Great Britain

My neighbour’s roof tiles came crashing through my skylight window during the storm and he says it is an act of God

EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues,  Jane Hamilton 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.

Judge Rinder

Q) I AM part of a low-stake betting syndicate where we all chip in £20 every four weeks. The syndicate owners then place money every week on a series of bets and lotteries.

In recent months they have been holding funds back in what they call a “reserve pot”. This has now grown to over £35,000.

When asked to either use this fund or return to members, they refuse, stating they may need it one day for a big bet.

Is there anything we can do to get this money used as it was intended?

Roy, Merseyside

A) In order for this syndicate to be operating lawfully, they must have clear rules setting out how and when you are entitled to any winnings and whether they are permitted to keep your funds to place further bets.

If there aren’t any terms at all, it seems to me that you have a serious problem and this entire syndicate could be a fraud.

Get in touch with the authorities if this is the case.

In all likelihood the syndicate will have some terms and conditions, so check them thoroughly and email it at once.

Make clear that the syndicate is under a legal obligation to return your money or place further bets within a specified time.

If it doesn’t reply, or refuses to follow its own rules, you would have a cast-iron case against it for breach of contract.

I suggest that you get in touch with other members of the syndicate and write your email together.

Q) THREE of my neighbour’s roof tiles blew off during the storm and came crashing through my skylight window. He says it is an act of God and is not taking any responsibility.

Do I have to claim on my insurance, or can I claim on his? I would rather not lose my no-claims bonus.

Colin, London

A) Your neighbour is possibly correct. Acts of God (as they’re called), such as damage caused by storms, are often not covered by insurers.

However, if your neighbour’s roof was old and the tiles loose, it is possible that he may still be liable. This is not necessarily for you to resolve.

It’s an issue for your insurer to sort out. Get in touch with them at once.

Depending on the value of the skylight (I suspect this wasn’t cheap), your insurer will send a loss assessor.

If it appears that your neighbour’s roof was the problem or his insurer has not excluded claims for damage caused by storms, your insurer may be able to take this up on your behalf.

Ask your neighbour who their insurer is, then write to yours making clear what has happened.

It is worth the time as you may avoid losing your no-claims bonus.


Q) AS a pensioner, I am about to lose my free TV licence.

But I never watch the BBC channels anyway, I only watch ITV – programmes like your show.

Ideally, I would like to disconnect BBC programmes from my receiver but I don’t know if that is possible.

If I never watch the BBC, will I be safe from prosecution?

John, Birmingham

A) Having a show on ITV makes my answer susceptible to allegations of bias. Whatever my views, I’m afraid to tell you that whether you watch the BBC or not, or whether you find a way of making it impossible to receive BBC channels, this is wholly irrelevant.

Unless you only use your TV for gaming or to play DVDs (ie never watch live TV on any other channels) you are legally required to buy a licence.

I understand why this might make you cross. Sadly, lawyers can’t help you with this one.

Write to your local MP.

Mel Hunter, Reader's champion

Q) THE last bill I received from Together Energy is dated August 31, 2018, and shows a credit balance of £111. When I then sold my property in November that year, I phoned the energy company with final meter readings.

Despite numerous phone calls, emails and requesting that this be escalated to a manager, I have still not received the final bill. The last contact I had was a phone call in October 2019 asking me yet again for final meter readings.

I am very angry that it has apparently done nothing to action my request for a final bill.

Patricia Munro, Dunfermline, Fife

A) Energy suppliers should be doing their utmost to send final bills within six weeks.

I tapped up Together Energy for you, asking for any money you were owed to be paid. I also reminded the energy firm that it could not take any money for unbilled energy used more than a year ago.

The supplier, which inherited 36,000 One Select customers in December 2018, around the same time your problems started, admitted there had been both admin and communication errors.

It promised to repay you £240, plus £50 for the poor service. A spokesman told me: “The charges while the customer was on supply with us have been credited to her account and a further £50 added as a gesture of goodwill.”

