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
Homebuyers' helping hands
THE Government has offered would-be homebuyers a helping hand onto the property ladder with the launch of a new 95 per cent mortgage guarantee scheme.
Buyers can use the scheme to fund purchases of up to £600,000.
But what are the pros and cons?
Here Amo Kalirai the Director of Askthemortgageexperts.co.uk, reveals what you need to know.
He said: “This scheme could see more buyers, which potentially means competition for properties.”
- The deal is available to everyone, including first-time buyers and home movers.
- It means you can purchase more quickly as you only need to save a five per cent deposit.
- Unlike some schemes, it’s not limited just to new-build homes, but covers older properties too.
- It helps you own the whole property equity rather than just a portion of it, as is the case with the Help to Buy Equity Scheme.
- The scheme won’t improve your affordability on a mortgage. The amount you can borrow is still linked to your salary.
- The loans have a higher rate of interest, typically four per cent.
- The scheme isn’t available after December 2022.
- It only applies to residential mortgages, not buy-to-let mortgages.
Buy of the week
THE Outer Hebrides boasts the country’s biggest rise in house prices over the past five years. But homes on the islands still cost around £100,000 less than the national average.
Snap up this five-bedroom villa for £199,950 at rightmove.co.uk/properties/81990434.
THE trend for retro Seventies furniture has made The Brady Bunch the most popular telly show for finding interiors inspiration.
A poll by money.co.uk put Mad Men and Sex And The City also among the most-searched shows for copying home designs.
So was Downton Abbey . . . but that might be more of a stretch for most budgets.
Deal of the week
ITS furniture might be a “nightmare” for Boris Johnson but John Lewis’s new Anyday range is proving a hit with mere mortals.
Pick up this trendy Jax side table for £69.
SAVE: £20 on similar versions elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘‘‘The firm that serviced our boiler is trying to charge us £75 . . . to fix a new fault its engineer caused!’’’
Q) WE had our boiler serviced in March. Our boiler is 12 years old but in immaculate condition, as we heard the engineer tell his company over the phone.
The next day, the boiler started to vibrate loudly. (It still does.) We put up with it for a couple of days then phoned the company.
They said it would cost us £75 for an engineer to come out. I didn’t think we should have to pay for something the first engineer caused.
They told me we should have reported the problem within seven days – news to me – and when calculating the days, I was within their time limit by two hours anyway. They caused the problem – and now we are afraid to use the boiler.
A) THE problem appears to have started only after the service and the company has conceded you notified it within its required seven-day period.
This firm is almost certainly legally required to fix the problem free of charge. Look at the original terms and conditions you agreed to before the engineer came. Then write to the head of the company’s customer services making clear that unless the firm abides by its own contractually binding terms, you will take the matter further and publicise what happened.
Whatever its response, please urgently get this repaired. An old and unsafe boiler can be very dangerous.
Q) I AM 76 and have banked with Metro for several years. In January I got a letter saying Metro is closing my account, with no explanation as to why, and I had three months to find a new bank.
I recently sold my house, so I had money in my account and was never overdrawn or owing the bank money. I got a new account with Cashplus and started transferring money from Metro.
My first transaction was for £5,000 on February 7. A week later, I attempted to transfer a further £6,000. I kept checking my balance, as it usually takes half an hour to show up on statements.
This time the funds didn’t clear and after chasing Cashplus, I was told my account has a £10,000 balance limit and I had exceeded this amount.
That was on February 14 but I am still waiting for my money to be returned. Both banks claim it is the other’s responsibility to return the money and blame each other for the delays. This is so stressful. Help!
A) You have been treated disgracefully by both banks. I don’t understand why Metro decided to close your account.
While it might be legally entitled to do this (subject to giving you time to make alternative arrangements), I am very concerned it has withdrawn its services with no explanation.
Either way, one or both of these banks is responsible and you will get your money back (possibly with interest and a fee for your inconvenience). It seems to me Metro is the first place to complain. If the funds didn’t leave your account, as Cashplus claims, Metro still has your money and must return it at once.
Telephone and write to the head of customer services at both banks, making clear what has happened. Also get in touch with the Financial Ombudsman Service, who will be able to help.
Be tough and kick up a stink. This is YOUR money. I am appalled. Please let me know how you get on.
At loss on win
Q) IN January I won a contest with a well-know sports retailer on Instagram.
I was messaged asking for an email address so it could send me my £50 voucher, saying it might take five working days. That’s long gone. I did message again but it’s still not sorted
A) If this really is a well-known retailer and not some scam, it is legally required to deliver your prize within the timeframe on Instagram – unless it can prove you broke a rule, or terms on its page made clear it could withdraw the prize at any time (which I doubt).
Direct-message it asking for your voucher at once. If you get no response, there is no reason why you shouldn’t message publicly (on Instagram or Twitter) demanding to know what happened. This sort of publicity often does the trick. It probably would in this case too.
Mel Hunter, reader's champion
Cooker trail goes cold
Q) ORDERED an electric cooker from Power Direct in January. Its email confirmation said delivery would take seven to 14 days.
But I’ve heard nothing since then, despite numerous phone calls – which always go to a pre-recorded message. I have emailed five times too.
After the first email, I got a standard reply saying an adviser would be in touch. But nothing.
In my final email I requested a refund of my money. Still no reply.
I wished I’d seen the reviews for this company before ordering – they are horrendous!
Alison, West Midlands
A) A few weeks before you contacted me, another reader got in touch with a similar tale.
I contacted Power Direct for him and sorted a refund from the Leeds-based firm.
But it was a different story when I chased your cooker. Contact attempts hit a dead end with the electricals firm and its website was “currently in maintenance”.
West Yorks Trading Standards said it had received 527 complaints about the company from April last year to February this year, through the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
With no progress, I advised you to start a chargeback claim with your bank to get the £280 returned, and you are waiting for an update.
There is a 120-day limit on chargeback procedures, so others needing to follow that route should act quickly.
Paying with a credit card would have given you greater protection, although you have to weigh up that protection against the potential costs of putting a purchase on this type of card.
Q) FIVE of us booked a hotel in Liverpool last April but had to cancel our trip because of lockdown.
I have sent numerous emails to booking.com but the firm says it’s out of their hands. We tried phoning the hotel but no one is picking up.
We paid more than £1,000 for this trip.
Q) I was pretty sure you were due your money back, as it was my understanding any bookings on the site made before April 6 last year qualified for a refund or date switch.
I checked in with booking.com and got the company to check this out. It seems I was right, as you got a refund within a few days – having waited a full year until then.
A booking.com spokesperson told me: “We are committed to facilitating smooth travel experiences for our customers, which is why, if a customer ever requires assistance with a booking, our 24/7 customer service team is on hand to answer questions, provide support and advocate on their behalf.
“In this case, as this customer’s trip was impacted by official travel restrictions, we have processed a full refund.”
The company didn’t explain why it had refused your original request, though.
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