I pay the mortgage but my ex wants me and our sons kicked out – will we lose our family home? – The Sun

EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Judge Rinder

The Sun's legal expert

Q) MY husband left our family home in 2012. I was left with three children and the mortgage to pay. We had a 70/30 split from the courts in my favour.

I recently started a new relationship with an old school friend who has moved in with me and the three boys, two of whom are under 18.

My youngest son has severe autism and leukaemia and my new partner is now his primary carer as I myself am on long-term sick.

I have now received a letter from my ex husband’s solicitor saying that because I have been cohabiting, this has triggered the house sale  – due to one of the clauses in the divorce settlement!

Can this content order be overturned as my two youngest are under 18 and my ­partner and I are claiming universal credit so have no money to buy him out?

Karen, Kent

A) It might be possible for you to keep your home. You have a number of potentially very strong legal defences against your ex husband forcing the sale of the house, regardless of whether or not you are in a new ­relationship.

Your youngest son may suffer serious physical and emotional distress as a result of being forced from the property so the initial court order could be varied to reflect this.

I should add that given you pay the mortgage, I’m not particularly impressed with the deal you appear to have struck when you obtained your divorce order in the first place.

You might wish to remind your ex-husband that you reserve the right to vary that order in the event that he persists in forcing this sale.

Whatever happens, you must get specialist legal assistance. This needs serious muscle.

Although legal aid has been withdrawn for many cases like this, your son may have a right to legal representation.

Get to the Citizens Advice Bureau, who can point you in the way of free legal advice.

Summing up

Q) I AM currently renting a property which my landlord informs me she wishes to sell.

If there was to be a theft or damage to my belongings during a viewing conducted by the estate agent, who would be liable?

Lorraine, Manchester

A) If your landlord is showing the property to potential buyers who steal things from your home or damage anything while they are there, she is liable.

You cannot be responsible for the people she lets into your rented home.

You may wish to email your insurer who can confirm this.

Q) A COLLEAGUE has made an allegation against me, claiming that I have been using cocaine at work.

This is completely untrue but there is going to be a fact-finding investigation, for which I am getting union representation.

I have done nothing wrong but I know that even if I am cleared in my workplace, mud sticks.

Am I able to sue the colleague who made the allegation for defamation of character?

Lisa, Glasgow

A) One thing at a time. First, get the fact-­finding investigation completed.

Once that is finished you’ll have the energy and peace of mind to determine whether it is worth pursuing this dreadful colleague.

The reality is that defamation law suits are incredibly costly to bring and can often result in making a false allegation stick even harder.

Sometimes it’s just better to move on.

If you still want to pursue this (and I ­understand why you might), you could bring a claim against this woman for malicious falsehood.

This is not straightforward and you could end up in nasty and costly litigation.

As soon as the disciplinary procedure is done, it might be worth instructing a solicitor to write to this woman making clear that any further allegations would result in serious legal action.

Mel Hunter

Readers' champion on fighting for your rights

Q) WE have a holiday booked to Tenerife via Lastminute.com. Unfortunately we are due to stay at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace, the hotel on lockdown due to Coronavirus.

The travel agent won’t offer any alternative accommodation, leaving us with our flights and transfers which we cannot use. I contacted my travel insurer but they will not cover this either.

They say we will get nothing back if we decided to cancel, but how can we fly when we have no accommodation? We stand to lose £2,500.

Carol Parry, Newcastle upon Tyne

A) You were due to travel today, and contacted me for help late on Wednesday. With the Foreign Office still not advising against travel to Tenerife, you couldn’t claim on your insurance.

But with the situation at the hotel, involving 160 Brits, still going on you had nowhere to stay.

You’d bought a package holiday from Lastminute and as such it had a duty to provide you with the holiday you booked or provide an alternative.

When you contacted me, this had not happened. I contacted the travel site, explaining your very specific situation, and things moved quickly.

They offered you another hotel, which they were entitled to do, but you were feeling understandably nervous about travelling, and declined.

Lastminute then worked with the airline to move your holiday to November, although others booked to travel to Tenerife are unlikely to be able to change bookings while the FCO advice remains the same.

A Lastminute.com spokesperson said: “An email was sent stating that there would be no refund, as current FCO advice is ‘OK to travel to Tenerife’.

“After checking with the airline, we have been able to change the dates to November, and Mrs Parry accepted this as a resolution.”

Q) AT Christmas 2017, I bought a set of illuminated building sculptures from collectibles shop Bradford Exchange costing £243.88.

I didn’t get them out of the box until late 2018. Each one should have its own lighting, a sturdy bulb, mains flex and plug. But no lights were included.

I sent emails, letters and made phone calls to Bradford Exchange, which eventually sent me a set of cheap fairy lights. It told me these were correct for the British market. I don’t believe this.

The lights didn’t fit, would not light up the buildings as they were supposed to and were clearly not produced for this item.

I believe the buildings were made for the US market and there never were any lights intended for use in England.

Joyce Malyon, Suffolk

A) You say the brochure described your item as “illuminated sculptures” and they were inspired by Thomas Kinkade, a US artist who called himself “the Painter of Light”.

