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 buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
WITH flood warnings in more than 200 areas, the nation is on high alert weather-wise.
The Property Care Association has put out new flood advice and its technical manager, James Berry, says: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.
“But there are steps people can take to protect their homes and businesses.”
DEFEND YOUR DOOR: Flooding imminent? Specialist protection products can be fitted in front of external doors to stop water coming in. High-risk homes could benefit from exterior flood defence doors with a BSI Kitemark.
STOP THE FLOW: Flooding can push sewage into your home through the toilet or flow into pipes connected to appliances. Fit no-return valves to combat both. Inflatable toilet bungs are another barrier against sewage.
VENTILATE VOIDS: Floodwater can pour in through airbricks, so add a cover that lets them function while preventing water getting through the gaps. Single-use adhesive cover strips are ideal for low-risk areas. Screw-on and clip-on covers are also available. In high-risk areas, consider replacement airbricks that close amid rising water.
PLUG THE GAPS: Cracked bricks or damaged mortar? Fix them now to stop water seeping through, then coat with sealant.
THINK RESILIENCE: Move plug sockets higher up walls, install tiled floors on concrete and replace skirting boards with plastic or a resilient wood such as oak coated with several layers of yacht varnish. Measures such as these will reduce the repairs needed after flooding.
Buy of the week
MORECAMBE, Lancs, is the country’s latest property hotspot.
It has seen a 71 per cent surge in searches, as hit ITV drama The Bay shows off its stunning coastal scenery.
Get this two-bed penthouse with lovely sea views for £189,950 at rightmove.co.uk/properties/81664903#.
Be top of the class
BE top of the class with Wickes blackboard paint.
Perfect for home-schoolers, the £10 matt-black pot lets you transform cupboard doors or walls into a writing space.
Use it to liven up lessons, for a family planner or to jot down your shopping list.
Deal of the week
STRUGGLING for storage space?
This trendy Vasagle hallway console table at manomano.co.uk doubles as a shoe rack.
Previously £119.99, now just £54.99.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q) ON December 19 I bought a miniature parrot as a Christmas present for myself. She cost £195, but two days later, she died.
I went back to the pet shop and the manager said he would contact the supplier and get back to me.
I have heard nothing despite calling the shop several times, only to be told a manager will call soon.
Do I have any rights to a refund or a new bird?
A) You are legally entitled to a refund or a new bird from the pet shop.
When you purchase a pet from a commercial dealer like a pet shop, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies.
This makes very clear that when an animal is sold, it must be of satisfactory quality.
If, as happened in this case, the animal dies within a short period of time, it is up to the pet shop to prove the bird was perfectly healthy when it was handed over.
Given you only had the bird for two days, I simply cannot see how this shop could prove this.
Write to the pet shop at once demanding your money back (I don’t think it’s wise to buy another pet from them).
In your email be clear that you are prepared to take them to the small claims court.
Q) I LENT my son-in-law £17,000 years ago. Paperwork we drew up included a clause saying if he came into money, he must repay immediately.
Soon after, he became bankrupt. Sixteen years later, he inherited a big sum of money. He became my ex son-in-law and would not repay me.
The bank involved said as he was made bankrupt, he need not repay me.
A) The bank is almost certainly right, as you were an unsecured creditor.
Plus, as this happened so long ago, you are outside the time legally allowed to bring a claim for breach of contract.
But the clause could, in theory, give you grounds to take him to court.
The difficulty, I am afraid, is that this is rather complex law and is unlikely to work.
I would try to appeal to this man’s decency by sending the contract to him, reminding him of the clause and asking for your money back.
Q) MUM died in August 2019 without leaving a will. I am one of four siblings.
The two eldest siblings raced from her deathbed, took many thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and immediately began using her ATM card until her account was empty. It had held more than £10,000.
I held lengthy meetings with the bank and provided it with Mum’s death certificate, my credentials and evidence of what took place. But they have gone silent and ignored the issue.
When I chased them on the matter, they insisted I needed to apply for probate although the assets had been stolen.
What are my options here – how do I recover what should legally be mine?
A) This is a truly dreadful situation. I am afraid the bank is correct. The first thing you really should do is to apply to court for probate. As one of the surviving children, you can apply for letters of administration as long as you have all the relevant documentation.
Because your mum died without leaving a will, her estate (including the money in her bank account) should have been divided equally between all four of her children.
So, once the probate has been sorted out and you have been appointed as the administrator, you will have a very solid legal action against your siblings for your share of your late mother’s property.
However, I am concerned that this is going to take time and be costly, not to mention emotionally expensive.
You really need to consider whether the value of the estate (including the jewellery) is going to be worth pursuing through court.
Whatever you decide, I would write to your siblings at once making your intentions clear and reminding them that they are under a clear legal obligation to give you your lawful share of everything they have taken.
Mel Hunter, Readers’ champion
Q) MY husband and I bought our home in June 2019 to be close to my daughter and son, as my husband wasn’t well.
We took out a contract with Scottish Power for the gas and electricity. When the contract was up for renewal, my daughter found us a better deal with another supplier. We confirmed the final meter readings with Scottish Power and noticed it had stated the opening reading on the electric as zero.
That was obviously wrong, as the house was not a new-build.
I found a bill from when we first bought the property and sent Scottish Power a scanned copy as proof. Yet staff tell me they can’t give me my final bill – and I keep getting emails asking for my readings each month, as if I am still with them.
My husband is very ill and I really do not need this additional hassle.
Joan Morris, North Wingfield, Derbys
A) Battling to sort out a financial situation like this is stressful enough but you were also facing the far harder issue of your husband’s illness.
I wanted to take some of the pressure off your shoulders and as he sadly approached his final days, I dealt with Scottish Power.
A heap of confusion came to light, with Scottish Power saying your new supplier had given it the night and day readings the wrong way round.
Scottish Power admitted an “internal issue” had led to you being issued a bill starting from zero.
Those emails you were getting were generated automatically, as your account was still open.
In the end I managed to get your final bill – of around £130 – cancelled and, more importantly, give you some peace of mind on this issue.
Scottish Power said: “We’re very sorry for the experience Mrs Morris had and we’re really thankful to her and her family for their patience while the issue was resolved, particularly at such a hard time for their family.”
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Q) OUR family holiday with Citalia, booked through a Tui agent, was cancelled due to the pandemic and we were emailed a refund credit note.
In May, we asked for a cash refund instead. But in July, Citalia emailed the travel agent to say we could not have a cash refund until January 2021.
Another two months passed, then I was told to wait until March. We have been very patient – especially as I was laid off in July.
Nicole Simpkins, Hereford
A) You had more than £3,000 tied up in this holiday and rightly felt a ten-month wait until March was not on.
I contacted Tui. With me on the case, the agent says it contacted Citalia and the money landed in your account after two weeks.
Tui told me: “We’re so sorry for Ms Simpkins’ experience in obtaining her refund.”
And Citalia said: “We are in the process of refunding, rebooking or extending credit notes for all of customers who had holidays cancelled last year ahead of any expiry dates and according to the needs of the customer.”
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