Five ways to avoid a big let-down as complaints against letting agents rise
EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
COMPLAINTS against letting agents are on the rise as more Brits live in private rented accommodation.
Official figures show one in five of us now rent privately, with this expected to rise to 24 per cent by 2021.
But many new renters aren’t aware of rules imposed by landlords or their mortgage lenders and are being urged to check their contracts before they sign up and hand over deposit cash.
Choose a good lettings agency who will help steer you through the process.
Phil Keddie, president of agency body ARLA Propertymark, explains: “A good agent will help you find the best property for you and your budget, but if they’re going to be managing the property it’s important to know how responsive they really are.”
Here’s how to ensure you don’t get let down:
Get personal: Ask friends and family to recommend letting firms they have used. If they have had a positive experience, there’s a chance you will, too.
Speak to tenants: When viewing a potential home, ask the current tenants if they’ve had good service.
The same agency will often be managing the property, too, so find out as much as you can.
Know what you should be charged for: From June 1, agents can no longer charge additional fees that are not considered “permitted payments”.
This means lettings agents can only charge for a holding deposit capped at one week’s rent, a refundable tenancy deposit capped at five weeks’ rent, change or early termination of a tenancy, and payments arising from a default, which include late rent payments or replacing keys.
If they do try to charge it’s important you know your rights.
Local knowledge: Pick an agent with a branch close to where you want to live.
They can share key information, such as the cost of council tax and how far the property is from transport links.
Check industry credentials: Letting agents in England are currently unregulated and there is a risk you could come up against a rogue agent.
Use arla.co.uk/find-agent.aspx to find credible agents.
Buy of the week
PICK up a pad in Pudsey fast. The West Yorkshire town has seen the biggest rise in average asking rents outside London over the past year, with prices up 12 per cent.
But this immaculate stone-effect three-bed semi can be yours for £185,000.
TURN your mobile phone into an interior designer.
Home furnishings brand Terrys Fabrics has launched an augmented reality app which lets customers see how thousands of blinds would look in their home before they buy.
Paul McGuinness, director of Terrys Fabrics, says: “Our app allows users to virtually try blinds in their own home at any time of the day, without need for any advisor or sales representative.”
Deal of the week
MAKE the most of the scorching Bank Holiday weather with this sizzling deal.
Snap up a trendy La Hacienda serenity steel fire pit at Lidl for just £24.99, down from £39.99.
Q) WE are a family of four – myself, an elder brother, a younger brother and a sister.
Our father passed in 2000 and we arranged the funeral. At the time the undertakers put my elder brother’s contact details on the plot deeds for the council.
Our mother passed in March 2018 and we found that permission was needed by the council (granted by the person on the deeds) to remove the headstone and open the plot for our mum’s funeral.
Our elder brother demanded to see the will before he did anything but reluctantly signed to allow the funeral.
He thinks he should have got more in Mum’s will than he did and is now refusing to sign the forms to allow a new headstone on the grave.
We have already paid for the headstone but the stonemasons will not store it forever and it is incurring costs.
What can we do about this situation? GARY, Vale of Glamorgan
A) THIS is a very difficult situation. One thing is entirely clear, however.
If this ends up in a legal fight between your siblings and your older brother, the only winner will be the lawyers.
As your older brother is named on the deeds, you cannot simply force him to sign the papers but the executors of your late mother’s estate do have the power to ensure that your mother’s last wishes are carried out, including her burial arrangements.
The executors may have to issue legal proceedings against your older brother to force his hand.
This is the worst-case scenario. It is likely to be extremely expensive and any value left in your late mother’s estate will be depleted, possibly leaving you all with nothing.
Write a reasonable letter to your brother asking him to see reason.
Suggest that he sign the papers and that you all agree to mediation in return.
It is your best bet to avoid costly and unnecessary court proceedings.
Q) WHEN I spoke to my son about my will, he said any money he gets will be claimed as proceeds of crime because he went to prison for possession of drugs.
He has never sold drugs and has only the clothes on his back.
Is he really liable? JOHN, London
A) HAVE a frank discussion with your son and find out if he has had a criminal confiscation order issued against him.
If he was convicted of offences relating to his addiction, this is unlikely.
When a person is convicted of dealing drugs, a court can make a confiscation order – if the prosecution applies for it.
(But this is a new court process, like a trial.) Speak to the solicitor who has represented him.
Q) FOR more than two years I put my caravan in storage on a private campsite near my house.
I paid my fee on time and have receipts. Three months ago there was a fire on the campsite and my caravan was destroyed along with another 75.
On the same day I went to look at the damage I spoke to the owner and he was vague about having insurance but because he was obviously in shock I left it for a month to let him take it all in.
