You are on page 1of 10

Saturday 01.09.12 | guardian.co.

uk

I fought Orange through the courts and won Page 5

The ethics of betting on food prices Page 6

Is this the best ever mortgage deal for rst-time buyers?


HSBCs fee-free loan opens the door for borrowers with a small deposit to secure a low rate for seven years. Other lenders could well follow, reports Hilary Osborne

ILLUSTRATION BY WARWICK JOHNSON CADWELL AT EASTWING

M
12A

ortgage brokers are hailing a new loan from HSBC as a cracking deal for struggling rst-time buyers. They hope the loan, which has a small deposit and charges less than 5% interest, could spark a price war among lenders. The deal is priced at 4.89%, xed for seven years, and crucially the bank will oer the rate to buyers with a 10% deposit, and has discarded the 1,000plus fees commonly charged on these sorts of mortgages. The rate substantially undercuts the rst-time buyer deals at most other major lenders. For example, Nationwide is charging rsttime buyers with 10% deposits 5.7%6.5%, while Halifax and Woolwich/ Barclays charge more than 6%. First-time buyers could consider a recent new deal from NatWest, priced similarly although over a shorter xed period. But the advantage of a sevenyear x is that borrowers can lock into todays low rates and wont face a pay-

ment shock if the Bank of England increases rates over the next few years. Until now, most of the price competition in the mortgage market has been for safe borrowers with 40% deposits or more, who can access deals charged at around 2.5%-3.5%. Meanwhile, rst-time buyers have faced a double whammy of interest rates of 6%-plus and demands for deposits of as much as a quarter of the value of the home. Mortgage brokers say the HSBC deal oers aspiring homeowners a lifeline. At 90% this mortgage is a cracking deal, says Stuart Gregory of mortgage broker Lentune Mortgage Consultancy. Look back a couple of years and I had clients wanting to borrow 75% who couldnt get a rate for ve years under 5%. Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, agrees: HSBC has priced keenly so we could see more lenders compete in this space. Last week Halifax said mortgage costs have fallen to their lowest in 15 years, with a typical mortgage on a new property now costing the aver-

age buyer 26% of their take-home pay, compared with 48% at the peak in late 2007 before the credit crunch. But separate gures from Land Registry revealed that the absolute level of house prices remains high, and in the south prices are still rising. They rose 0.8% nationally in July, although the picture varies enormously across the country. In London, prices leaped 2.7% in July alone, hitting an average of 367,785, while in the north-east they fell 2.1% to an average of 98,557. According to the Oce for National Statistics, the average price a rsttime buyer pays for a property is now 173,000. So even a 10% deposit equates to 17,300. On HSBCs new deal the repayments on this, assuming the buyer has the deposit, are 900.26 a month. But can you actually get this deal? And what are the drawbacks? First, xing for seven years will deter some buyers. James Cotton of mortgage broker London & Country says : It is a pretty long period. When people buy their rst property they are not usually buying somewhere they

anticipate being in for the long term they may be single, dont have a family, and may be stretching just to buy a at. To say you will stick to that property for that period may be too much. However, HSBC says it will allow you to take the mortgage with you if you move house, but that will be subject to it approving a loan on the next property you want to buy and to your salary circumstances remaining the same, so dont regard it as a castiron guarantee. Getting out of a seven-year xed deal can be expensive. In HSBCs case, it will charge a percentage of the loan, decreasing each year. On a mortgage of

To say you will stick to a rst property for seven years may be too much

150,000, it could mean paying almost 6,000 to leave after three years. A spokeswoman for HSBC says the bank recognises that not everyone will want to x for that long. Dierent people want that stability for a dierent amount of time, so we are oering them the same rate over dierent terms, she says. Those terms are two, three and ve years, and are also feefree to homebuyers (those remortgaging will pay 599 plus a valuation fee). But the biggest problem for rsttime buyers is the ultra-strict lending criteria imposed by most banks and building societies. The mortgage industry is awash with tales of applicants turned down for the tiniest infringement on their credit record not least by HSBC. In June Money reported on how one couple who applied for an HSBC mortgage were grilled for four hours by the bank, during which every aspect of their spending habits was put under scrutiny. Overall, mortgage approvals slumped to an 18-month low

2 Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

House fears delay parenthood


Property High prices and large deposits mean a long wait to have children. Patrick Collinson reports

