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
Stewart Williams – The Sun Jane Hamilton gives tips to tenants who want pets
IT is the home trend that’s cooking up a storm on Instagram and Pinterest.
Loved by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, the Clooneys and John Legend, the outdoor kitchen is sure to impress your guests.
But garden cooking areas can cost more than £10,000 to install and, when done badly, can mean your house loses value rather than gain.
Next week is National BBQ Week. If you love outdoor cooking, there are ways to get the A-list look on a Z-list budget. Here’s how…
Getty – Contributor Make sure your garden is ready to host your friends over for a barbecue
Think small: There is no need to build a full-size eating area like a Hollywood star. All you really need is a grill, storage cabinet, serving trolley and garden seating.
Choose your worktop carefully: It is worth investing in quality to be ready for that dodgy British weather. Avoid wood and go for stainless steel or concrete. Also, make sure you leave enough room to move around the worktop.
Best bar none: Factor in a small drinks area so you do not have to run back to the house for booze. It can be as simple as a stylish bucket filled with ice to hold drinks – or if budget allows, install an outdoor fridge or wine cooler.
Go under cover: Installing a shelter or small roof means you can use your kitchen whatever the weather. Ensure your grill is properly ventilated.
Hack a budget kitchen: Ikea offers affordable outdoor cabinet and storage options. Or search eBay for barbecue bargains. There are lots of free “how to build” kitchen guides on YouTube.
One last hot tip: A fire pit is a cheap but stylish option. Dunelm has a black metal pit for £35.
Buy of the week
With four bedrooms, two cosy woodburners and easy access to the coast, this is a great pad
YOU could spend the next bank holiday weekend admiring the views from this stunning Cornish cottage.
With four bedrooms, two cosy woodburners and easy access to the coast, it is the perfect family pad.
This is a great bargain for family summer breaks
Yours for £220,000.
Find it at onthemarket.com/details/6595849.
Europe’s bestBREXIT is centre stage yet again but there is at least one area in which we get a good deal in Europe.
Research by estate agent comparison site getagent.co.uk reveals the UK enjoys the lowest estate agent commission fees of all EU members.
We fork out just 1.2 per cent on average – while sellers in Romania pay a whopping six per cent commission.
Almost as bad are Malta, France and Cyprus, where the charge is five per cent.
In those countries, as well as Italy, Slovakia and Germany, sellers would pay commission of more than £10,000 based on the average UK house price.
Deal of the week
Bag savings in the kitchen with our deals on Le Creuset pots
BRIGHTEN up your kitchen a little with Le Creuset’s on-trend teal 800ml storage jar.
The RRP is £28 but it costs just £12.99 at tkmaxx.com/home.
Judge Rinder helps a reader with a health issue
Q) BOUGHT my flat 12 years ago as part of a freehold. The block has some garages and a communal car park.
I didn’t buy a garage, deciding to use the car park instead. Spaces are limited to residents of the block and we agreed it is OK to park in front of the garages. The owners only use them for storage.
We had a problem with other people using our car park, so hired a parking warden – paying £3,500 a year – to make sure only permit holders park there.
But I have been given a ticket for parking in front of a garage when there were no other spaces available. I contacted the warden’s firm to raise it but they refused to cancel the charge.
I’m paying this company but they are not listening. I refused to pay and they have sent it to a debt collector. Miranda, London
Alamy Surely this reader entitled to park outside his own garage?
A) Technically this firm was entitled to issue a ticket – it sounds like you breached the T&Cs for use of the car park, which (oddly, in this case) they seem to have set on your behalf. This is especially galling for you, as you pay them.
The good news is that although they might have been legally entitled to fine you, you probably have a defence in law.
If you have evidence the other long-term lease-holders gave you consent to park in front of any garage (an email or minutes from a residents’ association meeting, say), the rules drafted by the company should have taken this agreement into account.
Write again to the parking firm and the relevant parking association that governs it, making clear what happened.
Also notify the debt collection agency that you are in dispute with the parking company.
And email the company, setting out the agreement you have with your neighbours, to get its rules amended.
Drink stinksQ) I WORKED for a brewing company for 18 years, starting from school as an apprentice.
