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
Go green and save money
GARDEN rooms now feature in the top selling points for homes.
The trendy spaces blend indoor and outdoor but cost an average of £15,000 to build. So how can you get that same vibe using your existing shed?
These top tips will help save a load of cash.
Improve your shed to add value to your home[/caption]
1) Think about positioning. Garden rooms normally face the best view in your outside space, or look back to the house. Reposition your shed to make the most of your outdoors.
2) Clear the clutter. Shift tools, bikes and other items into a lockable garden store. You can pick them up at Homebase and Screwfix from £200.
3) Check the foundations. Is your shed sitting on the grass or on paving stones? Make it as sturdy as possible.
4) Let the light in. Most sheds have small paned windows. Swap for a single larger pane or if you’re good at DIY, consider adding a bigger window and even a glass door.
5) Add your personal touch. Clad or paint the outside black or grey for a contemporary look, or try pastel shades for a vintage feel.
6) Update the inside. Paint the walls, ceiling or inside of the roof to match. Don’t forget the floor.
7) Consider what you will you use it for. A table and chairs with comfy cushions and throws will make it a social space. Teenage den? Put down beanbags. Kids playroom? Check for sharp corners and add a play table and toys.
Buy of the week
SEARCHES for Carbis Bay in Cornwall have doubled in a day after world leaders arrived there for the G7 summit.
Beachside homes in the luxury resort can top £1million. But this swish one-bed apartment is yours for £330,000.
A strong seller's market
ONE in three properties sold for more than its asking price in April, the highest number on record.
Research from estate agent body NAEA Propertymark also found the number of people looking for a house was at the highest level in April since 2004, with an average of 427 buyers registered with every estate agent branch.
Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at NAEA Propertymark, said: “The continued imbalance of supply and demand is a concern and has led to a strong sellers’ market with properties being snapped up quickly at high prices.”
Deal of the week
GET your decorating sorted for less.
Homeware giant Dunelm has released its own range of co- ordinating paints and wallpapers, making it easy to mix and match designs.
SAVE: Around 20 per cent on similar ranges.
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘My father sent a package to Germany but it never arrived – it was insured for £250 but the company refuse to pay up’’
Q) MY father sent a parcel to my sister in Germany back in November 2020.
The parcel never arrived but was insured to the value of £250.
We have contacted the insurers on numerous occasions but can never get an actual person to talk to or proceed with a claim – just emails.
The insurance purchased was with Hermes but the parcel was released to Hermes International, so therefore they say we can’t make a claim.
I feel as though not only have we been ripped off but that the company is selling insurance dishonestly. We don’t know where to go from here. Please can you help?
A) When your father purchased insurance in this country, he was legally entitled to assume that the parcel would be covered for loss wherever it was being sent in the world.
That is unless the terms and conditions of the policy clearly stated that he needed to buy another product for international deliveries.
He needs to email Hermes’ head of customer services and insist that the company shows him the precise term in the insurance contract which absolves them of their liability.
He should also make clear in his email that he plans to take this matter to the small claims court, which may do the trick.
It is very strange that parcel insurance does not appear to be covered by the Financial Ombudsman which is very helpful in disputes over poorly sold insurance products.
I am so concerned about this that I’m going to be taking it up with the relevant government department myself.
Q) NEW neighbours moved in recently to our narrow cul-de-sac.
They have two cars parked in their drive and just bought a transit van and park this opposite our drive. This makes it very difficult for us to get into our drive so we have to leave our car in another street sometimes as there’s no room to manoeuvre to get in.
When I politely asked the guy if he could slightly move the transit so I can get access to my drive he was very aggressive and told me he was not obstructing my driveway and I should take my test again.
Looking on our council website and other sites it seems as long as he is not parking over my drive, nothing can be done. This also affects other neighbours. Do I have legal rights to be able to access my own driveway?
A) You need to do everything you can to dial down the conflict in this situation which can be extremely difficult when you’re dealing with a neighbour as unreasonable as yours.
The bottom line is that your neighbour cannot lawfully park his van in a position that prevents you from gaining access to your driveway.
This does not include forcing you to make a more complicated manoeuvre (which he’s allowed to do) but his van cannot be left in a position that creates a hazard.
It may be hard, but it is worth writing a kind note explaining that this is causing unnecessary distress and could easily be resolved.
However, if he continues to park his van like this you will need to take photos and then attempt to take the matter to mediation or – as a last resort – to the small claims court.
I must emphasise that you need to do everything possible to avoid litigation in this case.
Q) WE have been receiving letters at our home addressed to someone who has never lived there and some addressed to a company. We checked Companies House and there is a company listed to our address.
We put a note on the website to indicate that the address was private and not linked to this company. We feel our address has been hijacked by some criminal, but what can we do?
A) Your home address being listed as a company address does not automatically mean that it’s been hijacked by a criminal.
It could be an admin error. You’ve done the right thing by notifying Companies House. Check online with one of the credit-rating agencies that they do not have this company listed at your address then try not to worry.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
In limbo on furniture set
Q) I BOUGHT a four-piece rattan garden furniture set online from The Range. When I then got confirmation of my order, I saw I’d forgotten to change my colour choice from black to grey.
I’ve spent hours trying to contact The Range to change the colour, on the phone and via email without reply. The help section on its website sent me to another firm that couldn’t do anything.
A) Buying online is so convenient – except when you want to talk to a human being. Too often, that is where customers hit a brick wall.
A simple mistake on your part should have been quickly remedied, but you’d been trying for weeks.
I was able to take a different route for you and got through to The Range. A quick word in the right ear led to your order being amended straight away.
I’m glad you’re now sitting pretty in the sunshine on that new furniture. But many online stores need to step up when it comes to after-sales service.
Mel Hunter secured a long overdue refund for a reader from Ryanair[/caption]
Q) WE have still not had our refund from Ryanair after a cancelled flight in May last year.
We booked through Broadway Travel, which has given us money back for part of the package holiday but is refusing to return the £330 flight cost, saying it is waiting for Ryanair to pay it back.
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A) I feel for travel agents in these dire times, but you had waited long enough. Once I contacted Broadway, it did refund you, but told me it has faced difficulties with these repayments.
It said Ryanair would not refund Broadway directly, so it had to claim a chargeback through its card provider. This took time and came with the concern that Ryanair may reverse the claim.
Broadway Travel said it had a “huge workload” processing refunds: “Please be assured we are doing everything we can to get customers’ refunds administered and obtain them from our suppliers.”
The airline takes a dim view of online travel agents booking its flights. This complicated relationship between the two can make getting a refund harder.
A Ryanair spokesperson told me the money went back to Broadway towards the end of last year: “Customers should book direct to ensure they don’t get overcharged and receive speedy refunds.”
Regardless of who was at fault, the important thing is that the £330 is finally back in your pocket.