You sent me a photo clearly showing where the bulb should fit. You also sent me a picture of one of the houses as sold in the US, with the correct bulb in place.

Although some time had passed, I still felt consumer law could apply, as the sculptures were not as described.

I went back to the gift company and although it couldn’t provide the correct bulbs, it did refund you £80.

That is reasonable considering the time that passed.

Maddy Tooke

Coupon Queen finding you the best bargains

HERE are my top five freebies of the week . . .

  1. New TopCashback.co.uk members can grab a Cadbury Mother’s Day Treasure Box. Go to bit.ly/tcbmothersday to claim. Offer ends March 22.
  2. Get a BareMinerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Serum from Debenhams if you are a Beauty Club member. While stocks last. See bit.ly/debenhamsbareminerals.
  3. Great British Pubs app is offering a free drink until March 16, bit.ly/freedrinkleap.
  4. Mother’s Day card making for kids in-store at Hobbycraft on March 14. Book online at bit.ly/hobbycraftfreecard.
  5. Radio Times has 5,000 free tickets to previews of Military Wives on Monday. See bit.ly/militarywivespreview. Available at 25 cinemas across the country.

Top ten offers

  1. GET £10 off spending £50-plus in-store at River Island. Find voucher at vouchercloud.com. Expires March 8.
  2. Get 20 per cent off Admiral travel insurance with vouchercloud.com code VCLOUD20. Expires April 29. See bit.ly/admiraltravel25.
  3. Get a £10 gift card when spending £70 at Wilko via vouchercloud.com. Spend £50-plus for a £5 gift card. Until Sunday. See bit.ly/wilkogiftcard.
  4. Save 20 per cent at The Works with vouchercodes.co.uk code VCUK20. See bit.ly/20theworks.
  5. Save ten per cent on Sunday and Monday bookings at Travelodge with vouchercodes.co.uk code. Ends March 31. See bit.ly/travelodgesunday.
  6. Save ten per cent on Thorntons chocs with vouchercodes.co.uk code VCUK10. Until May 2. See bit.ly/10thorntons.
  7. Get 50 per cent off orders over £35 at Snapfish or 30 per cent off under £35. Use code SFUK997 at checkout. Until Monday. See bit.ly/50snapfish35.
  8. Get 40 per cent off mains at Bella Italia with Click & Collect or eat in and get 30 per cent off. Use code from vouchercodes.co.uk. Until March 31. See bit.ly/40bellaitalia.
  9. Save £10 on Holland and Barrett orders over £40 with code CLOUD10 from vouchercloud.com. Until Sunday so be quick. See bit.ly/10hollandbarrett.
  10. Get 15 per cent off New Look orders over £40 with code LOVENL. Discount on full-price items only, until March 31; See bit.ly/newlook15.

Jane Hamilton

Property expert with the best advice for your home

HOMEOWNERS spend £83billion annually on property improvements – but only 15 per cent of the changes are made to add value.

Each alteration costs an average of £4,806, according to a new study, which means it is worth ­considering if your change is a good investment.

Russell Galley, managing director at the Halifax Bank, said: “Social media is giving more people instant access to the latest home and interior trends, so it’s no ­surprise to find this influence ­filtering through to home improvements.

“But while upgrading homes is simply a ­labour of love for many, others invest in renovation to increase value and maximise selling potential.”

Here, the bank reveals the most profitable home upgrades.

  1. Loft conversion: Adding a room or two in the attic typically costs £22,200 but can net you a roomy £11,020 profit.
  2. Living roof: Loved on Instagram, the ­millennial phenomenon of adding vegetation or plants to the flat roof of a property rakes in an ­average of £8,676.
  3. Bi-folding doors: Whether you add to a kitchen, living room or downstairs bedroom, flooding your home with natural light from big bi-folds creates a £5,256 price uplift.
  4. Garage conversion: One of the quickest building projects, most garage conversions do not require planning permission and can add an extra £4,847 to your property’s value.
  5. Renovated or restored period features: If you’re lucky enough to own a period property, keep original features in good shape to earn an additional £4,731.
  6. Extension: What you will make depends on the size and style, but a typical extension can see your home increase by £4,847.

Buy of the week

LOOKING for a new pad? Greater Manchester is home to the country’s biggest new-build boom, with properties worth a whopping £1.4billion constructed there in the past year.

Among them is this trendy three-bed terrace in Eccles, on the market for £185,000 at zoopla.co.uk/new-homes/details/51000781.

LEAP year could see your home soar in value. The average annual house price growth during a leap year sits at 7.3 per cent compared to the year before, says a new report by estate agent Benham and Reeves.

If correct, it could see the average UK house price hit £248,459 by December.

Company managing director Anita Mehra said: “This is great for homeowners who may be thinking about selling, or home buyers currently completing on a purchase.”

Deal of the week

WATCH the box in style.

This £129 Ottawa TV unit is around half the price of designer styles and only available at British Heart Foundation shops.

Save: Average £100

  • Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers are intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.

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