EVERY Saturday, 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 selling your home and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Q) ON March 14, 1992, my husband died suddenly. I had three children and received a small monthly pension for myself and them.
I recently met a former work colleague of my husband’s and he mentioned a death in service lump sum benefit, which he said would have helped with the bills and bringing up the children. I told him I never received it and had to work two jobs.
He suggested I look into this as I would be entitled to claim. How would I go about claiming this money?
A) I am sorry for your terrible loss. Your late husband’s work colleague could be correct. There are some pension schemes that pay a lump sum if the policy holder dies. You need to write to the chief financial officer of your late husband’s firm and email the pension company asking for precise details (including copies of accounts and signed papers) of the pension scheme that your late husband signed up to.
I suspect it is unlikely that you were due a lump sum payment but this will all depend on the legal terms and conditions set out in the documents that you are entitled to see.
If you discover that you were due this money and that your late husband’s firm simply failed to give it to you then you might have a serious action against them. If this turns out to be the case, I would advise you to get further legal advice.
Q) I’m having a problem getting my neighbour to re-route his drainage. I have a gully on my property which his drainage from a bathroom extension (which is built to his boundary line) is discharging into.
The gully only serves his property as I have no use for it. We intend to extend our property and this gully needs to be taken away. The neighbour refuses to remove it and says any costs associated with it are down to me. Where do we stand with this?
A) You need to do everything possible to reason with your neighbour. Sadly, the cost of lawyers and court fees that would be required to resolve any dispute arising out of a legal conflict in this situation would far outstrip the price of removing the gully yourself. Your neighbour is required to have adequate drainage on his property which might include the gully on your land.
It seems the houses have been built in such a way that your neighbour may have established a legal right over the gully despite it being on your side of the boundary. The best option is to explain to your neighbour that he is responsible for all drainage from his property and that building a new gully on his land could cost him a lot of money.
I would then suggest (as kindly as possible) that despite the gully being his legal responsibility, you might be prepared to go halves.
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Q) IN January I parked in a car park, paid the £8.40 fee online, and received confirmation that the space had been booked. But two months later I received a final reminder letter saying I owed £100 for parking without displaying a valid ticket.
I rang straight away and explained that I had paid online, and I also sent them a copy of my bank statement. Then I was told I had entered the wrong registration number when filling out my details and I still had to pay the fine but they would reduce it to £60.
I have since gone back to the original letter they sent me with the fine and note that they said they had affixed a charge notice to the vehicle. They took several photos of the car and none show a ticket, nor was there one there when I returned to my car. They say they will take legal action if I don’t pay. Do I have a case against them?
A) You absolutely have a case against these people. You need to find out the relevant Car Park Association that this car park is regulated by. You must then write to the complaints department making clear that they have failed to prove that the ticket was issued or that you entered the wrong car reg details and/or that you failed to pay.
If they continue to pursue you, you have the legal right to take this car park to the Parking Appeals Service which is free to use and where you are likely to be successful.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
TOMORROW is Mother’s Day but perhaps we should rename it CEO Of The Home Day, as studies show mums still do 60 per cent more housework than dads, Boss mums also lead the way in organising and redesigning the nation’s houses. So if your place could do with some motherly love, take a tip from mum-of-two Sarah Cantwell.
Sarah, from Didcot, Oxon, who writes homes and interiors blog roseyhome.com, says: “Homemaking means making the most of the home you have, even if space and money are tight.” So get on message, follow these tips…
- Zone your home: Make sure every area has a purpose. This avoids parts becoming dumping grounds for toys, coats or other items.
- Storage: Think outside the box. Instead of a fruit bowl, try placing your fruit on a three-tier cake stand. Glass mayonnaise jars make great storage for kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons.
- Declutter as you go: Clearing up doesn’t have to be a big job. Make it part of your day-to-day life. If the shirt you try on no longer fits, put it in the recycling bag straight away.
