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
Jane Hamilton shares her tips on what you need to know if you want to let out your home to staycationers to make extra cash
STAYCATIONING is booming as Brits quit jetting abroad over coronavirus quarantine fears.
Can you let your home? If you rent or own a leasehold property, check your lease. Many don’t allow you to “sublet”.
Check local regulations too as some councils limit the number of nights you can rent out your house to holidaymakers.
Before letting your home, make sure you know where to market it and how to prepare for it
Decide how to market. Airbnb, homeaway.co.uk and holidaylettings.co.uk offer an easy way to get letting.
Posh pad in a city? Try upmarket site veeve.com.
For help, try your local holiday accommodation agency.
What should I do to prepare? Pack away your clothes, personal possessions and anything else you don’t want guests to use.
Clean thoroughly, change beds and provide fresh towels.
Extra touches. Most platforms let guests rate accommodation, so it’s worth going the extra mile to get a good rating.
Consider writing a short guide to local attractions to leave in the property, or a small hamper containing tea, coffee and treats.
Does it add up? Any income could be liable for tax and you may also need to pay for cleaning and rental agency services.
Calculate if renting out your pad covers your costs – and the expense of you staying elsewhere when you have guests in.
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This neat two-bedroom end-of-terrace property in Southampton is for sale at £200,000
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Judge Rinder, legal expert
Judge Rinder helps a reader who has not been refunded for putting her property on the market before her circumstances had changed
Q) I PUT my property on the market with an online estate agent in August 2019. A day after the ad went live, my circumstances changed and I advised them of this.
I was told I would still have to pay the £899 fee but could pay in six months. On May 17, 2020, I received an invoice for £983 which included the charge for an EPC certificate which was not carried out.
I emailed the same day to ask for a revised invoice but it never arrived even after I phoned and emailed repeatedly. They took the £983 from my account on July 4. To date, I have made over 20 calls to various numbers and sent numerous emails.
I’ve been passed from pillar to post and I am still waiting. I have emailed a formal complaint to customer services and have had many apologies but no money. This is causing me untold stress and anxiety. What can I do? KAREN
‘Estate agents have taken payment for work that wasn’t done – now they’ve apologised but still won’t refund me’
A) This company had no legal right whatsoever to take money from you for an energy performance certificate, or EPC.
You gave them clear notice that you no longer wished them to market your property before they completed any of the work needed.
As this company appears to be ignoring you, your only option is to write a strongly worded “letter before action”, making clear that unless you are refunded the money you are owed, you will be referring the matter to the Property Ombudsman, that you are fully prepared to take this matter to the Small Claims Court.
Q) MY son is a self-employed heating engineer. He leased a Ford Transit van two years ago from a dealership. In April it was stolen from his house.
Needless to say, he was devastated and he went into debt to buy another vehicle in June. His insurance was notified and he sent all the details and keys into them, along with the crime reference number. But they have not settled the claim with the lease company.
Out of the blue, he received a call from the police saying they had found his vehicle, but it was damaged. The insurers have asked if he wants the van back and they won’t settle with the lease company. He has no idea where he stands legally. He can’t afford to pay for the two vans. KATHLEEN
A) My concern is that your son appears to have purchased a new van without the insurance claim on the old one being settled. He should have notified the insurer that he intended to go ahead and buy a new one.
I understand that your son needed to do this for his business but it has caused him a serious legal problem.
He will need to check the terms and conditions of the insurance on the first van but, as it has been returned with only minimal damage after a few months, it is likely that the insurer only has to pay to fix and return the van, which is what they have done.
The bottom line is that your son needs to call the lease company and ask whether they will accept the van back or for him to see whether he can give back or sell the new vehicle. I’m sorry I can’t give you happier advice.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Mel Hunter helps a reader who has been charged more than double the stated amount after signing up with Together Energy
Q) I SIGNED up with Together Energy after a phone call from them saying that my electric and gas would be £85 a month.
After taking the £85 for a few months, they started taking £205 so I switched provider in March.
I have been promised a refund for overpayments but I have not received anything. David Gwilym, Pontypridd
A) With your costs more than doubling, you were certainly owed an explanation, which I demanded from Together Energy. It said the original payments were not enough to cover the energy you were using, then admitted a mistake had been made.
With the error revealed, I managed to get your refund sorted, plus £75 for the poor service. A Together Energy spokesman said: “We are extremely sorry for this error.
Mr Gwilym’s account shows a closing credit balance of £151.92 which we have arranged to have refunded to the customer. We have also issued a letter of apology, and a goodwill award for the shortfall in service.”
Q) I SPENT £190 on 12 return train tickets from Hull Paragon Station to Leeds for my sister’s hen party. She had to cancel her wedding and we have the extra worry of getting this money back.
Hull Station told me to get the refund from TransPennine Express, but the train company told me to go back to the station, who redirected me again.
Finally TransPennine asked for proof of purchase which I sent, with my bank details. I’ve waited patiently, but still not got the money back. Glynis Skerrett, Beverley, East Yorks
A) My checks showed it was the train company’s responsibility and I finally got your £190 back. TransPennine Express insisted the delay was because “correct information wasn’t provided”, though you dispute this.
Mel Hunter also helps a reader get a £190 refund for cancelled train tickets
Q) I booked a holiday abroad to Sri Lanka with Opodo, leaving on April 15. But I was diagnosed with cancer and was told in February by my surgeon that I could not fly.
I sent a registered letter to Opodo with all the doctor’s notes. It replied in April that someone would contact me but they never did. With Covid, we could not fly anyway. Now I cannot get hold of anyone. Raymond Hall, Measham, Derbyshire
A) Your holiday refund unfortunately got caught in the jetstream of the coronavirus travel problems, which added to an already difficult time for you.
I was able to contact Opodo for you and get some answers. Initially one flight got refunded by the airline, Emirates, but inexplicably the second had to wait for separate authorisation. Finally I got the money back for you, totalling around £1,400.
An Opodo spokesperson commented: “Due to the high number of enquiries received during Covid-19 there was an initial delay to starting the refund process.
“In April we advised it would take up to 90 days for the refund to be authorised by Emirates and the money to be transferred. Both outbound and inbound journeys have now been authorised and the money refunded to Mr Hall’s account.”
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