Q. I have applied for a bank account with Britannia, but 14 days after my cheque was cashed I have heard nothing. Furthermore, the person on the end of the phone at Britannia wants me to set up a password with her knowing what it is. This is not secure and is different from other banks that use automated systems, with employees not aware of the full passwords. DS, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
A. You wrote to us on 23 May and the Co-operative Bank – which owns Britannia, a former building society – tells us that it opened your account on 21 May. It has backdated interest on your initial deposit to the date you applied to open the account, 7 May. A spokesman adds: “The Bank takes the issue of security extremely seriously and we do our utmost to ensure customers are fully protected. The bank uses different approaches for registration of security information, which includes registering information online and customers providing details verbally or on a form. In some cases, verbal registration involves different information being taken by separate advisers to increase security. With Britannia, where many customers use passbooks and do not use online banking, we currently request customers to provide some information on their application form and then verbally when they contact us. It is also important to remember that the bank uses a number of other controls to protect its customers. And we are always looking to enhance this security and have plans in place to further automate some of this process as part of our approach.”
Q. We would like to help our daughter, a self-employed writer in London, to buy a flat to give her some stability. We can provide a decent deposit, but as she earns a maximum of £18,000 to £20,000 a year, she can’t afford large monthly mortgage repayments. We have looked at housing associations, but their criteria seem to rule out anyone who already has property and she has a stake in the family holiday cottage. It would be difficult for her to share a property, as she has a partner. Can you suggest a way forward? PW, London.
A. Ray Boulger, senior technical manager with mortgage brokers John Charcol, responds: “The key to a possible solution here is not only the extent to which the parents are able to help but also their own financial situation, particularly in relation to any mortgage they already have. As their daughter is a joint owner of the family holiday cottage, if this property has a mortgage that will be an additional restrictive factor. Your reader has indicated her daughter’s maximum self-employed income, but her minimum over the last two or three years is just as important, if not more so. Unless the available deposit is very large, clearly the daughter’s income on its own will be inadequate to buy anything in London, including probably on a shared ownership basis, even if she could find a housing association prepared to accept her in view of her part ownership of the family holiday home.
“A possible way forward would be to make a mortgage application on the basis of more than one income. The implication of the letter is that the daughter does not plan to buy jointly with her partner, but if the partner has a good income this option might be worth considering.
Alternatively a few lenders will offer a mortgage on a ‘sole proprietor, joint borrower’ basis. The daughter would buy the property in her sole name as normal, but the mortgage would be joint with one or both of her parents. For this to work her parents would need to have sufficient income, taking into account any mortgage they already have, so that jointly with their daughter there was sufficient income to support the mortgage. However, depending on the parents’ age, the maximum mortgage term might be restricted to less than normal because it depends on the age of the oldest borrower. One lender which offers this facility is Woolwich and the maximum age it will lend to is 70.”
Q. I bought a solid oak wardrobe from Furniture Village in a sale for nearly £1,000, four years ago. Now the sliding doors no longer slide. Furniture Village accept there is a problem, but the item is discontinued and they are not prepared to fix it. They have offered me £100 and I get to keep my broken wardrobe, or £350 part refund, in which case I have to fork out twice that again for something similar. This seems like a raw deal. TS, by email.
A. A spokesman for the company says: “Furniture Village delivered the product in September 2009. The customer contacted Furniture Village four years later and we immediately arranged for a technician to visit to establish if a repair could be completed. In this case it wasn’t possible and the product wasn’t produced any longer. This is why we have offered our customer a number of different options to resolve the issue in line with the Sale of Goods Act. A reselection would involve the customer choosing alternative items from our current ranges and the £370 would be used in part payment. We would then collect the original goods at the same time as we delivered the new items. We understand that the customer may not always be in a position to choose new items, so in order to provide an alternative resolution, we have offered a partial refund which allows the customer to retain the goods in their current condition. We have offered the customer £100 in this case in full and final settlement of the issues raised as we will always go further than the law requires and always err on the side of the customer where possible.”
You are unhappy with this response. You could take legal action under the Sale of Goods Act, but it is not clear to us that you would win the case. We suggest you investigate whether you can find a local tradesperson to repair the wardrobe.