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Six simple ways to keep your monthly expenses down as household bills soar


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 will give you the best advice on all things property

Warm to idea of lower bills

WITH spiralling energy costs, soaring household bills and rises in mortgage rates, there are simple ways to keep your monthly expenses down and help offset any bigger outgoings.

Get the right underlay: Use it below carpets, laminate and wood flooring to stop heat loss and reduce energy costs.


With spiralling energy costs, soaring household bills and rises in mortgage rates, there are simple ways to keep your monthly expenses down[/caption]

It also extends the lifespan of flooring by up to 50 per cent.

Bin the blinds: Heavy curtains are back in fashion and they keep rooms warmer than blinds.

Swap concrete or wood for vinyl: Natural floors can be tough to insulate. Vinyl is making a comeback as it’s warm, cheap and quick to install.

Josh Barber from flooringsuperstore.com recommends Sonoma Stone for a sophisticated but affordable look.

Draught proof: Air leaks through tiny gaps can cause heat loss equivalent to a window being left permanently open.

Seal any gaps around your windows and doors with caulking filler and cover spaces between floorboards with a specialist product such as DraughtEx.

Consider underfloor heating: Traditional radiators need to be run at 65C but underfloor heating functions best around 29C, meaning lower energy bills.

Traditional carpet: A carpet is the warmest flooring option you can choose.

Wool carpets are cosy and fire-resistant, while a twist pile is more durable.

Buy of the week

BECOME a near neighbour to Jeremy Clarkson and his Diddly Squat farm.

This one-bedroom cottage in the trendy Cotswold market town of Chipping Norton has a traditional stone facade and is yours for £200,000 at rightmove.co.uk/properties/118816760.

This one-bedroom cottage in the trendy Cotswold market town of Chipping Norton is yours for £200,000

Mind the price gap

HOME sellers are overpricing by an ­average eight per cent.

Research by property-buying specialist HBB Solutions found the biggest gap is in the North West, where the average home hits the market for £252,711 but sells for £53,000 less. That’s a drop of 21 per cent.

Company boss Chris Hodgkinson said: “We are still seeing quite a notable gap between the price a home is listed at and the price buyers are ultimately willing to pay.”

Deal of the week

FEELING in a blue mood?

This Betsy velvet armchair will add style and brighten any room.

Save £55 on this Betsy velvet armchair that will add style and brighten any room

It was £184.99 but is now £129.99 at homescapesonline.com.

SAVE: £55

Judge Rinder has advice for readers with legal issues

‘Garage owner was paid twice for same job after claiming cheque had bounced. He won’t refund us’

Q) I AM writing on behalf of my 96-year-old uncle, who I have recently been granted power of attorney for.

He paid £1,500 for his car to be repaired last August. The man at the garage told me the cheque had bounced. I said it should not have, but he said he tried it a second time and it bounced again.

As my uncle had used a cheque that still had my deceased aunt’s name on it, we thought this was why it had been rejected.

My uncle gave the man another cheque, out of his new book.

A month later his solicitor pointed out that both cheques had gone through. My uncle spoke to the bank but they were not helpful.

I contacted the man from the garage, who said he would repay my uncle directly to his bank account if both cheques had gone through.

After 48 hours, I emailed asking when he intended to repay the money, but received no reply. I rang him and he was horrible, shouting over me. I ended up crying and was so upset I put the phone down.

My uncle sent him a letter asking for ­payment within 14 days – but more than two weeks later he still has not had a refund.

I have statements showing the payments had gone through twice, as well as a copy of the letter my uncle sent to the garage. What should we do?

Margaret, Bedford

A) It seems to me that this garage has ­committed a criminal fraud against your uncle.

I am appalled that, rather than returning the money this garage clearly owes, the owner ended up making what sound like aggressive threats.

You have incontrovertible evidence that this garage took money twice for the same job.

I would urge you, especially as you have power of attorney, to write a final demand to the garage owner clearly stating that you expect a refund for the second cheque ­payment within seven days.

