Questions of Cash: Rescue for pair suffering poor service in a flat rent deal

 

Q. My daughter and her partner agreed to rent a one-bedroom flat with parking space in Sheffield city centre at a monthly rent of £525. The property was potentially good, but required remedial work prior to them moving in. The work was agreed to, but not completed when my daughter and her partner moved into the property eight weeks ago.

These repairs have still not been finished. The bed cannot even be slept on. We are also unhappy about other problems regarding a lack of customer service – they were not provided with codes for access, so my daughter was literally locked out on the street; they were not supplied with keys for the mail box; they were not given with the necessary parking permit — which resulted in my daughter receiving an £80 fine when she parked in their own designated parking space. It is our view that LSL, an Exeter-based lettings agency, has failed to provide the accommodation and service advertised, which was agreed in the contract.

My daughter and her partner made a complaint, but there was no confirmation that this was received, or any indication of the outcome of any investigation. I was emailed a copy of the letter that was supposedly sent by post, but never arrived. The agency has treated my daughter and her partner in an abysmal manner, refusing to pay the £80 parking fine despite apparently recognising that its failure to provide a permit caused the fine. I believe the repairs should be carried out immediately, they should be compensated for the poor service and for their considerable phone bill trying to sort the problems out and reimbursed the £80 fine. MF, by email.

A. The problems have now been resolved as a result of our intervention. Lucy Jones, operations manager of LSL Property Services Plc, comments: "We have been in frequent contact with [the joint tenants] and, while we thought the issues outlined above had been resolved by mid-June, we have reviewed the case again. We can confirm that the majority of repairs to the property have been carried out to the satisfaction of a representative for the tenants while they are on holiday and that the remainder are due to be completed shortly. We can also confirm that the post box keys have been delivered directly to the tenant and, as a goodwill gesture, LSL are reimbursing the £80 parking fine."

Q. I have an annuity with Phoenix in the UK. The company whose pension plan I paid into is based in Guernsey, and Phoenix has been deducting 20 per cent tax from my pension payment every month for over two years. Guernsey Tax Office has sent instructions and codings to Phoenix to enable them not to take off the tax, but to no avail. I should not have tax deducted at source as I pay tax in Jersey. AC, Jersey.

A. You tell us that you have now had a letter from Phoenix to explain that tax will no longer be deducted at source. You add: "Thank you so much for your help, I really don't think it would have been resolved this quickly without your intervention. I hope that it's all settled now." Phoenix spokeswoman Shellie Wells explains: "We are aware [of the reader's] issue with her tax deductions and have identified a system problem which was affecting policies receiving Guernsey tax coding notices. We were in the process of setting up a dedicated team to investigate the problems and resolve the incorrect taxation of these policies when you contacted us. We have now amended [the reader's] tax code as per the instruction from Guernsey tax office dated 22 February 2012. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused [the reader] and are offering her £200 compensation for the inconvenience."

Q. I am hoping you can help my daughter, who is having a problem with the Nationwide Building Society. She set up a standing order payment of £180 to go from her current account at HSBC to her savings account at Nationwide on 25 May. She noticed in early June that the payment had not gone through. On checking the details of the transfer, [my daughter] realised she had mistakenly put a 3 instead of an 8 in the account number and the transfer had gone through to someone else, even though the account name had not matched.

Since then, Nationwide has written to the other account holder requesting them to refund the money, but my daughter has been told that she won't get her money back unless the other person agrees to make the refund. There has been no response to date. Surely this can't be right as the account name hadn't matched, and Nationwide should take some responsibility. ML, Cambridgeshire.

A. This is proving a common problem. Changes in the arrangements for the electronic transfer of funds mean that banks and building societies no longer check that the names of account holders tally – transfers are made solely on the basis of the quoted account number. It is essential that, when making an electronic transfer, the receiving account number is entered correctly – we suggest the number is checked and double checked before an account holder confirms the transfer.

On this occasion, you are lucky – Nationwide has agreed to bear the loss. Other banks and building societies may be less generous. Michelle Slade of Nationwide says: "Once a request has been sent via the faster payments facility, there is no recall process, which is why customers are asked to confirm the details before sending the money. Nationwide did contact the customer who mistakenly received the funds asking them to return them, but to this date no response has been received. As the mistake was made by [the customer], Nationwide is not obliged to refund the payment. However, as a gesture of goodwill the full £180 has been refunded to the account."

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