Q) I TOOK a test drive for a Vauxhall car last August, under the Motability scheme. The salesman told me I would get a gift from Vauxhall after the test drive. I followed all the instructions, chose an Amazon Fire tablet and waited for the gift. I have phoned Vauxhall so many times and all I get told is that they are sorry and will chase it up. But all I have received is silence.

Alan Fountain, Wokingham, Berks

A) In the market for a new car under the Motability scheme, it was an extra bonus to be told you could get a gift. But you didn’t expect to be waiting nearly six months later.

I chased up Vauxhall. It initially offered a £40 gift voucher, which you declined as the value of the tablet was £59.99. Vauxhall came back with £60 in High Street vouchers which you accepted. It had no explanation to offer for the unacceptable delay.+

Q) I BOOKED meet and greet parking at Manchester Airport. We waited for more than an hour for the car to be brought back on a freezing night, and I had to call three times. It was in a disgusting state. I want my money back but can’t get an answer on the phone or by email.

Graham Burton Stoke-on-Trent

A) The firm you used, Meet And Greet Manchester Airport Parking, is a third-party company, not affiliated with the airport.

In response to issues like these, Manchester Airport and the city council published a list of approved parking companies that have signed up to a Buy With Confidence scheme.

Five operators, and the airport itself, have undergone detailed checks to be listed with national scheme, buy

Unfortunately, the firm you used isn’t one of the firms to get a thumbs-up.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

WITH the nation reeling from storms Ciara and Dennis and many areas flooded, we are being urged to weatherproof our homes to prevent even more households being hit.

There is more wild weather forecast, so protecting your property now may cost a little – but can save you a lot more cash in the longer term.

Here are my weather-warning tips . . .

TILES FALLING OFF ROOF: Two in five storm-lashed homes lose roof tiles, with the average repair bill around £300. Make sure your tiles are properly fixed in place before the next storm and repair any cracked or damaged ones to stop water leaking in and causing damp.

DAMAGE TO GARDEN FENCE: Most fences are wooden, so rot and eventually need replacing. Basic larch lap panels cost from £35 each, so patch up broken areas now to prevent worse damage during a storm. The average cost of an entire new fence is £900, so plan with your neighbour on potentially sharing the expense.

FALLEN TREES: A quarter of householders have experienced damage from falling trees – and it can be deadly. Trim back smaller trees yourself but use a tree expert for larger trees or any that overhang roads, paths or another property. Check if the tree has a Tree Preservation Order before you begin work, or you risk a fine.

OVERFLOWING GUTTERING: This is one of the easiest problems to fix but one in seven households still suffer. Clear leaves, debris and moss by hand and call in a gutter expert to replace worn or damaged pipes from around £500.

FLOODING: More than 40 per cent of storm- damaged homes have some form of flooding. Consider installing air brick flood covers at around £15 each and inflatable flood barriers from £20 – but remove after a flood so your home dries out.

Buy of the week

WITH HS2 being approved, train journey times from Birmingham to London will be slashed to just 52 minutes. So it is full-steam ahead for property prices. This two-bed Victorian coach house in Birmingham’s trendy Moseley area is £214,500 at


OXFORD and Cambridge are not just home to two of the world’s most famous universities, but houses there are also the UK’s least affordable, says TV property expert Phil Spencer.

The average Oxbridge property costs 11.9 times the average salary, according to his home movers’ site Move iQ.

This compares with 9.7 times the average salary in London.

Phil says: “With most mortgage lenders unwilling to lend more than five times a person’s salary, you can see how out of reach homes costing 12 times as much are.”

Deal of the week

GET sorted with this savvy buy. The £4.50 Wickes three-tier kitchen organiser frees space in your cupboards and you can even arrange food by use-by date.

SAVE: £1.50 on similar items elsewhere

Scots drivers struggle through flood water in Paisley after torrential rain