I’m worried about the changes to benefits

STEVE CANAVAN: A real cliffhanger in the Lakes

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q A friend has told me that it’s likely my housing benefit will be reduced soon because the government is making cuts. I’m very worried about what this will mean for me as I’m struggling to make ends meet as it is.

KA (Internet)

A The government is making changes in April to slash housing benefits for some claimants.

You didn’t provide me with sufficient details to advise you precisely, but from the information I have, it’s unlikely your housing benefit will be cut because you rent from a housing association.

Council tenants and anyone renting from housing associations will not be affected. But tenants of private landlords may have their benefit cut because the government has signalled it wants to cap housing benefit to claimants living in accommodation that attracts high rents.

This is unlikely to impact on many claimants in our part of the country, but will have a serious impact on families living in London, and other big cities.

From April, housing benefit will no longer be based on the rent paid, but assessed on the middle of the pricing band for similar-sized properties. This means if you’re claiming benefit for living in a large property, you could lose out by hundreds of pounds. Contact your nearest Citizens’ Advice Bureau for advice that relates to your circumstances.

Q I went to America on holiday last year and noticed that in a general store, they had what was called a freezeless tap. It was guaranteed not to freeze outdoors in very low temperatures. I had a pipe burst in December because the outside tap in the garden froze solid. Can I buy these online?

AD (Internet)

A It’s a plumbing job that’s most likely to solve any further cold weather problems. The tap should be isolated from the mains water supply by fitting a suitable in- line shut-off valve.

Freezeless taps are available online, but fortunately you don’t have to do an import job from the USA.

For £46.20 plus VAT you can buy one from Drainage Systems. Their online address is drainage-systems-online.co.uk or give them a bell on 01925 750801.

Q I have the greatest sympathy for your correspondent whose Volvo Bowthruster was not fit for purpose. I have a Volvo QL Bowthruster and in under three years I noticed it was losing oil. A Volvo agent’s engineer has examined it. I have the report that states the engineer was appalled that the lower casing of the Bowthruster had eroded in so short a time. Is this not a case for a claim under the Sale of Goods act, not fit for purpose?

MB (Internet)

A Unfortunately not. Fitness for purpose is about whether goods do what is claimed on the box. You’re getting this mixed up with the legal requirement for durability. This is a fairly new concept in consumer law. What you have to prove to get compensation is that taking into account the price paid and the purpose of the goods, whether they are not up to the mark and should have lasted longer.

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