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
WATCHING paint dry is often called boring – but it’s become the top DIY job under lockdown.
A bumper 12 million households are sprucing up their homes, with more than half painting their pad, according to analysts Kantar.
Doing-it-yourself can save around £200 per room, but it’s trickier than you think to get right.
We’ve teamed up with Priceyourjob.co.uk’s experts to help you brush up on your skills . . .
BEFORE YOU START
Equip yourself for the job – a roller brush is best for large areas and you’ll need a long roller for high walls and ceilings. Consider a mini roller for smaller tasks. If you want perfect edges, buy an edging brush.
Use what you’ve got – many DIY shops are open but if you can’t get to the shops, improvise. Foil trays or baking trays make good paint trays. Wrap them in clingfilm or a plastic bag if you want to use them again. Bath sponges are an effective way to paint walls and can be used to make striking patterns. You can even fashion paintbrushes from old toothbrushes or foam.
PAINT LIKE A PRO
Prime walls first – priming paint provides a base coat and covers up unsightly stains. It’s a must if you are changing colours.
Get prepped – clear furniture from the room and cover anything left with old sheets. Put sheets on the floor and use masking tape to stick them down.
Mask up – use masking tape on any areas that you don’t want to be painted, such as skirting boards. It also helps with a clean finish.
Start at the edges – after you’ve finished the edges, paint in a W shape across the wall, ensuring you spread the paint evenly.
Tidy up – to lose brush or roller strokes, push a roller with hardly any pressure from the very top of the wall to the bottom in a straight line.
Maintain – To look after painted walls, dust them with microfibre cloth. Clean walls with a damp cloth and soapy water once a year to remove any grime.
Deal of the week
FORGET the staycation – it’s all about the homecation now. So while you’re stuck at home, make your house more like a hotel. This Cotton Sateen double duvet cover and pillowcase set is normally £109.99, but is half price when you sign up for the newsletter at hamptonandastley.com
Buy of the week
JOIN the rush to the beautiful South. Southsea, Hants, has topped Rightmove’s rental searches this month as Brits plan seaside moves under lockdown.
But you can buy this stunning two-bed terrace in the town for £225,000.
Homes for heroes
OUR NHS heroes who want to live close to work are being hit in the pocket, a new report reveals.
Renting near a hospital costs an average of £891 per month, five per cent more than the average – eating up 47 per cent of a nurse’s wage.
Matthew Hooker, co- founder of rental deposit alternative Orme, which carried out the research, said: “The heroic efforts made by the nurses must be matched by efforts to keep an affordable roof over their heads.”
Q) I AM looking for help regarding a problem I am having with a law firm.
I asked this company to undertake some work for me, we agreed a price but once the work was completed they came back with a revised cost.
They explained to me that they had undertaken extra work, which they had not informed me of, but I had not agreed to pay any more costs.
They have sent me their revised costs and are demanding I pay the new bill.
I feel that as I did not agree any additional costs, they are trying to bully me into paying them. Can you please help?
A) This law firm cannot charge you for extra work unless they made very clear in the letter they sent you when they agreed to take on your case that this might happen.
If you agreed a set price for their services (this often happens in cases of conveyancing or preparing Wills, for example), it is usually totally unacceptable for a client to be charged more than the agreed fee without the client being informed and consenting to it.
Go back to the early correspondence with your solicitors and check the terms of engagement they sent you. Then, get in touch with the firm reminding them of the price for the work you initially agreed to.
You should also make clear that they failed adequately to explain their fees and that charging clients money without their consent is a serious breach of the professional rules governed by the Law Society.
Q) We were due to fly to Malaga for two weeks in April, on a trip I booked in December last year. It was a package holiday booked with an online travel agent.
We paid in full in advance and received an email confirming we were ATOL-protected. However, our trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus lockdown.
We applied for a full refund but were shocked by the agent’s response, informing us that the hotel was implementing a 100 per cent penalty even though it was also in lockdown.
The agent has also advised we need to claim the refund for our flights direct from the airline. Is this correct even with ATOL protection?
A) I have had been inundated with similar questions. This is plain wrong. You contracted with your tour operator who acted as your agent. It is therefore for your tour operator – not the hotels or the airlines – to refund you.
It seems to me that the ATOL guidelines are rather clear on this and that this travel company (along with a great many others) may be trying to fob you off.
Email them asking why they believe that they are not legally responsible for issuing you with a refund (it’s possible that there is something in the terms and conditions you signed)
I would be extremely interested to read their response. Do please let me know as the approach ATOL-protected tour companies are taking to people in your situation appears to be changing daily.
Q) I WAS furloughed but my employer has since said I’m required to take my annual leave now. Is this lawful?
I have to give notice of when I want to take a holiday and don’t want to use my entitlement during furlough.
My employer is paying 80 per cent of my wages through the Government scheme and not contributing anything.
If I use annual leave, is my employer paying only the 20 per cent to make it up? It doesn’t seem fair.
A) This is a big problem – with no clear answer. Your contract may state that your employer can determine when you are allowed to take your holiday time.
The problem, as you say, is that despite the Government guaranteeing you 80 per cent of your income, you are effectively conscripted into a massive reduction during your forced holiday.
Write to your employer respectfully asking why they believe they are legally entitled to do this.
They may have a rational justification but I suspect this issue will be the subject of significant court action to come – and employees in your situation have a strong case.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) MY wife and I have a two-week holiday booked with Tui to Kefalonia in Greece on June 25 and should have paid our final deposit of £400 on April 2.
But due to the lockdown, our local branch is closed and we’ve been unable to pay over the phone, even on Tui’s main number.
Can we get a full refund or put the holiday back for 12 months to June next year?
A) This issue is going to affect more and more people as final payments become due for summer holidays. The customer service team at Tui is swamped and readers are telling me again and again how hard it is to get hold of anyone.
I did get through, however, and Tui told me those with holiday plans, like yourselves, should wait to be contacted – difficult as that is.
Tui’s spokesperson said: “We are asking customers who are due to pay their balance in store to sit tight while our travel agents are calling all customers. We can confirm this doesn’t mean they will be charged or their holiday will be cancelled.”
That is reassuring for those booked with Tui but everyone with holiday plans should continue paying the instalments, where they can, to ensure the break is still ATOL-protected. That safeguards them if the travel company goes bust.
If a package holiday like your own doesn’t go ahead, customers will be entitled to a refund – but be aware some holiday companies might try to offer a voucher instead.
If the Foreign Office lifts its advice not to travel and the holiday can go ahead as planned, the option of a refund would disappear. You were actually a travel agent’s dream, happy to transfer your holiday to the same time next year – which Tui readily agreed to.
Q) I ORDERED a £300 washer-dryer from Currys, delivered mid-February.
But from the first cycle, the machine was faulty.
A replacement came on March 3 but had a dent.
On the next, the programme panel was smashed.
A fourth machine had a dent.
I rejected a fifth delivery on April 5 as I am disabled and Currys would not install the new machine or disconnect the old one, which I’d paid for.
A) In extraordinary times, people still have ordinary problems – and can find it harder than usual to resolve them.
Obviously some leeway needs to be given in the current circumstances but I felt you had been patient enough.
A spokesperson for Currys told me that due to coronavirus, it could only offer installation in “exceptional circumstances” or for critical products necessary for customers and their families to eat.
But your case WAS exceptional, so – following Government guidelines on safety and distancing – your washing machine was finally installed and Currys gave you a lump sum to make up for your poor experience.