Personal eects We want your expert opinion

ne in ve 31 to 44-year-olds who dont have children are delaying starting a family because of the lack of aordable housing, according to a report by Shelter this week. The housing charity found than one in four (26%) of those who decided to wait say they have been doing so for ve years or more. The gures, revealed in a YouGov survey commissioned by Shelter, represent a 63% increase since 2009. High house prices and the large deposits required mean one in three rsttime buyers are over the age of 35. Meanwhile, ma ny are trapped in small rental apartments that are unsuitable for raising a family but rising rents mean few are able to put aside enough cash to save for a deposit on a house. Rents demanded by landlords are hitting record highs, said LSL Property Services, which owns the UKs largest lettings agent network, including Your Move and Reeds Rains. It found that the average rent in July hit a record high of 725 a month in England and

Trapped: As rents and deposits rise Wales. It added that four in 10 landlords expect to increase rents in the coming 12 months by an average of 4.5%, with just one in 100 investors likely to reduce them . It also emerged this week that an inux of foreign investors is driving a revival in Britains buy-to-let market, threatening to push up rents and crowd out rst-time buyers. The Bank

of England said: Foreign investors have branched out of commercial property and begun to invest in London residential lettings. Shelter is now calling on the government to take radical action to stop an entire generation being held back by the desperate shortage of aordable homes. Kay Boycott, director of communications at Shelter, said: Its heartbreaking that so many people are being forced to put their lives on hold in this way. The government has a responsibility to act now to ensure that todays young people, and the generation after, arent denied something as basic as a proper home to raise their children in. Netmums founder Sally Russell added: One of the most basic requirements is to have a family home, yet this is becoming increasingly unattainable for many. Sadly, leaving it too late means they may never be able to have children. For others, it could mean both parents forced to work full time when their baby is tiny just to keep a roof over their heads.

ILLUSTRATION BY BILL BROWN

Best ever mortgage for rst-time buyers?


Continued from front page in July, the Bank of England said, and are running at about half the level of the 1990s and 2000s. HSBC insists it accepts four out of ve applicants, but it admits that the money for its latest deal may dry up in a couple of months. What if you think seven years is too long to x? There is a ve-year mortgage from NatWest, xed at 4.79%, while at three years you can x at the same rate with the Nottingham building society, with a 299 fee. However there are good reasons why it might not be wise to x for such a short period. For a start, any fees you pay for the rst mortgage will have a bigger eect on the overall cost of your loan pay 900 for a two-year deal and you have eectively paid 37.50 a month for it; pay the same fee on a ve-year deal and you have eectively paid 15 a month. Also, you should consider what you think will happen to mortgage rates over the next few years. Gregory believes they could rise. My own view is that it would be wise to x for longer than two years my concern is that even if the base rate doesnt rise, if the market does pick up then lenders may start to tweak rates upwards because they do not need to work so hard to attract business. If you agree, a seven-year x might look quite attractive.