I was encouraged to drink underage – the team leader would even give us his pass card to buy drinks at the onsite bar.
I became dependent on alcohol, which led to using drugs. I had counselling but was caught at work and failed a drugs test. I was sacked and tried to take my own life. The company offered no support.
I’m very angry at my treatment. I’m not innocent but being encouraged to drink at a young age by my employer contributed to my demise. Do I have any kind of case against them? Dean, Staffs
A) I am so sorry. You went through a great deal. The difficulty would be proving your employer – undoubtedly negligent in providing you with alcohol underage – caused your addiction in law.
It is worth exploring further, as it is a rather unusual legal action and there may be circumstances I am not aware of that could strengthen your case.
Get in touch with your local branch of Citizens Advice, where they will point you in the direction of free legal help.
Ki Price – The Times A reader’s friend promised to pay him back for a pal’s funeral
Q) I TOOK out a loan to pay for a funeral on behalf of a friend of mine whose wife had died. He signed a promissory note saying he would pay me back.But each month he had a new excuse for not coming up with the money.
Finally, he moved away – and never sent me his address. He won’t reply to texts or answer calls.
He still owes me just over £1,400. The county court money-claims service said it can’t serve my claim without his address. I’ve paid off the loan in full, as I don’t want a default notice.
But how can I get the money back from him? Gill, Ipswich
A) You did a sensible thing getting this agreement with your friend in writing.
The promissory note is perfectly adequate proof you have a legally enforceable debt.
Without it, you would have no legal action at all.Unless he has disappeared off the face of the earth, I doubt he will be difficult to find.
Instruct a reasonably priced enquiry agent – there are many decent ones – to obtain his last known address.
With this, you can take him to the small claims court – with a good chance of getting a judgment against him.
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
The Sun Mel Hunter advises on consumer issues
Q) PLEASE could you help sort out my furniture delivery from Harveys?
This saga has been going on since last November, when I was supposed to have two sofas, a table and four chairs delivered.
Since then I have had wrong deliveries made, been sent unacceptable furniture with marks on it and had deliveries cancelled on many occasions. Andrew Yates, Nottingham
A) If we had printed your letter in full, featuring a complete catalogue of all the problems you have faced, we would have pushed Judge Rinder off the page. So I’ve kept it brief.Suffice to say you were fighting this battle by yourself for months – and I was only too happy to take it off your shoulders.The good news is Harveys wasn’t denying you were in the right and staff seemed willing to help.But the company couldn’t get its diabolical stock and delivery service together to actually get the items to you. A fortnight after I highlighted your case, you finally received everything you ordered.However, two of the chairs were damaged. You then had to wait another six weeks – putting up with another two failed deliveries – before you finally got the furniture you paid for.
This whole situation unravelled over seven testing months.Harveys gave you £280 compensation for the stress it had put you through.
A spokesman said: “We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused to Mr Yates with his product order. We have apologised and have worked with him to agree compensation, which he has accepted.”
Cover Images Mel Hunter helped a reader get a refund on a flight to Thailand
Q) IN October 2018, I booked a holiday to Thailand with my partner for this August. Sadly we have since broken up and I am stuck with the flight booked in her name.I bought the tickets in good faith from Travelbag but it says it can’t transfer one ticket to another person. That just seems so unfair. George Gebbett, Cambridge
A) Even when it seems so simple to change the name on a ticket, strict rules across different airlines can make it nigh-on impossible to tweak tickets in this way.But given you weren’t flying for another five months and were also happy to pay a reasonable fee to make the change, I weighed in to trying to help you out. Travelbag explained it was bound by the rules set by the airline, Etihad, so I got on to the Emirates-based carrier.Fortunately, someone there was having a good day and agreed to refund the unusable flight as a goodwill gesture, although they warned Travelbag might deduct its own fees.In fact, just £2 was taken off the total, leaving you with a refund of £359.41, which you were then able to use to buy another ticket (albeit one that had gone up in price).Travelbag told me: “In these circumstances, the airlines set the rules for refunds, rebookings and name changes, not the travel agent.“We’re glad George was able to get the resolution he hoped for from Etihad and we are sorry we couldn’t assist directly.”
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Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
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