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
PROFESSIONAL cleaning at the end of a tenancy can cost a pretty penny – from £125 for a one-bed flat to more than £500 for a five-bed house.
Some agents insist you get professional cleaners in. But with online influencers such as Mrs Hinch proving a hit, doing a decent DIY job is popular.
Lynsey Crombie, author of How to Clean Your House… And Tidy Up Your Life, said: “Write a to-do list, then start at the top of the house and work down.”
Instagram star Lynsey, who has thousands of followers at lynsey_queenofclean, has these tips:
- First impressions: Clean the windows to let the light in and open them to let fresh air circulate. Clean front door and sweep up leaves and debris.
- Wonder walls: Tackle cobwebs up high then dust the skirting boards with a damp cloth. Dust window blinds. Use very diluted fabric conditioner and a soft microfibre cloth to remove wall marks.
- Toilet talk: Scrub bathrooms, focusing on limescale and mould patches. Submerge shower head in a sandwich bag half-filled with white wine vinegar. Add a bottle of cheap coke to the toilet to fight limescale and rust and leave overnight.
- Kitchen sync: Run washing machine or dishwasher on a hot cycle and clean fridge with warm soapy water. Clean inside, outside and tops of cupboards.
- Look up and down: Hire a carpet-cleaning machine or, for just a few stains, clean with a mix of warm, soapy water and white wine vinegar. Dust lampshades, light bulbs and fittings.
Buy of the week
BATH has made a splash this week after an annual study found it is the nation’s best place to bring up a family.
The research, by price comparison website moneysupermarket.com, compared six factors, from local school rankings to green space.
While the Somerset city is not cheap, it does have affordable homes, including this two-bed semi with stunning views.
It is on for £220,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/50940370.
Longer mortgages more attractive
HALF of homebuyers would consider taking out a 40-year mortgage to keep repayments affordable and get on the property ladder sooner, new research has revealed.
And nearly a quarter do not realise that spreading a mortgage over a longer term would mean lower monthly repayments.
The mega-term loans are popular in Japan but only a few UK lenders currently offer them.
The study was carried out by Santander.
Miguel Sard, a managing director at the company, said: “By offering buyers the option of a longer-term mortgage, our aim is to address some of the affordability restrictions they face and support them in buying a home with more manageable monthly repayments.”
Deal of the week
UK homes are some of the smallest in Europe and there is a boom in space-saving furniture.
This Kubik compact dining set fits the tiniest of flats and is £99.99 at studio.co.uk.
SAVE: Average of £40 on comparable sets.
Q) MY aunt died three years ago and we were beneficiaries in her will. We received our inheritance from the trust fund and have continued to wait for the rest of her estate to be sorted.
To cut a long story short, we are now being told that it has been passed on to another solicitor.
This will be the fourth firm of solicitors supposedly dealing with it. Is this normal?
What would be the reason it keeps being transferred to other solicitors?
We are beginning to think something very dodgy is going on. Marilyn, Bedford
A) It certainly isn’t ideal that your late aunt’s will is now being dealt with by a fourth set of solicitors.
This is not normal but it doesn’t mean that there is necessarily anything to worry about.
I don’t know what has happened in this case but small firms of solicitors sometimes get bought out by larger ones and they also have a habit of merging and changing names.
My concern isn’t that there is something legally dodgy going on, I am more troubled that the solicitors are charging you and the other beneficiaries a fortune to administer this will, which sounds fairly straightforward.
I would get in touch with this new firm and ask for them to outline their costs, along with an estimate of how long it will take for them to pay all the beneficiaries.
You and all the other beneficiaries are legally entitled to this information.
Make sure you check this carefully. If you consider the solicitors’ costs to be unreasonable you must challenge them.
They are under a legal obligation to sort this out as soon as possible and at a reasonable price.
You have the power to hold them to account. Make sure that you do.
Q) I VIEWED a sofa and chair in a furniture shop and took a brochure with the dimensions so I could measure for my living room.
I checked them via phone with a salesman but when the sofa and chair arrived, the chair didn’t fit.
The store offered to take my chair back and refund only half the price.
Can’t I get a full refund?
A) Unless they made clear the advice should not be relied upon and was only a guess, it seems to me you are legally entitled to a full refund.
Tell the managing director what has happened and explain that you are prepared to take this company to court.
I suspect that if you push hard enough you will get all of your money back.