Im thinking of buying a classic car an old MG, Morgan, or maybe something from the 1970s. Ideally it will be cheap to repair and insure, with no car tax. Any advice on models that work nancially? Or do they all turn into money pits?
Yes, go for it. I suggest an MGB GT with a full width sunroof. Bodywork condition is everything, so look for a car which has had a documented body rebuild or a new body shell. A pre1974 car will have chrome bumpers, be free of road tax, and have a very low insurance premium for limited miles with an agreed value. You can modernise some parts of the car with such things as electronic ignition, which will reduce maintenance and parts costs. There are numerous suppliers of MG parts, and prices compare well with modern cars. You can then join the MG Car Club, based in Abingdon, and receive a glossy monthly magazine, friendship, advice and access to a huge number of events. Paul Goodman Poynton, Cheshire Most people with a classic car have a grasp of the way it functions and do some repairs themselves. With even quite basic skills and a Haynes manual, you can do major repairs if required. If you want a vehicle to use rather than restore, buy the best you can aord. Previous owners who have spent a lot of money on the car can never recoup the cost when they sell. MGBs and Midgets are good classics as most new parts are available. Morris Minors are also well served with spares. Whatever you choose, join an owners club where you will nd other members a mine of useful advice, and the clubs are often a good place to nd decent cars for sale. Peter Dumenil Bakewell, Derbyshire Invariably, they do turn into money pits. Spare parts will be hard to come by, meaning you will need specialist knowledge to keep them running. If youre buying a classic car you really shouldnt be thinking nancially. Use your heart and buy whatever you like most. Classic cars are hobbies, not investments. CanWeAllJustGetAlong at guardian. co.uk/money What is it you wish to get out of owning a sports car? If it is simply the feeling of bowling along country lanes with the wind in your hair, you might be as well o with a convertible version of a hatchback a VW Golf, mks 1-3 would serve very well. But if you want a sports car for the pleasure of turning heads then while there are many choices the cars to consider are the Austin-Healey Sprite, the (very similar) MG Midget, the Triumph Spitre or the MGB. These are all very simple mechanically and, as long as the body shell and subframe are all right, shouldnt be expensive to run. Having decided the way to go, you need to buy Classic and Sports Car magazine or one of the many specialist car magazines to get an idea of what dierent cars cost. Then nd out about the owners/enthusiasts clubs and visit their meetings to talk to owners. Bruce Purvis Winchester, Hants, who wins this weeks 25 National Book Token I bought a 1971 MGB ve years ago and have never regretted it. No road tax and cheap insurance (less than 200pa). There is a very adequate supply of reasonably priced spare parts and maintenance can be cheap if you are prepared for a bit of DIY at least you can get at the mechanics, unlike in modern cars. The only really major cost Ive had has been bodywork. Stan Zetie Streetly, West Midlands A classic car is a 2,000-mile-a-year show pony that just eats money. Unless youve paid all your debt o and are well on the way to a 500k pension pot, you cant aord it. ManchesterO at guardian.co.uk/money Using a classic car on a daily basis will merely accelerate its passage to car heaven with increasing repair bills. If money is not a major issue I personally would opt for a Series 1/2 SWB Land Rover, Mk III Jaguar or a nice Mercedes Convertible. On the other hand, just go out and buy a Brompton folding bike now that is a classic! ChrisBlue1963 at guardian.co.uk/money Classic cars dont have to be money pits. They can turn a nice prot if you are careful. Keep the miles down, store it sympathetically, use classic car insurance and choose a model any garage can x. Id go for a classic sixties Mini. These have appreciated in value enormously over the years ShanHandy at guardian.co.uk/money The resale value of classic cars is aected by fashion. They pick up when the economy does as people are being paid large bonuses and have no idea what to do with them. So about every 10-12 years. fabcat21 at guardian.co.uk/money For more ideas go to www.guardian. co.uk/money then click on Blogs and Personal Eects

Money on the web For all the latest on mortgages, property prices and more guardian. co.uk/ money

Any answers?

Our 22-year-old son is about to move back in with us after three years at university. Hes got a job (paying 13,000). How much rent should we charge (100 a month?/ 200?). What tasks should we get him to do? Id also like him to put aside 250 a month in savings is that reasonable?

Reply Email your suggestions to personal.eects@guardian.co.uk or write to us at Personal Eects, Money, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Theres a 25 National Book Token for the best answer. And do you have a problem readers could solve? Let us know.

Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

Top 10 tips if youre about to rent


Property More people are tenants than ever before, with a ood of students joined by people in their 30s and 40s. Rupert Jones looks at how to avoid the pitfalls and rip-os
undreds of thousands of students will this month be moving into private rented accommodation for the rst time. Meanwhile, millions of other people, unable to get a foot on the property ladder, also have little choice but to rent sometimes into their 30s or even 40s. Disputes between letting agents, tenants and landlords are rife, so what can you do to make the whole process as stress-free as possible?

440 bill for a mystery clean-up


When Vaughan George moved out of his rented Nottingham home, he imagined it would be straightforward, writes Penny Anderson. However, after he and his partner had gone, the agents inspection was completed. To his horror, the agent said the property needed professional cleaning (despite the carpet being marked as fair on arrival and departure.) The rm deducted 440 almost half his deposit for cleaning and gardening. However, George, 62, knows the owner of the cleaning company the agent claims to have used. And the cleaners denied having cleaned the house. Yes, they had submitted an estimate, but they claimed they often provided quotes for the same letting agent, but were never commissioned to do the work. George suspected this was fraud, so he called the police. But they suggested he and the letting agent should sort this out between them. He knows the sum involved isnt that large, but, as he says: Im lucky I had enough money put by for another deposit, but what about those who suer from deductions? Its wrong. His next port of call (apart from his local trading standards) is his deposit protection scheme, which provides arbitration if there is a dispute. But George would still like his day in court. He is waiting for the agent concerned to either admit it wrongly charged him for work that was not done, or maintain they did the work so he can take further legal action. George is now awaiting the decision of the Deposit Protection Service, to come after the letting agent has submitted its side of the story. The lesson from all this is be on your guard. Take good quality photographs of the state of the property on leaving. Above all, if you do not agree with deductions, contest them, as the process is not complicated. However, George says: I would like to see some prosecutions, if only to help other victims and deter agents from trying similar scams. Penny Anderson is a writer and artist. She blogs at rentergirl. blogspot.com

