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
MAKE sure your home is safe for Santa Claus. One in every four kids worry about the big man being able to deliver gifts securely, due to dangers in their house, a survey reports.
But Carl Goulding of MyBuilder.com, which was behind the survey, said: “Making your home safe for Santa is a fun way to ensure it’s safe for everyone all year round.”
Here’s some tips to help you . . .
1) Check your roof tiles are secure: Go into the attic during the day and check for any light coming through gaps in the tiling. If you see any, contact a roofer.
2) Open fire or fuel-burning stove? Then get your chimney cleaned at least once a year to make sure there are no dangerous blockages.
3) Switch off your festive lights at night: Twinkling tree lights may look lovely overnight but a recent Which? study found half of lights tested were unsafe and could cause fires if left unattended.
4) Never overload plug sockets: We all use extra energy at Christmas. But ensure items are plugged in safely to avoid shocks and fires.
5) Keep watch on candles: Around 350 people are injured in the UK each year in home fires started by candles, with incidents soaring at Christmas.
Never leave a candle unattended and be extra-vigilant if children are in the house.
Buy of the week
THERE will be plenty of room at the inn this Christmas if you snap up one of these stunning three-bed new-build bungalows in Bethlehem, Carmarthenshire.
You might need to ask Father Christmas to pop a few coins in your stocking, though, as they are priced at £390,000.
Details at rightmove.co.uk/properties/72179562
ROADS with names that include the festive-sounding word “bells” have homes valued at an impressive £181,629 more than other streets in the same area, a report reveals.
Other Yuletide names piling on the cash include Angel, adding £11,211 to prices, and Christmas, which brings an upswing of £6,940, the study from consumer financial services firm Bankrate revealed.
Deal of the week
DRESS your bedroom for Christmas with this fabulous double bedding set, down from £13.50 to £9 at Argos.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q) MY ex-girlfriend owes me more than £4,200 and says she will pay me back.
Unfortunately there is no sign of that at present and I would like to know if there is anything I can do to retrieve this sum.
The amount has arisen from when we were in a relationship and we went abroad, to the theatre and had weekends away.
However, she has broken off the relationship but says she wants to remain friendly and will pay what she owes.
This came out of the blue and I need to know my options. Nasko, address supplied
A) I am afraid it is highly unlikely you have any legal remedy against your ex-girlfriend.
Unless you asked her to sign a written agreement in which she clearly stated she would pay her share every time you went on holiday or to the theatre, you do not have a legally enforceable contract with her.
The reason for this is that neither she nor you would have assumed you would be able to take each other to court if one of you failed to pay up for romantic nights out and that sort of thing.
This is called “an intention to create legal relations” in law and it is a critical ingredient in any contract.
But that’s not the end of the matter. Given your ex-girlfriend has agreed to pay you a sum (which she appears to accept) you could draft a written agreement now and if she is willing, get her to sign it.
If she breaches that, you would have solid legal action against her.
Battle of will
Q) TWO years ago my father died after a four-year battle with dementia.
His will named my elder sister as executor but we have since found out that my middle sister had her name added to his bank account and stole more than £85,000.
My older sister and I paid nearly £9,000 in legal fees but had to give up due to the cost.
Solicitors say going to court would not be advisable as the costs are too high.
Is there really nothing we can do? Gary, Newcastle
A) Given your late father’s dementia, it will be very tough to prove that your middle sister stole the money.
But if you have decent evidence, another lawyer might be willing to take your case on more favourable terms.
Or your older sister could get legal advice as executor to see if she can get the money back by withholding your other sister’s share of the estate.
I wish there was an answer for you in criminal law but the police are unlikely to get involved in such family matters.
Q) WE had a new conservatory roof fitted in 2015, which came with a seven-year guarantee.
On ten occasions since then we have had workers round to repair leaks.
One person told us the original installer had “cut corners” as he didn’t seal up the fascia on the outside and he left too much space between the fixings.
The most recent problems with leaks have happened this month. But the company that installed the roof is now saying no one can do any remedial work until January at the earliest, as all staff are furloughed.
We have been told by two different sources this is not true, but we can’t prove it.
What steps can we take to have the necessary repairs done as a matter of urgency?
We are mopping up water twice daily and are concerned about the electrics in that part of the conservatory. Liz, address supplied
A) The guarantee you have clearly requires the roofing company to make these repairs as soon as possible.
If, as you suspect, their original work was completed badly (it sounds like it was) you may also have a case against them for negligence.
Whether the staff at the roofing company are on furlough or not, I would write to the managing director at once, reminding them they are under an ongoing legal duty to make repairs.
At the same time, I would advise you to get a surveyor or well-established roofer to give you a written opinion on the quality of the 2015 roofing job.
If the person you instruct thinks the original work was negligent, you may have to take serious legal action.
But one step at a time. You have a guarantee so first, insist that the leak is repaired before the new year and do not be pushed around.
Mel Hunter, readers' champion
Q) WE booked a package trip through Loveholidays to Tenerife in May, but the flight was cancelled by Ryanair.
Our accommodation was refunded by Loveholidays in July, but it said I should contact Ryanair directly to chase up our refund. However when asked, Ryanair told me it had already refunded our £850 to the travel company.
It is months since my holiday was due to take place, with no sign of my money, and it seems impossible to speak to anyone at Loveholidays. Maaureen, Yeovil
A) This week, following an investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been promised by Loveholidays that it will pay back in full 24,000 customers still waiting for refunds.
This follows months of problems for the agent’s customers who had been told they would only receive the money back once the firm had received the cash from airlines.
You were one of those customers. I had stepped in to help you before the CMA findings, knowing that you had the law on your side, and I got your £850 back.
Package holiday regulations are clear: Airlines and package holiday providers must refund customers’ cash if the firm cancels their trip.
Travel agents have to pay back customers for Covid cancellations, regardless of whether or not they have received the money from suppliers.
With Loveholidays now agreeing to make most refunds by the end of March, I’d urge other affected readers to hang tight.
And for those whose flights still took off when the Government was advising against travel, watch this space: The CMA is now investigating whether airlines breached customers’ rights by continuing to fly in these circumstances.
Q) I BOUGHT a fridge-freezer in February from AO.com but it immediately started leaking. An engineer was sent to repair it.
But the leak persisted and worsened. The door shelves had icicles hanging from them and the floor was marked from being constantly soaked.
I emailed AO but had no response. Finally an engineer came in July.
He told us to reject the repair – it shouldn’t have been needed so soon.
But now AO.com won’t reply to letters to resolve this. Anne, Hertford
A) Your £850 appliance should have been a cracker. Instead it turned out to be a turkey.
Not only did you have icicles in your fridge, AO.com gave you the cold shoulder.
Simple consumer law applies: If an item develops a fault within 30 days of purchase, an automatic refund or replacement should be given.
I got on to AO and immediately got a replacement sorted, with the firm covering the extra cost.
The company insisted it had not seen any letters from you, but the problem should have been sorted long before that.
Now you have a new fridge ready to fill for Christmas.
An AO.com spokesperson said: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
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