Q) I PAID £1,700 to a gardener eight weeks ago and to date very little has been done.
He was meant to order slabs and do all the prep work before they arrived.
Slabs have not been delivered and he has dug up the garden but left us unable to use our garden or park our cars in the driveway.
When contacted, he promises to do the job, then gives excuses all the time for not doing it.
What can I do about this legally to get my money returned and also to prevent anyone else getting scammed by this man? Alison, Kent
A) Your primary concern must be getting your garden finished. You can (and should) worry about warning others later.
The gardener you have paid is under an obligation to complete this work to a professional standard, which includes getting it all done within a reasonable period of time.
Write to the gardener at once (by email), making it clear that you expect him to provide a clear timeframe for the work to be completed.
If he fails to respond or to show up, he is in breach of contract and will also be legally culpable for failing to finish the work to an adequate standard.
At that point you will need to hire a new contractor and then demand your money back from this one.
I would do everything possible to avoid this. Your best bet is to explain to this gardener how disappointed you are and that you really want to avoid legal action.
The mere suggestion that you are prepared to take a contractor to court sometimes does the trick.
- 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 email@example.com
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) I CHANGED to e.on in November 2017 after a rep came to my door and told me how I would benefit by switching.
He stayed with me and my son while we went online, and we keyed in our meter readings while he read them out.
He then explained that the monthly direct debit would be £118.
However, by February this year, a debt of £1,200 had built up.
I was told that the first reading we gave (read out by the e.on rep) was wrong, missing a “0”.
My son paid the so-called debt, along with another £570, which the firm also told me I owed. We have tried to question this amount ever since.
The direct debit has now gone down from £243 to £120 a month, but we still don’t know if that is correct.
So far we have had seven people say they are looking into this but still have had no response. D Sleath, Birmingham
A) I’m so glad you came to me with this one.
Your son had helped you pay back a £1,700 so-called “debt” but it actually turned out that you hadn’t owed this at all.
You might never have found out if you hadn’t got me on board to press your case.
Now we’ve got to the bottom of things, you’ve had that £1,700 refunded.
It seems that the problem stems from your meter not being properly registered on the central database by your previous supplier.
An e.on spokesperson told me: “The national database has corrected Mrs Sleath’s account and we’ve completed a billing code investigation to update her account following this correction.
“Our investigation found her account to be in credit for the actual energy used over this period.”
Q) I’M the chairman of a social club. As part of a refurbishment, we ordered chairs from a company in Nottingham called Soluzione.
We have not received the chairs, only delivery dates which have not happened.
It apologised and offered a refund, which hasn’t occurred.
We were sent screenshots of transfers it said were set up, and it promised to investigate when the transfer did not take place.
We cannot afford to lose this money as, like every other social club, we are tight for cash. Alex Craib, Inverness
A) If this company could not supply your chairs, it should have refunded you.
Instead, for the past year, it has been stringing you along with repeated promises to pay back your money, which was saved up for by members of your club.
Though you have the backing of the law, Soluzione has so far failed to keep its word.
It has continued to give a string of reasons why the money does not arrive in your account.
The representative we have been corresponding with has given us excuse after excuse.
Soluzione still insists that it will refund you in the coming days and I very much hope this happens.
If it does not, you may now wish to escalate your complaint to the next level.
COINING IT IN
Rarest 10p coins revealed and they could be worth up to 170 times more
CHECK YOUR CHANGE
Do you have a 50p worth up to £840? We reveal the most valuable coins
Schoolboy turns £150 into £61k in eight months by studying YouTube trading tips
WHEN PIGS FLY
How Percy Pigs piggy-banked more than £20million for Marks & Spencer
TalkTalk is upping prices by £36 a year for thousands of broadband customers
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
My top five freebies this week
- Spend £15 online at B&Q and get £15 cashback. Available for first 5,000 claims or until June 3. Sign up to TopCashback at bit.ly/bq15free.
- Free hot drink at McDonald’s. Sign up to app at bit.ly/freemcdonaldshotdrink.
- Free LEGO giveaway at your local Smyths Toys Superstore TODAY only. No purchase necessary. One per child, while stocks last.
- Digital copy of Going Veggie: What To Eat at bit.ly/veggierecipebook.
- Free Princes Mackerel from Tesco. Get a coupon for £1 off – the price of a tin of mackerel fillets – at bit.ly/freeprincesmackerel. Valid until July 31.
Top 10 deals