Consumer rights: 'Will it be worth the effort to let my home during the 2012 Olympics?'

A Londoner considers making some money from next summer's Games and a distressed widower is being hounded for his late wife's debts
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The Independent Online

Q. I am thinking about letting my home for the 2012 Olympics. I've never rented out property before and I don't really know where to start.

SC, London

A. There is definitely money to be made from the Olympics. You do need to think this through carefully, though. The money sounds great but there's a lot of effort involved. You have to be realistic about what you charge.

Anyone renting a house will expect value for money. You will have to move your clothes out of the bedrooms to leave wardrobe space. If you have valuables you might have to lock them away in one room which reduces the amount you can charge. You will need to have insurance cover in case something goes wrong. Your visitors will expect to find the place spotless. You may not have bothered with fire, smoke or carbon dioxide alarms for yourself but all these things should be in place.

Take photos of the house and any items in it. Write a complete inventory of everything the visitors will have access to. Ask for references and try to get to know them before their arrival.

Ideally you should have a contract drawn up spelling out your terms and conditions such as how much the rent is and how and when it should be paid, whether there's a deposit to be paid in advance, how any damage should be paid for or whether there's a sum to be paid as security in case of damage, arrival and leaving dates, and your cancellation policy. If you do want a contract drawn up you'll have to pay a solicitor or letting agent.

If you have a mortgage you might have to ask the lender's permission to let out the house. And your insurance company. The money you earn from this will count as income for tax purposes so take that into consideration when you're working out how profitable this is likely to be.

If I haven't put you off the idea, type "letting homes for the Olympics" into a search engine and you'll find LondonGamesRentals.com, LondonRentMyHouse.com, rentduringthegames. com and many more.

You'll be charged a fee to list your property and you decide whom to rent to. Have a good look at several sites before deciding which to use. You might decide to try more than one. If you are somewhere convenient to the Olympics site your local rental agencies may well be offering a service too.

Q. My wife died in June. When I opened her mail afterwards I discovered that she had taken out some loans and hadn't kept up the repayments.

I wrote to everybody and told them my wife had died and didn't leave any money but the letters still keep coming.

One of the debts is for almost £5,000 and they're threatening to take court action. I just can't afford to pay these people off. Do they have any right to chase me for debts I didn't sign up for and didn't even know about?

JM, Surrey

A. If you didn't sign these loan agreements and didn't know about them, it's highly unlikely you are liable to pay them. There's no reason to think your wife added your signature to the application forms as the mail is being sent to her. The companies are still mistakenly trying to get the money from her; they aren't chasing you.

Most reputable lenders are understanding. They may ask for a copy of the death certificate and then will close the accounts and write off the debts. Others may be harder to deal with. In some cases the debts will have been passed on to the firm's debt collection department and they often generate "red" letters automatically.

Others may have already passed the details on to outside debt collectors which can appear quite threatening. Some may proceed on the assumption that your wife did leave some money which would have passed to you and start to chase you. But this can be cleared up.

My guess is the main reason you're having problems is that the departments you've written to are no longer dealing with your wife's accounts but haven't passed on the details you've given them to the collection agency. This could take a bit of time to sort so I'd recommend that you get some help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Call the Bereavement Register on 0870 600 7222 to have your wife's name removed by any companies which subscribe to that register. You can also call the Preference Services on 0845 703 4599.

www.moneyagonyaunt.com

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