonald’s Monopoly pieces that can boost your chances of winning
Here are my top five freebies this week. . .
Benefit brow wax and Elizabeth Arden facial on your birthday if you join Debenhams Beauty Club. See bit.ly/debenhamsbirthdaytreat.
Sign up to the Pets At Home VIP Club and get a birthday gift for your pet plus 10 per cent off coupon valid for a month. See bit.ly/petsathomevip.
Join Greggs Rewards scheme – and the free Greggs app – and get a treat on your birthday. Voucher valid for a month after issue. See greggs.co.uk.
Become a Friend of Krispy Kreme and get a free birthday treat. Enter your details at bit.ly/krispykremebirthdaytreat.
Free birthday Boost drink, worth £3-£5, when you sign up to the Vibe loyalty scheme. bit.ly/freebdayboost.
Top ten deals
Buy a teddy from Build A Bear for your child’s birthday – the cost will be their age in pounds. If your child is turning one, for example, the Birthday Treat Bear (normally £14) will cost only £1. You must sign up to the Bonus Club to be eligible. Valid birthday month only. See bit.ly/buildabearbirthday.
Get a free main, a bottle of Prosecco and a treat at Zizzi on your birthday Sign up at bit.ly/zizzibirthday.
Celebrate your birthday at Toby Carvery and get £10 off a £20 bill. Sign up at bit.ly/tobyoffers.
Get a free birthday cocktail and £10 off a £20 bill at Yates pubs. Sign up at bit.ly/yatesbirthday.
Get a £5 The Body Shop voucher as a birthday reward. Register at bit.ly/bodyshopbirthdayreward.
Hobbycraft will give you a £5 birthday voucher by signing up at bit.ly/hobbycraftclub.
Receive a £5 birthday voucher from Paperchase. Sign up to the loyalty club at bit.ly/paperchase treatme.
Join H&M Club and get 25 per cent off on your birthday. The discount can be used online or in-store. See bit.ly/handmbirthdaydiscount.
Get 25 per cent off and free next- day delivery at Boohoo for your birthday. Sign up to the Boohoo newsletter at bit.ly/boohoobirthday.
Join the ELC Big Birthday Club for 20 per cent off your child’s birthday present. Sign up at bit.ly/elcbigbirthdayclub. It takes eight weeks to activate membership.
Judge Rinder viewers in hysterics as ‘Ed Sheeran’ is in court to collect money