Questions Of Cash: 'Why hasn't my £450 bond been returned?'


Q. I left my London apartment nine weeks ago and I am still awaiting the return of my £450 bond from Red Hot Properties. I am now back in Australia and my e-mails and phone calls have been ignored. I will be in London again next week and would like to get it sorted out for then. JH, Australia.

A. Red Hot Properties are lettings agents and the problem arose when your landlord inadvertently failed to reduce your first month's rent by the amount of your holding deposit that had been forwarded to them. That failure – which Red Hot was unaware of – appears not to have been spotted during your tenancy. After our intervention, the matter was partially resolved within 24 hours. The landlord offered to make an immediate electronic transfer of the £450 – which you apparently declined to accept on the basis that you required cash. When you went to the landlord's offices on your visit back to London you were paid £350 – representing all the company's petty cash. According to your version of events, the office manager shouted at you. The office manager says that you shouted at them and were abusive. We intervened again and arranged for the balance of £100 in cash to be waiting for you in the landlord's offices, which we understand a friend will collect on your behalf.

Q. My then-boyfriend and I had a flat from February 2004 to January 2005, with electricity supplied by Scottish Power, which I paid for by direct debit. When we broke up I moved out and he stayed on until December 2005. I assumed he was now paying the electricity and I cancelled my direct debt. I heard nothing more until last year when I had a letter from a debt-collecting agency, Westcot, saying I owed £350. After I proved I had moved out and the debt was not my responsibility, Westcot wrote to me saying the matter had been sorted out. But six weeks ago I had a letter from a different debt collection agency, Buchanan, Clark and Wells, saying I now owed £464.90 for the same bill. I'm really annoyed that Scottish Power seems to have just passed the bill on to a different debt collector. FP, London.

A. The initial problem arose because of a failure by your former landlord to pass on the amended tenancy details and an oversight on the part of Scottish Power. Your supposed debt has now been removed from Scottish Power's accounts, the debt collectors have been informed, your credit reference information has been corrected and you have been sent a bunch of flowers as an apology.

Q. We bought our house in 1985 with a £30,000 mortgage from Alliance & Leicester. It was backed by a 25-year Standard Life endowment policy, in the belief that it would pay out more than the £30,000. We paid £46.30 a month and have now been told it is likely to pay out between £21,603 and £26,000. The policy and mortgage were sold through a solicitor, Gordon Michie of Hogg & Co in Denny – but neither the solicitor who advised us nor the firm now practises, I believe. Both Standard Life and Alliance & Leicester tell us they have no responsibility for any mis-selling, as they did not provide any advice. DT, Glasgow.

A. Responsibility for any alleged mis-sale lies with Hogg & Co. All solicitors are required to have professional indemnity insurance, and compensation, if there were any, would be covered by the insurer. In the case of Hogg & Co, the insurance cover was arranged by the Law Society of Scotland. Through the Scottish Law Society we made contact with Martin Hogg, who had been principal of Hogg & Co and is now a partner at Blackwood & Co. Mr Hogg is confident that there was no mis-sale, but will consider your claim. The Law Society of Scotland considers complaints against solicitors and operates a system specifically for brokering claims of mis-selling of endowment policies, which is explained on its website – www.lawscot.org.uk. You should use this system for making your claim against Mr Hogg's former firm. However, your claim for mis-selling is made more difficult to argue because prior to 1988, sellers of endowments had a common law duty of care to customers, rather than their more specific duty to assess clients' approach to risk, as was required by law from April 1988. It is likely that you are within the time limit for lodging a complaint because you made your initial complaint within three years of being notified that the endowment was likely not to repay your mortgage.

Q. I have had a dormant charge applied by Nochex, a company that makes electronic payment transfers by e-mail. I had £36.31 in my Nochex account which I last used in May 2004. I ceased to use this account when PayPal became the market leader. When I tried to access my Nochex balance, the company told me it had applied a dormant account charge of £36.31, wiping out the balance. I feel Nochex has been heavy-handed in applying this charge. DN, by e-mail.

A. Nochex points to a term in its contracts that it "reserves the right at their absolute discretion to apply an administrative charge of no more than £5 per quarter on dormant accounts". The charge it has applied is within these limits and the company refuses to refund your previous balance. Nochex appears to be within its legal rights in taking the action – though we can understand why you are annoyed.

Q. I have repeatedly requested disconnection from Talk Talk for the last 10 months and I am still waiting for that and a final bill. I keep being told disconnection will happen "within 36 hours" – but it never does. RO, by e-mail.

A. Following our intervention, your service has now been disconnected by Carphone Warehouse (which owns Talk Talk) and a final bill sent.

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