- Hack your DIY: If you love interiors mags but don’t have the money to buy designer, get creative. For example, I wanted marble plates and managed to get the look on a shoestring budget using a cake board and some sticky-back plastic.
- Clean the house once a week: Whether you have 30 minutes or three hours, set a timer, grab your cloth and get going. Do as much as you can in the time you have – you will feel great.
- Fold instead of iron: If you fold your clothes Marie Kondo-style (Google it!) so they stand on end, they don’t get creased from being crammed in a drawer.
Buy of the week
ROCHDALE could provide riches if you are thinking of a buy-to-let investment.
The town has been crowned the UK’s top buy-to-let hotspot by Zoopla, with yields for landlords averaging a whopping nine per cent.
This immaculate three-bed home in the Wardle district is yours for £175,000 at Zoopla.co.uk
THE number of Brits renting a home has doubled since 2004 with almost half of those aged 25 to 34 paying a private landlord. But renting can make it tougher to insure your possessions.
New website myurbanjungle.com aims to change this by offering specialist services for renters. Dubbed the “Netflix of insurance”, the digital firm even offers policies for flat sharers who are often excluded from traditional policies.
Founders Jimmy Williams and Greg Smyth said: “We want to make insurance more relevant to people’s needs and to better serve ‘generation rent’.”
Deal of the week
KEEP your towels toasty for less than £20. This impressive WarmeHaus white towel radiator was already a bargain at £24.97, but it has been reduced to £17.97 at bathroomtakeaway.com.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) MYSELF, my wife and a friend, flew to Israel with Wizz Air in October 2018. On arrival there, after waiting an hour at baggage reclaim, the whole flight was told none of their luggage had been put on to the aircraft back in Luton.
We spent three hours filling out lost luggage claim forms getting to our hotel at 1.30am. Our bags finally arrived four days later, with one damaged beyond repair.
We provided all the information that Wizz Air asked for about emergency items we’d had to buy, but then the airline complained that the receipts were in Hebrew (we were in Israel) and asked for them to be translated. Given that Wizz Air has an office at the airport in Israel, why couldn’t it have done that?
In the end the airline offered 20 euros (£17pp) to be spent on another Wizz Air flight. Insulted, we refused. But now Wizz Air will not communicate with us at all.
Michael Knight, Market Drayton, Shrops
A) Leaving an entire plane-load of luggage back in Luton was pretty bad, but its attitude towards you from that moment on was beyond the pale. It seemed to me you had been treated with something close to contempt for a situation that clearly was not of your making.
I made my feelings clear to Wizz Air, astounded by its poor customer service, and I am pleased to say I managed to secure you a refund of £250.
A spokesperson for the Hungarian airline told me: “Wizz Air apologises for any inconvenience caused, which was a result of ground handling issues. Wizz Air has reimbursed Mr Knight for costs incurred due to the disruption to his journey.”
MOST READ IN MONEY
Q) I HAVE been a British Gas customer for a number of years, paying by direct debit. From December 2014 until June 2018, I paid between £35 and £55 a month. Then, from June 2018, the payment went down to £21.39 per month for six months.
I then got a letter saying the firm was upping payments to £612, and I have now been asked to pay more than £5,000! How can anyone be expected to pay that sort of money? Craig Bailey, Slough
A) I nearly spat out my tea when I read this! You’d been diligently paying for your energy with British Gas for nearly five years, albeit with slight frustration that the payments went up and down a bit. Then, out of the blue, you were landed with a bill for a staggering £5,000.
As I pointed out to British Gas, there surely must have been a mistake. Fortunately I was right, but such a blindingly obvious blunder should have been picked up more quickly by the firm.
Once I was on the case it acted quickly, admitting this was a case of human error.
A British Gas spokesman said: “Our contractor made an error when they read Mr Bailey’s meter, which led to him receiving a large bill by mistake.”
In fact, your balance was a far less sweat-inducing £109, and British Gas took a further £30 off this, admitting they should have sorted this out when you first contacted them about it.