Fight the fees


Anyone can set themselves up as a letting agent, and most of us have heard horror stories about tenants suering at the hands of dodgy or incompetent agents, and being hit with demands for exorbitant fees for spurious services. The good news for those renting in Scotland is that last weekend the government banned letting agents and landlords from charging any tenant fees. Ministers said the law would be claried so that all charges to tenants, other than rent and a refundable deposit, will be deemed illegal. But there is no sign of this being extended to the rest of the UK, so many will continue to be charged for things such as checking references, credit checks, providing an inventory, handing over keys, phone calls and postage. Also watch out for tenancy renewal fees and late payment fees. Earlier this year Shelters Welsh arm said some agents were charging new tenants up to 600 in administration fees. Always get clear information about a letting agents fees. Use one that is a member of a body or scheme such as the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (arla.co.uk), the National Approved Letting Scheme (nalscheme. co.uk) or the National Association of Estate Agents (naea.co.uk). You will almost certainly be asked to hand over a deposit (usually a months rent sometimes more) and the rst months rent in advance. Dont pay a fee to register with an agency or for a list of properties - its a criminal offence to charge for those.

No let up after nding a property, negotiating the letting agreement can be a mineeld of small print and dodgy fees

itsscotland.com), mydeposits Scotland (mydepositsscotland.co.uk) and the Letting Protection Service Scotland (lettingprotectionscotland.com). Each oers a dispute resolution service which landlords and tenants can use to sort out disagreements.

Help from mum and dad?


The landlord may ask students to provide a guarantor usually mum or dad who will cover costs if the rent isnt paid or the house is trashed. The crucial thing for parents to know is that if its a joint tenancy, with a single agreement, any guarantor will also be jointly liable for overdue rent or damage caused by the other tenants. On his LettingFocus.com website, aimed at landlords, property expert David Lawrenson explains that many parents may not realise this. It means that while they are comfortable with covering Toby or Amelias share, they are not happy to cover Toby or Amelias friends [But] if the carpet that was ruined was in Tobys druggie housemates room, you [the landlord] still have every right to pursue Tobys parents. And you may want to do this if the chances of recovery are better from Tobys parents. Parents can try to limit their liability by writing it into their guarantor agreement.

Dont ignore the small print


Make sure youre clear about what kind of tenancy agreement youre signing. If all the people living in the property sign one agreement with the landlord when you move in, thats a joint tenancy. If each of you signs a separate one, you have separate tenancies. Check the agreement includes all the relevant information, such as what the rent covers (does it include bills?), whether you can leave before the end of the tenancy and how much notice you have to give, and any rules on things like pets, guests and smoking. If you have a joint tenancy, all the tenants have the same rights. You are all equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping to the terms of your agreement, says Shelter. Your landlord may be entitled to keep the deposit if there is any rent owing or damage to the property at the end of the tenancy even if its not your fault.

exempt from paying council tax. Watch out for any funny business with utility bills. Last month, research from comparison website uSwitch. com showed that some landlords and letting agents are breaking the law by issuing contracts preventing tenants from switching energy supplier to get a cheaper deal. A rental contract can stipulate that tenants ask a landlord before switching energy supplier, but it cant refuse permission to switch. Some letting agents have struck deals with energy companies such as Utility Warehouse, where the agent is paid commission if tenants use the rms services. As a tenant, would you be happy knowing the letting agent was pocketing commission generated from your phone or electricity bills?

one person doesnt pay and its a joint tenancy, you have joint liability and will have to cover their share and then try to get it back from them. Meanwhile, if its your name on the gas or electricity bill and the others wont pay, you will usually have to pay it and then pursue them for the money.

Keep good records


This could be vital if theres a dispute when you eventually come to move out. Useful items might include photos taken when you moved in (ideally, dated and labelled), receipts for any items youve replaced, correspondence about repairs and copies of bills.

