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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.



FORGET summer being the season of home DIY jobs. Research for AA Financial Services reveals the busiest time of the year for sprucing up our homes is in the run-up to Christmas.

In 2018, Brits splurged £29.6billion on end-of-year home improvements, with the most popular jobs including new bathrooms and kitchens and updated paint schemes.

This neat two-bed semi in Middlesbrough needs a complete interior overhaul but you can snap it up for just £59,950 at onthemarket.com/details/7532186.

Roomfinder site idealflatmate.co.uk has launched a new app using dating-style algorithms to match potential roommates based on a number of personality traits, giving them an overall compatibility score.

Dubbed “Tinder for flatmates” there are already 300,000 UK users with 10,000 listings added each month.

The site’s co-founder Rob Imonikhe said: “We understand many people are apprehensive when it comes to living in a shared house with strangers.

“A lot of this stems from the worries around the compatibility of the people rather than the property itself.

“We are the only platform that uses research-based matchmaking to help people find better flatmates.”

Aldi’s new cast-iron shallow casserole dish costs just £24.99 – but is a double for the famous Le Creuset dish selling for a whopping £225.

Q) I STARTED renting a property 11 months ago with a letting agent, lodging a deposit and signing a 12-month letting agreement. The deposit was then sent to an independent source for safe-keeping.

The landlord then decided he didn’t want to use the agent and drew up an agreement between us. The landlord stated that he did not require a deposit in future.

But it says I’m not entitled to the money until I leave the property. As the landlord doesn’t need a deposit now, is this correct? ANDREW, Bath

A) You are absolutely entitled to your money back now. Since April 2007, if a landlord takes a deposit from a tenant, they are bound to put it into a Government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (and inform you which one).

The fact you have signed a new agreement with your landlord is irrelevant in this case. As soon as the original contract you had with the agent was finished (at the end of 12 months), they were bound to refund you the deposit.

I would advise you to check your new agreement to make sure that it makes no reference to the original deposit.

Then write to your landlord and the managing agent, asking which tenancy deposit scheme the money is held in. Make it clear that you will be applying for a full reimbursement of your deposit.

Be aware that if your money hasn’t been placed in a Government scheme, a court has the power to award you up to three times the value of your deposit. Don’t let this managing agent off the hook!

We have written and emailed saying the bill is owed by the previous tenant but they still continue to send us bills.

If you receive another bill, you could ignore it and get in touch with the energy ombudsman, who will help.

Q) MY grandson’s father died yesterday. He was employed by the NHS, which I understand make payments to next of kin.

I don’t believe he nominated his son to receive this benefit, as he was employed well before his son was born.

So I assume his own father will receive it. He was paying child maintenance until his son, who is 18 and starting college, was 16.

A) This is not straightforward, I’m afraid. The good news is the NHS trust that manages these situations can be very helpful, so get your grandson to set up a meeting.

It is perfectly possible your grandson could be entitled to this benefit. But all will depend on the terms and conditions of this death payment at the time your grandson’s father entered into the scheme – and possibly what his will stipulates.

You may need to wait until probate has been completed on your grandson’s father’s estate (that means when the will has been legally dealt with) then take this matter from there.

If your grandson has been left with nothing by his father, there are legal circumstances in which your grandson could challenge the will and claim this benefit.

But there is little point doing anything until you and your grandson know precisely what he is to receive (if anything).

Q) MY girlfriend and I booked what we believed to be an apartment in Spain through Booking.com. When we arrived, it turned out to be a room in shared accommodation.

We told Booking.com that we were not willing to stay in accommodation that was falsely advertised, but the company told me it couldn’t do anything.

We paid for a sea-view room, but there was no sea view. The shared bathroom door didn’t shut properly and had no lock.

The bathroom light switch was broken and the toilet seat had a crack across it. I also believe I discovered a camera hidden in a speaker.

We had to pay £369 for the room and then a further £410 for the second apartment, but Booking.com says no compensation is payable. CHARLIE, Birmingham

A) I checked the profile of this accommodation on the Booking.com website and there was indeed no mention of it being shared accommodation, until I turned to the reams of reviews posted by other unhappy holidaymakers who had also been shocked to find they were shacking up with others.

I put it to Booking.com that a customer should not have to look at reviews to find out this basic fact about their holiday.

Furthermore, the pictures you sent to me – of the cracked loo seat for example – did not match the photos on the website.

While I appreciate Booking.com works well for many, where the accommodation is clearly sub-standard and the description misleading, action should be taken and compensation given.

Booking.com listened and took action quickly, paying you back in full for your ruined stay, plus a little extra, totalling around £630.

A spokesperson told me: “As this is not the experience we want for our customers, we have offered a full refund and have suspended this property on our platform, pending the results of a full investigation.”

Q) WE ordered a sofa and cuddle chair from DFS in September last year. It was delivered six weeks later but was the incorrect colour, which the salesman admitted was his fault.

DFS ordered us the correct version which arrived just before Christmas but was faulty. We got replacements at the end of April, but again the items had issues.

We finally got our furniture in June. Although there were four minor scuff marks, we accepted them as we were not prepared to wait again.

I’ve since been offered a £50 refund or £100 store credit. This doesn’t even cover my phone calls and numerous 30-mile round trips to the depot. DEREK, Tadley

A) While there are no legal guidelines as to the compensation DFS should offer, I did agree this was a derisory offer given your nine-month wait and the £1,800 furniture cost.

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DFS said: “Mr Steele’s experience clearly falls below the standards we set ourselves and we would like to reiterate our apologies to him.”

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