Do not be afraid to tell the owner that he appears to have committed a criminal offence and that you reserve the right to report the matter to the police.

If the owner continues to ignore you, ­contact the relevant fraud department at your local station (they will steer you in the right direction).

If the police do not help and the garage owner refuses to do anything, issue proceedings in the small claims court.

This is a pretty straightforward case and it is essential you stand up to this bully.

It may take a little time but you will win in the end.

Drained by woe

Q) MY neighbour’s gutters are attached to mine and he shares my downpipe. His gutters have not been cleaned this century and are sagging from the weight of the moss and dirt filling them to the brim.

When it rains, the water comes ­flying over my gutters and is causing damp to my property.

It is so bad the wallpaper is coming away downstairs and upstairs in my bedroom.

I have repeatedly asked him to sort this out, in writing, but with no ­response. What can I do?

Would I be within my rights to saw his gutters off mine?

Charlie, Worcester

A) The bottom line is you and your neighbour are jointly responsible for the upkeep of the shared guttering pipe that leads to the drain.

You are, however, unlikely to be responsible for any parts of your neighbour’s property that are on his side of the boundary.

Write to him again, offering to organise someone to come and make the relevant repairs to the guttering (making clear you expect your neighbour to pay).

State that this is a final 14-day notice for this person to make the necessary repairs.

If your neighbour continues to ignore you, you will have no choice but to go to the small claims court seeking damages and making an application for an ­injunction forcing your neighbour to sort this out.

A tough “final demands” letter can often be helpful in cases like this.

Mel Hunter, reader’s champion

Mel Hunter helps a reader solve a problem

Sold short by vintage site

Q) I SAW an advert for Vintage Cash Cow inviting people to send in old items they thought might be of value to be looked at and sold on.

My husband and I sent off two big parcels. We were very excited to hear what the company had to say but were left speechless when it told us the total value was just £29, which was just for the 1949 gramophone we had sent.

I then got an email thanking me for accepting its offer. But I hadn’t accepted. I queried the offer in the strongest terms I could.

I then asked for the rest of our items back but was told they did not do part-returns for offers under £50. This response was heartbreaking.

Beryl Clark, Cambs


A reader was left heartbroken by Vintage Cash Cow[/caption]

A) YOU sent your items over, including the gramophone, your grandfather’s pocket watch, a bracelet your father gave you when he returned from military service, a carriage clock and a canteen of cutlery.

The site works by giving customers an offer which they can accept or decline. If the offer is declined, the items are returned.

Vintage Cash Cow describes its way of working as a “no-lose” experience for the customer. But that was not how you came to view it.

Your other items were never sent back to you, as the company will only consider “part-returns” if the offer made is more than £50.

Unfortunately I could not get your keepsakes back. But I did secure £200 for you, described by the company as an “apology for any confusion”.

Vintage Cash Cow also told you: “We have taken your comments and feedback on board and to that end, we have reviewed our process.”

You have accepted its offer but I know this can never fully make up for the loss of your items.

Vintage Cash Cow told me: “We are striving to make our services clear and risk-free for all our customers.”

Q) I ORDERED a sofa from DFS in May last year and was told delivery would take seven weeks.

Many months later, I am still waiting, having been given many different reasons for the delay, including that it had been stolen from the warehouse.

I am an NHS worker and have worked hard to save the money to buy this sofa.

Alison, London

A) You first contacted me in December last year, having waited since May for your sofa.

I was staggered. A delay of that length is unacceptable.

I managed to secure you a temporary sofa just in time for Christmas and we both waited for your ordered furniture to be delivered on the latest promised delivery date, which was at the beginning of this month.

As that date approached, though, you were told the company making the sofa had gone bust.

Choosing another sofa from DFS, as the retailer had suggested, would take you straight back to square one.

Instead, I got DFS to agree that you could keep the temporary sofa, which was worth considerably more than the one you had ordered, as well as refunding you £100.

That is the least the firm could do – but you were relieved to bring the saga to a close.

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