When its time to leave


At the end of the tenancy you should get your deposit back within 10 days if you and your landlord agree the amount, says Citizens Advice. Your landlord cant keep your deposit because of general wear and tear, adds Shelter. For example, if the carpet gets a bit worn out, its probably wear and tear, but if you burn a hole in it, its damage. It says tenancy agreements often state that things such as carpets and curtains must be cleaned to a professional standard before you go, but this does not mean they have to be as clean or cleaner than when you moved in.

Safety, security and insurance


If youre renting a big place with several other people, check whether the landlord has, or needs, a house in multiple occupation (HMO) licence for the property. Landlords of HMOs have extra legal responsibilities covering things such as re safety. Your landlord must register their HMO with the council if it has ve or more unrelated people sharing and is at least three storeys high. Make sure all gas appliances have been checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer. Landlords have a legal duty to have all gas appliances in their properties inspected every year. And t at least one smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector if theyre not already installed. If youre a student, your parents may agree to include your possessions on their home contents insurance where this is allowed. Check the wording. If you arent covered by your parents policy and need insurance, shop around. There are student-specic policies but they can be poor value.

Fighting back: Vaughan George

Make sure the inventory is accurate


The inventory is a list of everything thats provided with the property , including furniture, carpets, curtains, appliances, crockery and cutlery. It should also record the condition everything is in for example, existing damage or wear, such as an old stain on the carpet. Always make sure you are provided with an inventory ask for one if necessary. If youre not given one, write one up yourself, get it signed by an independent witness and send a copy to the landlord. Shelter has a sample inventory form on its website that people can download.

Check how your deposit will be protected


Since 2007, private landlords and letting agents in England and Wales have had to use a governmentapproved tenancy deposit protection scheme to safeguard peoples cash. A similar system began operating in Scotland in July, and fully takes eect on 13 November. Your landlord should protect your deposit in one of the schemes within 30 days of the start of your tenancy, and must give you details of which one they are using. In England and Wales, the three schemes are the Deposit Protection Service (depositprotection. com), mydeposits (mydeposits.co.uk) and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (thedisputeservice.co.uk). In Scotland they are SafeDeposits Scotland (safedepos-

Money on the web Follow us throughout the week twitter.com/ guardian money

Housemate troubles
If things get really bad, can you force someone to leave? Citizens Advice says that if youre all joint tenants, you usually have equal rights to remain in the property and one of you cant be forced to move out. In a atshare, you usually all share responsibility for the rent, it adds. If

Remember the bills


Dont forget to factor in costs on top of the rent, such as utility bills, TV licence and internet access costs. Remember that full-time students are usually

4 Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

On reection Patrick Collinson


Editor, Money

Your shout Letters


Cost v conscience: the electric cars debate
I am going to gag (throws up in corner) but I am with (Jeremy) Clarkson on this. (Is the time right for you to plug into an electric car? 25 August). Trouble is Jezza is correct: its the batteries, all those heavy metals, which have to be shipped halfway across the world, which if you do the cost-benet analysis, is more damaging to the environment than a well-engineered, ecient petrol engine. There, I said it now Im going to lie down in a darkened room MadMonty at guardian.co.uk/money Although the Ampera is 10,000 more than a Ford Mondeo, as you say, its still less money than one of the new BMW Minis parked outside the dealer here in Bournemouth. But perhaps the debate over how a Mini gets to be 31,000 is one for another article. Corozin at guardian.co.uk/money Super-green? If only that were true There are a number of problems with electric cars at the moment, some of which initial purchase cost, battery life, charging infrastructure you touched on. However, the total costs have been overlooked in your analysis, as have the environmental costs of mining raw materials for the batteries, replacing and disposing of them. Then theres electricity. The UKs electricity generation industry is not exactly the greenest in the world and the environmental cost of charging an electric car from the juice generated by a coal-red power station is arguably more harmful, from a CO2 emissions perspective, than running one of the latest generation of ecient diesel cars. Both the Ampera and Mini E are rewarding to drive and will assuage any fears motorists may have that electric cars are by their very nature inferior to those powered by internal combustion engines. But the true costs are hidden from all but those who do their sums and look at a cars whole-life costs in detail. CraigThomas101 at guardian.co.uk/money If you drive 20,000 miles a year you may recover the additional cost of the electric car after ve years. The warranty on the battery is only 100,000 miles, so youve just covered the initial additional outlay, now you have to fork out 10,000 on new batteries. It doesnt make nancial sense, even if you drive 20,000 miles a year and have charging points available. And it certainly isnt green. I wish the government would invest heavily in public transport instead of subsidising rich peoples smug-symbols. Hamptonfancher at guardian.co.uk/money I take it the council charging points are funded by council tax? This hardly seems fair given council tax already disproportionately penalises the poor and this subsidy will be used by people who happen to have 30,000 lying around. JB10294 at guardian.co.uk/money Of course, we need to invest in public transport but some of us are never going to have any alternative to a car (in our case two cars). We live 35 miles outside the city. Theres a train but it takes longer than driving and costs double what my fuel does. My wife works in a hospital in a rural area in a dierent direction, which would take her three times as long by public transport and three times the cost. That gap is never going to be closed. Fuel costs are a massive problem for people in rural areas. One month we spent 550 on diesel for our very frugal cars. We had high hopes for the Ampera, but the purchase cost is a joke. RitchiePK at guardian.co.uk/money There is a huge amount of research going into batteries and much is very promising. In the next 10 years we can expect to see batteries with signicantly greater capacity, lower weight and lower cost. The current generation of electric cars are not realistic consumer products, and if the manufacturers are honest are not intended to be. It is important for the manufacturers to learn about producing and supporting these vehicles in volume under real conditions before they go mainstream. You cannot establish reliable products based Why would anyone assume they could show anything but the same prices? A few might have small hotels not on other sites, but basically they are all doing the same numbers churn and any dierence is going to be rounding. Having talked to small-ish hotel owners, the agents charge a hefty commission and they would rather not deal with them, but its the only way they get exposure to a wider market. If you do nd a small hotel you like and want to return, book directly next time. Although the agent sites forbid it, make it known you are booking directly after staying there with an online booking and some owners will give a discount, rst choice of rooms or some other way of showing their appreciation. leadballoon at guardian.co.uk/money

