Questions of Cash: October 2014

Posted on November 6, 2014 · Posted in The Independent

Q. We moved into our new Victorian home in September 2013, knowing that the house needed to be comprehensively renovated. In November we discovered dry rot in the cellar. We used local trades people for all the other work, who all had good reputations and were trouble-free.  For the dry rot, a surveyor that we use a large, national company because of the guarantees they can offer. We appointed Timberwise to treat the problem. The work was carried out in early December last year.  It was at that time that cracks began to appear in the wall above the cellar.  The floorboards above the cellar noticeably sloped downwards where they had previously been sound. Our builders argued that joist ends had been secured in the wrong way and without using sufficiently robust bolts with an anti-slipping mechanism.  It is also possible that the wall was not adequately supported during some of the work.  Timberwise twice sent back the operative who had worked on the job to complete repairs, but the result is not satisfactory: the joists are still not straight and no attempt was made to remedy the damage above the cellar.  Senior representatives of the company visited the house in March, taking lots of photographs.  It was clear they were seeking to argue that the damage pre-dated their work on the house.  We offered to appoint a structural engineer, but Timberwise said it would do this themselves. In many respects the engineer’s report was fair and we no doubt his integrity.  But we believe he was misled by photographs supplied by Timberwise.  The engineer seemed to believe that the pictures pre-dated the work undertaken by Timberwise and he confirmed this on the phone.  We do not believe the structural engineer’s report was accurate and we hold Timberwise responsible for the damage.  GT, London.

A. We have been actively involved in this matter for several months and are very pleased that it has now been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.  As a direct result of our representations and negotiation, Timberwise is providing a payment of £4,200.  This represents the costs, including VAT, of undertaking the full remedial work to your home.  The payment is made on a no fault basis and in order to achieve a full and final resolution of the dispute.  A spokesman for Timberwise initially explained: “It is our belief that the alleged damage may have occurred prior to our attendance on site. There were other trades on site over this period and it is important to have all the facts to hand.  A structural engineer has visited the property and reported on the alleged damage.  He has confirmed that the visible cracking at picture rail and coving is of a historical nature – occurring before we attended [the] site….  The exact make-up of the wall and its supporting beam (the wall in question sits on a separate timber carrier beam) has not been clarified by the engineer.  Similarly the engineer has agreed that the alleged door frame movement is inconsistent with a downward movement.”  Timberwise director Charles Edwards adds: “We just don’t believe we are fully to blame here, as backed up by our structural engineer.”

Q. In 2013 I took out a HomeComfort contract with ScottishPower for the maintenance of my gas central heating system and boiler. The contract offered two payment-free months in the first year. At the beginning of June 2014 I noticed they had taken payments for all 12 months, an overpayment totalling £35.80. I was told by the HomeComfort enquiries helpline that this would be investigated. I have phoned a further five times, but all I am ever told is that ‘Scottish Power is aware of the issue’.  My emails have not had replies.  In late September I had a phone call saying my refund payment had been approved, yet I have still not had it.  DW, Glasgow.

A. Scottish Power apologises.  A spokeswoman says: “Unfortunately this was due to an error on our part, we have now updated [the reader’s] account and the refund has been paid directly into [his] bank account. In way of an apology we have made a further goodwill payment of £30.”

Q I ordered a pizza online from Pizza Hut’s Islington store.  I paid £20 using a debit card and asked for the order to be delivered at 8:15.  The delivery was 30 minutes late. The man called from downstairs and asked me to come down to collect the pizza. When I got to the front gate, I couldn’t see the man. I called him and he rudely said he was waiting in his car, and couldn’t see me. I walked down the road and found his car. I asked him why he was 30 minutes late. He said: ‘Take your pizza, or I’m leaving for my next delivery.’ I asked to speak to the store manager and he said the number was on the receipt. As I started to call, he hopped into his car, and rode off.  When I phoned the store, someone hung up on me twice and then I was told refunds are handled by head office.  When I contacted head office I was promised a refund in five to ten days, but nothing happened.  AN, London.
A A spokeswoman for Pizza Hut says: “We are very sorry [the reader’s] refund was delayed and that he did not experience our high levels of customer service. We have been in contact with the reader to confirm his refund and believe we have resolved this issue to the customer’s satisfaction.”  You have also been sent a Pizza Hunt voucher.