Questions Of Cash: End of mortgage deal left us out of pocket

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Q. We recently checked our mortgage statement with Lloyds TSB and found that the last two payments had gone up by nearly £150. Our branch informed us that our fixed-rate mortgage had expired, though we received no notification of this. A letter had been sent out, but we did not receive it. Around this time we received a letter from the police informing us that a mail bag had been stolen. We spoke to Lloyds TSB again, who informed us that it was our responsibility to check statements. This is difficult when they only send them out once a year. We then had to foot another month of increased payments and pay a further £399 to take out a three-year fixed rate.
JK, St Albans

A. Your situation is unpleasant, but it is the borrower's responsibility to ensure they know when a fixed-term mortgage expires. As you found out to your cost, banks' standard variable rates (SVRs) can be much higher than the fixed-term deals. A Lloyds TSB spokeswoman says: "It is unfortunate in this instance that this customer's post went astray as it is normal practice for us to mail our customers to let them know where they are with their mortgage payments. It is important for people to remember that once the fixed term is up, so is the discounted rate."

Q. In August last year, I was paid a VAT refund by HM Revenue & Customs of £42.87. Unfortunately, the payment was made to my previous bank account with Barclays, which I had closed. HM Revenue & Customs and myself have been trying to recover this money, unsuccessfully.

I closed my Barclays account in June 2003 and had been under the impression that Barclays promised not to reallocate account details for two years. But they have reallocated my account details sooner than that, with the result that the money was credited to another person's account.
JB, London

A. According to the details you have provided us, there was more than two years between the time you closed your account and the credit transfer being made by HM Revenue & Customs. But Barclays says that you actually closed your account earlier than you recall - in March 2002. The bank says the account details were reallocated in May 2004, more than a clear two years later.

However, Barclays does not guarantee not to reallocate details in under the two years. But the good news is that Barclays is paying you the wrongly transferred £42.87 and will try to recover the money from its new customer.

Q. After British Gas conducted an annual central heating service in 2004, we found a leak. The engineer said this was not a problem, as it would seal itself. But the electricity failed as a result of the leak and would not go on again. Our insurers arranged emergency repairs, but charged us the excess. The insurers offered to make arrangements for permanent repairs with British Gas, but nothing has happened.
PP, Epping

A. British Gas has now revisited your property and inspected the damage. It says it doubts that the damage has resulted from its service, but cannot be certain. In the circumstances, as a gesture of goodwill, it has arranged for one of its electrical engineers to carry out the permanent repairs free of charge.

Q. I'm renting a flat through a letting agency. The previous tenants have warned me that the agency held their deposit of £800 for two months, claiming they needed proof that all bills had been paid. Yet all of the bills were in their name, and now they are in mine. The owner is not responsible for anything. Should I expect they will hold on to the deposit in a similar way at the end of my contract? Is this legal?
MR, by e-mail

A. Tenancy protection legislation is notoriously weak. Citizens Advice says that, providing the practice accords with your contract, the landlord and its agency should be on strong legal ground for withholding the deposit in this way. New tenancy protection legislation will be in place from October, which will require that deposits are returned within 10 days on lettings that begin after this.

Q. Mobile phone company 3 has sent debt collectors to see me for old bills. But I have refused to pay because my mobile phone did not work and I sent it back to 3 for repair almost a year ago and I am still waiting for it to be returned.
JL, by e-mail

A. Your handset was taken in for repair by your then boyfriend. 3 dispatched the phone after repair to the retailer where it was deposited, awaiting collection. It then notified your former boyfriend, as arranged. However, it appears that your former partner failed to pass on the repeated messages from 3 that your handset was awaiting collection.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk.

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