Dodgy letting fees? Ban the lot

ur story this week of Vaughan George, charged at the end of his tenancy a preposterous 440 cleaning fee which wasnt even carried out is sadly indicative of practices that are rife across parts of the unregulated lettings industry. First-time tenants are particularly easy picking for the vultures. Shelter has uncovered numerous cases where tenants are charged hundreds of pounds for credit checks and inventories which only cost the agents a few pounds. We often receive letters from readers asking if the credit check fee (150?), the inventory fee (80?), the insurance fee, the renewal fee, the checking-out fee, the cleaning fee, etc, etc, are legal. The latest wheeze has been to skim money from electricity and gas bills paid by tenants. Many are told that they cant switch to cheaper suppliers because, behind the scenes, the agent has struck a deal with a utility company that pays them commission. Such deals are on the fringes of legality. The other charges? As far as we can see, the law around lettings fees seems to be make them up as you go along and see what you can get away with. But the Scottish government has come up with a simple and elegant solution to the endless disputes over dodgy fees. It has banned the lot of them. In future, letting agents and landlords in Scotland will only be able to charge tenants the rent (and deposit), and can no longer throw in all the

other makey-uppy fees. This has, predictably, led to howls of outrage from the lettings industry. Landlords and agents will have no choice but to put rents up instead, they say. These are the same people who have had no choice but to put up rents over the past few years, despite the fact that the cost of servicing buy-to-let loans has fallen. Do they have no choice but to be greedy? Bed bug infestation, blankets that stink of vomit, covers that get washed once a year its all in a fascinating discussion thread on Reddit, a US social news website which asked hotel employees to reveal their secrets and which has garnered nearly 5,600 responses. The juiciest have been picked out by tnooz.com and many are about how best to save money. Top tip? Ask for discounts. We would regularly take care of guests that just had the nerve to ask, said one. If they are at a lower occupancy, they will jump on this a room for 269 a night can easily be taken down to 150-190 a night with no managers approval. But be nice. There is a ne line between haggling, and being an asshole. Pro tip for hagglers: do not try to haggle a lower rate in front of other guests. If I agree to give you a lower rate in front of 10 other people, Im going to have to give 10 more discounts. Negotiate when nobody else is around. Another oered advice on cancelling. I do this for people all the time. They call and need to cancel after the cut-o time, so I tell them I will change the arrival date, and that they should call back in two or three days and cancel it then. That way, they do not get charged, and I do not get in trouble with the boss. p.collinson@guardian.co.uk