Then I went back to the office, only to be told that the campsite was under new ownership and that the contract was exchanged on the day the fire happened.
The new owner refuses to pay as he says that it is not his responsibility. He says that the campsite only had insurance for the land and not the properties on it.
What can I do to claim? OSCAR, Great Yarmouth
A) YOU need to check all your paperwork and any communication you had with the original owner.
Unless the original owner specifically stated that insuring your caravan was your responsibility and that it would not be covered for fire damage (even though it was left on his land), you could sue him for the value of a replacement caravan and any fees paid.
It is very suspicious that the new owner appears to have “purchased” the site on the same day as the fire but this does not affect your claim at all.
However, I would advise you if possible to get some legal advice from a solicitor.
This should not be too expensive and may save you money and time in the long run.
It is also a good idea to get in touch with other caravan owners and pool your resources.
You can’t be the only person in this situation.
- Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.
- Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email email@example.com
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) MY son bought my 69-year-old husband a Birmingham City season ticket costing £235 as a surprise for his birthday.
However, my husband is in poor health and decided not to use the ticket.
I have been trying to get a refund since June, without success.
I’ve sent email after email, called the ticket office and filled out a form, which I sent off with proof of his illness.
I went to the ticket office and was told they never got the form, so I filled it in again.
I finally spoke to someone in the right department but he couldn’t tell me anything and said we’d get a response by post.
But that’s too late. ANN TIMMINS, Birmingham
A) Your letter reached me just a few days before the new season kicked off.
I looked at the terms and conditions for Blues season tickets and read that refunds would only be considered “prior to kick-off time of the first league game of the season”.
You’d been trying for more than a month to get this sorted out and the first match of the season was nearly upon us, so we had no time to lose.
I got on to the club and asked for its help and I’m pleased to say the £235 refund soon went through.
A spokesman for the club said that the delay was due to a client reference number not being filled in on the refund request.
Your husband, a lifelong Birmingham City supporter, is gutted at having to give up his ticket but hopes to still go along to matches when he feels up to it.
Q) I SWITCHED to ESB Energy last year, with my electricity running as normal during the day and Economy 7 at night.
In February, the Economy 7 part of my meter failed and left us with no heating or hot water.
ESB sent an engineer as an emergency as my husband was in poor health.
However, after it was fixed the new meter started making lots of clicking and clunking noises and was not changing between the two tariffs at the usual times.
A couple of days later I also realised that the meter was running back to front, with Economy 7 during the day and normal at night.
ESB said it would get this sorted, but, five months later, I’m still waiting.
I’ve had the meter replaced and the same thing happened.
I was told it was a software problem. I pay my direct debit while ESB supplied me with faulty equipment and caused me great stress. MELL PEPPARD, Somerset
A) WITH my involvement you now have a contact at ESB guiding you through the system until the issue is fixed.
He told you that your meter is running correctly, but you need to reverse the readings.
ESB has agreed to charge you the cheaper night rate for all your electricity since these problems began.
It has also agreed £150 compensation.
An ESB spokesman said: “We are sorry that our interactions with Ms Peppard and her husband fell short.”
- Do you have a consumer issue? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
Maddy Tooke shares her best high street deals[/caption]
Top 10 deals
- Get a free £10 gift voucher on orders over £50 at Halfords. Available in-store and click collect orders. Ends September 2. bit.ly/10voucherhalfords.
- Save £22 on first Waitrose & Partners grocery orders over £80, plus free delivery with code AQ3VCUKA1. Ends September 1. bit.ly/waitrose22off.
- Get £10 off first orders over £65 at River Island with code available from bit.ly/riverislandsave10. Offer ends tomorrow, so order soon or miss out.
- Save 20 per cent on Phase Eight orders with code TAKE20. Offer ends August 26. bit.ly/phaseeight20off.
- Get £20 off first orders over £200 at Very with exclusive vouchercloud.com code PAQ46. Ends September 1. bit.ly/20offvery.
- Save ten per cent on first orders from Debenhams with exclusive code from bit.ly/backtoschoolsave10. Ends tomorrow
- Get £5 off The Works orders over £15. Use TWSAVE5. Expires August 31. bit.ly/5offtheworks
- Get 15 per cent off plants and flowers from Marks & Spencer with code FLOWER15, expires August 31. bit.ly/15offmsflowers
- Save £5 when you spend £20 at Roadchef motorway service areas. Show the QR code from bit.ly/5off roadchef at the till. Ends November 5
- Save up to 50 per cent off Harveys Furniture plus an extra 20 per cent off with code EXTRA20. bit.ly/extra20offharveys.
- GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL email@example.com