Consumer rights: Floored by refusal to refund cost of a rug

The recipient of an unloved gift would like a refund, and a mortgage lender is putting a couple's plans on hold

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The Independent Online

Q. You probably get asked this a thousand times each New Year but I have been given an expensive rug for Christmas and I really don't want to keep it.

I know where it was bought and went back to ask for a refund but they refused. I don't have a receipt or any other proof that it was bought from that shop but they must know what they had in stock. What can I do to persuade them to give me the money back?

TR, Bradford

A. The contract that was made at the time the rug was paid for is between the shop and the person who bought it. A retailer doesn't have to give a refund on something unless it's faulty or not what the buyer thought they were buying. If a retailer does give refunds in other circumstances it will be because he or she has decided it's good customer service to offer refunds, or because a specific agreement has been made with a particular customer.

So if the person who gave you the rug had an agreement with the shop that they could bring the rug back and get a refund then the shop should stand by it. An agreement would exist if the shop has a policy of refunding for goods bought within a certain period of time and has a notice up to that effect, or if the buyer and the seller discussed and agreed a refund at the time of the sale. But if there was no such agreement the shop doesn't have to give a refund even if you can prove the rug was bought from there.

The upshot of this is you will have to ask the person who bought you the rug if it can be refunded and if so to take it back to the shop for you. If you don't want to do that perhaps you could sell it on an online auction site.

Q. My partner is moving in with me. She has had her house on the market for six months but there has been no interest at all. So we decided the best thing would be to let it out. However the lender has refused permission. The letter in reply to her request explained that her current mortgage was agreed as a residential mortgage. Under the terms and conditions of that mortgage the house has to be wholly owner-occupied so the lender couldn't grant permission to let with that type of mortgage.

It also said that it couldn't give her a Buy to Let mortgage on her house as she wouldn't have another owner-occupier property with or without a mortgage in the UK and so wouldn't meet their lending criteria.

As things stand I have to help her to meet her monthly repayments and she can't sell the place. Renting it out would offer a short-term solution and preferably a long-term one as well. What can we do?

SS, Wolverhampton

A. Many people in your position let out without the lender knowing because they don't realise the terms and conditions of most mortgages include a clause saying that they must ask for the lender's permission. The penalty for doing the right thing can be a refusal.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders says: "What happens in cases like this will be determined by the contract between lender and borrower. Some lenders offer buy-to-let mortgages as an alternative to a residential loan, and different terms and conditions may apply."

Some lenders refuse permission to let as they don't want the added complication of having to evict tenants if an owner-occupier falls behind with their mortgage and the property has to be repossessed. Tenants too have to have some protection against being evicted if a landlord doesn't repay the lender – which is why there are special Buy to Let mortgages for people planning to let out property.

Your partner could try to remortgage through a different lender on a Buy to Let mortgage. There may be lenders that have different lending criteria who would consider such an application. Other options are that your partner stays put until her house sells and rents out a room in the meantime to help pay her mortgage. Alternatively, she could ask her lender to reschedule her mortgage to reduce her monthly payments and allow you some flexibility until the house sells. Remember if you go down the lodger route then through the government's rent-a-room scheme your partner can earn up to £4,250 a year tax free. A mortgage broker should be able to help you explore all the options.

Do you have a consumer complaint?

Write to Julian Knight at The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street,

London W8 5HF j.knight@independent.

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