The true costs [of electric cars] are hidden from all but those who do their sums
on a few hundred prototypes being driven by your own engineers: you have to get thousands of them in the hands of the public. So, unless someone is paying you to drive one, leave well alone. Forlornehope at guardian.co.uk/money The battery components of a Li-ion battery are recyclable. Nothing is lost. Im with Renault, the solution is not charging points but a swapable battery. You drive into a service station and a robot takes your low-charge battery and installs a fully charged one. You pay and drive away, like lling up with petrol. muscleguy at guardian.co.uk/money

PPI mis-selling remains in ring line


It seems the only area of growth in the economy is these litigious vermin (Are you a victim of PPI pestering? 25 August). They crawl from under their stones and create misery, forcing everyone to take out insurance against some capricious claim that does not have much, if any, merit. The only people who make any money really are the people running these claims companies. They employ, usually on quite low pay, people to ring you up or text you with what are, at best, dubious claims. I have lost count of the number of times I have got texts telling me I am owed thousands of pounds for mis-sold PPI. I have never had a PPI policy. And then there are the solicitors. What paragons of virtue they are. Have you had an accident that wasnt your fault? Have you ever seen one of these rms oering to sue other solicitors for bad service you have received? Escapee99 at guardian.co.uk/money How can the Guardian justify the heading Are the ambulance-chasing lawyers now spinning out of control? in an article dealing exclusively with claims management companies, which the vast majority of lawyers would love to abolish? thegoodlawyer at guardian.co.uk/money

Hotel bookings benet from a direct approach


You should check the hotels website (Hardly grand hotel savings, 25 August) and book directly if you can, but it is not always cheaper to do it that way. I have just booked a hotel on one of the biggest booking websites for 125 per night: the hotels site would have charged 190. Abertawe at guardian.co.uk/money They are large corporate agents usually oering the same corporate chains.

Getting to the core of laptop computing


If youre only going to be using a laptop for the web, documents and videos then it doesnt matter how many megathingys or giga-wotsits its got. Modern PCs are so fast almost anything with two cores and 2GB RAM will be ne for many people (The best value laptops under 350, 25 August). Things such as the quality of the display, keyboard and trackpad are far more likely to aect the pleasure of using the device. High quality displays and good build quality adds to the cost and this is where many manufacturers chose to save money. Unfortunately, youll have to visit a shop with display models in order to evaluate this. Zippyp at guardian.co.uk/money

Daft deal of the week

Thanks to Damian Morgan, who spotted this not-so-delicious deal in the Co-op in Heaton Moor, Stockport. Please send your examples of silly pricing at any retailer to money@guardian.co.uk

Write to Money, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email your.shout@guardian.co.uk

Money on the web Have your say on all the latest consumer aairs issues guardian. co.uk/ money

Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

5
Claim and counterclaim: Gabi Sibleys decision to take her case to the county court forced Orange to call a halt Photograph: Linda Nylind

The future was not bright after Orange put the squeeze on me
Mobile phones Gabi Sibley was hit with a 2,000 bill for calls made after her sim card was stolen. But unlike others, she fought her corner in the courts and won
t was a shock to open the bill from Orange and see they wanted 2,170 from me. I had only just returned from working with the UN in Cambodia and there was no way I could aord to pay it, and indeed no reason why I should pay for the actions of fraudsters. But I calmed down quickly. After all, I had cancelled the contract nine months earlier and thought this obvious mistake would be quickly corrected. But I soon realised it would be anything but simple. Orange persisted in its demands; letters and calls became more aggressive with a debt collection agency pursuing me with veiled threats of prosecution as well as its own bill for 600. But after a 13-month battle I can now celebrate a small victory over Orange (and thank my uncle, a barrister, who guided me through it). The bills have been written o and I hope my experience can be of help to the many others who receive these sorts of demands. In recent years Guardian Money has featured several stories of people who have had their phones stolen abroad and huge bills racked up. My experience was slightly dierent in that I thought my sim card had been deactivated and discarded, when in fact it was found and then used fraudulently. It started in August 2010 when I called Orange to cancel my phone contract after getting the job in Cambodia. My 24-month deal was due to terminate at the end of September 2010, so I took my phone with me to call my family and friends from the airport. On my second day in Cambodia I discarded what I thought was a deactivated Orange sim card and replaced it with a Cambodian sim. I put the Orange sim at the back of a wardrobe. I left Cambodia to travel seven months later, and in moving out of my Cambo-

dian at the sim must have ended up in the bin. Its the only conclusion I can reach as the fraudulent calls started the day after I left Cambodia. Unfortunately, I did not receive any written conrmation from Orange of the cancellation, which I now know is what should happened. The situation was complicated by the fact I was concurrently cancelling a separate iPhone contract with Orange. When speaking to them I reminded them several times that I wanted to cancel the sim as well. Looking back, I now know they should have transferred me to the cancellation department, but because I informed them while discussing the iPhone they only verbally acknowledged it, which I thought would be enough. Back in the UK my attempts to resolve the bill with Orange were rebued. In August 2011 I put my case to the adjudicator scheme CISAS, but it found in Oranges favour due to a lack of evidence that I had actually cancelled my contract. Determined to

