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.DO not be a fool this April. Although the Easter holidays traditionally mark the start of DIY season, some so-called home “improvements” can knock value off your pad.With more than half of us now preferring to improve rather than move, property pundits are warning DIYers to pick their projects carefully.TV property expert Phil Spencer says: “Always think about the long-term – ask yourself how something will look in three, five, ten years before committing your time and money.”Here are the top re-NO-vations to avoid.
Zoopla This semi in Newcastle is our buy of the week
LOOKING to make the most of your money?
Then head north to Newcastle.
The city has the highest proportion of houses listed below the average market value, according to a new report from fasthomes.org.
This three-bed semi would make a great family home and it is just £120,000 – around half the cost of the average UK pad.
To check it out see zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/50638833.
Cardiff are top of the leagueTIRED of traditional tables showing the top spots to have a home?
If so, then try The Alternative Best Places to Live 2019 list.
Researched by Mojo Mortgages, it reveals Cardiff is the UK’s best city for sports fans while Brighton tops the charts for vegans and live- music venues.
Southampton is surprise winner for the best city to live in for fitness and yoga, with 182 places to exercise.
Deal of the week
Morrisons Pick up this bargain cushion from Morrisons
ADD elegance to your home with a stylish cushion.
This Art Deco Glamour Fan cushion is just £8 at Morrisons, although it is a designer double for the £69 Oka Zhouzhuang version.
Looking for a last-minute deal, we’ve got it covered with our super-savvy personal shopper
Judge Rinder helps a reader with a health issue
Q) MY sister was recently demoted at work.
She was a nursery manager and has now been dropped two places to room leader, and has had her pay cut by £4,000.
She was employed at the nursery to troubleshoot it as it was failing. The Ofsted reports improved under her leadership.
What are her rights on demotion?
They did not even give her notice they were going to do it, just a meeting on the day, and she did not have a representative present.
My sister has the qualifications to manage a nursery. Vic, Essex
Getty – Contributor Were the nursery’s actions legal?
A) From the version of events that you have described, your sister may have a claim for constructive dismissal and more.
A company can lawfully demote an employee but only in specific circumstances and the process they must go through is strictly regulated.
This nursery has without question breached the contract they have with your sister by changing her role and reducing her salary without giving her any notice or conducting a genuine review of your sister’s performance.
The nursery has also failed to explain its actions or give your sister a fair opportunity to make representations.
Given the findings of Ofsted, the nursery’s decision to demote your sister could not have been based on her work, which means it has almost certainly acted entirely unlawfully in this case.
I would advise your sister to ask the head of the nursery to explain the reasons for their actions in writing and to make clear that your sister refuses to accept a demotion and wishes her original salary to be reinstated.
I would also strongly urge your sister to get in touch with the Free Representation Unit or Citizens Advice and, if this cannot be resolved, to bring a claim against the nursery as soon as she can as there are strict time limits for bringing claims before the Employment Tribunal.
Summing upQ) MY son owns a freehold ground- floor flat. The flat above is rented from the owner, who lives in Spain, and is managed by a letting agency.
There was a leak over my son’s kitchen from the upstairs flat which brought the ceiling down.
My son repaired it at his own cost.
Later, a leak over his bathroom from the above flat brought his bathroom ceiling down.
The owner only wanted to pay to repair his own flat. How can my son claim back money owed?
A) Firstly, this upstairs neighbour is highly likely to be liable for the water damage to your son’s flat.
He has no right to decide only to pay for repairs to his property.
Sometimes only court action (or the threat of it) will work.
Your son could invite this neighbour, or the letting agent acting on his behalf, to mediation.
But this neighbour would have to agree to pay for part of this – and all parties would have to be prepared to compromise.
It sounds as if your son has a very strong court case.
Q) MY son has a joint mortgage with his now ex-girlfriend.
She walked out of the property six months ago and has not made any payments to the mortgage since.
My son paid all the deposit and is now paying the mortgage in full.The problem is we do not know where she is.
We have contacted a solicitor regarding this as they have a deed of trust.
What happens if we cannot find her?
PA:Press Association My son’s partner has disappeared, leaving him with a mortgage to pay
A) The bottom line here is that unless your son’s ex-girlfriend has disappeared entirely, it would be in your son’s best interest to spend some money hiring an Inquiry Agent to locate her.
These companies are often successful.
Your son and this woman are jointly liable to pay the mortgage and, even though he has taken on the responsibility of making the monthly repayments, this ex-girlfriend might still be entitled to some of the value of the house and could even make a claim against your son when, or if, she eventually returns.
Your son must get the house transferred into his name as soon as possible.
This will require him to get approved by the lender and, once this woman is found, for her to consent to the transfer.
I doubt that this woman has gone for good.
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) MY husband took out a service and MOT plan with car firm Arnold Clark in February 2018 that would last until 2021.
Unfortunately, my husband passed away in December 2018 and, as I am a non-driver, I phoned to see what happens with the policy.
I was told it was not transferable.
The policy cost £439 and my husband only used it for one service, so Arnold Clark has kept around £300 of the remaining balance.
Now it has sent my husband a reminder, even though I have told the company he has died.
M Devlin, Ayrshire
A) As things stood, Arnold Clark was able to keep the money your husband had paid, even though it would be doing absolutely nothing for it.
What is more, you had written to Arnold Clark chief executive Eddie Hawthorne regarding this matter and had not heard back.
I asked Arnold Clark to reconsider and I am pleased to say it did refund the remainder on the policy, sending you £350 along with an apology.
I think this was the right and fair thing to do.
Alamy Mel Hunter helps solve a readers MOT plan dilemma
Q) WE were awarded nearly £1,600 in PPI compensation from GE Money Home Finance. This has yet to be paid to us and has been going on since last November.
The company required photographic evidence of our identity plus our bank account numbers, which we provided months ago.
We have written numerous times but got no reply and we have now stopped trying to phone, after waiting so long in a queue.
We feel if positions were reversed, the company would probably have had us in court for non-payment, plus interest.
Mr and Mrs O’Connor, Newry, Co Down
A) You may well have a point. I got on to GE Capital, the finance arm of global company GE.
No explanation was given for the delay in awarding your compensation, but I am pleased to say I did manage to get the money paid out to you.
I am glad I could help take this weight off your shoulders, which I know was causing you stress.
Parcel fearsQ) AT the beginning of December I booked ipostparcels to collect a box of Christmas presents to be delivered to Spain.
It was picked up a week later and I received confirmation it would be delivered a week after that.
When it didn’t arrive, I emailed the company – many times.
A further month passed then I was told it had been lost.
I filled in the necessary forms but, three weeks later, still had no response.
The firm apologised that no one had been in touch, but I still heard nothing further.
Julie Banfield, Bristol
A) The delivery firm ipostparcels is part of global brand DHL.
I contacted the company but no one could explain where your parcel had gone.
With a prod from me, you got a refund.
A DHL spokesman said: “We’d like to offer our apologies to Ms Banfield regarding the issue with her parcel delivery and the delay processing her claim.
“We have been in touch with her and the due compensation has now been paid.”