Orange says:
We sympathise with the exceptional circumstances of Ms Sibleys situation, and can conrm that we have agreed a settlement with her. When a customer ends a pay monthly contract with us we would advise them to destroy their sim when they have nished with it. This will ensure against any unauthorised use. Its also worth noting that, while we hope to be able to assist customers who have their phone or sim used fraudulently, it remains their responsibility to tell us as soon as it goes missing. Only then can we prevent calls or data used being charged to their account.

ght on, I contacted my local citizens advice bureau, which said my chances of winning in a small claims court were slim and I should consider a repayment plan. So I made an oer to pay a third of the charges, which is what I estimated to be the true cost to Orange of the calls made by the fraudsters. But this was rejected, with Orange insisting I was liable for the whole bill. I was in a quandrary. The threat of the bill would loom over me for a long time, the debt collection agency would keep coming at me, and Orange might even take me to court. The turning point came when I spoke to my uncle. He suggested I make a claim to Lambeth county court for 222, the amount Orange had taken out of my account. This, as we expected, forced Oranges hand. It decided to defend my claim and put in a counterclaim for 2,170. Up to this point I had been receiving letters and phone calls from debt collection agencies, which I felt were aggressive in nature. They then slapped the 600 administrative charge on me. But it was these phone calls and letters that eventually resulted in my success. The debt collection agency, directed

by Orange, continued to send me threats during the CISAS process, and again while we were going through the court proceedings. I alerted Orange to this, stating that it amounted to harassment and was in contempt of court. The debt collection threats then stopped for the duration of the CISAS process, but failed to do so during the court proceedings. Four months later Orange and I were involved in a telephone mediation. Before this I sent Orange an application and witness statement I had prepared for Lambeth county court. It asked the court to strike out Oranges defence and counterclaim, and stated that the harassment by its directed debt collection agency was in contempt of court and perverted the course of justice. We failed to reach an agreement. However,

while I was preparing this application I received an email from Orange saying that although they denied they were liable, they would like to resolve the matter amicably and swiftly. They agreed to withdraw their counterclaim if I would withdraw my claim. I was relieved this was the result I wanted, so I accepted the oer. As Orange had previously stonewalled every attempt I had made to end the matter, I was sure this oer was due to the contempt of court application they knew I was about to make. The whole process lasted 13 months and was a constant uphill struggle. Without the help and encouragement of my uncle this might have been a dierent story. I recognise I was extremely fortunate to have his help and I have since learned the importance of checking my bank statements thoroughly and getting conrmation of contract cancellations in writing. Going up against a giant corporation with huge resources is daunting. However, as the months drew on I grew less and less intimidated as I realised they had more to lose than I did. If I lost, the judge would determine a sensible amount for me to pay back that would be within my means, and would be far less than the 181 a month Orange wanted from me. Neither would I have to pay the extra 600 charges to the debt collection agency, and by going through the courts the amount I owed could not increase, as I was not liable for their costs. I was condent no judge would allow Oranges claim for the full cost of the fraudulent calls, but would only allow it to recover its costs rather than proting from the fraudulent calls. There must be hundreds of similar cases to mine. It is my view that mobile phone providers have a lot to lose by going up against individual consumers in court. My only regret from the whole saga is that Orange have escaped a court judgment against them.

Leeds targets embattled savers with top-paying instant access account


Savings There are still good deals if you look hard, say Rupert Jones and Sylvia Waycot
New research from Moneyfacts this week underlined just how bad things have got for savers in recent years. It shows that in order to earn just 100 interest annually before tax, you would have to have more than 11,000 saved in a typical no-notice account. But there are still some good deals around this week, an instant access account paying 2.65% was launched. Savings rates will be in the spotlight again next week when the Bank of England announces its base rate amid talk about a possible further reduction. Moneyfacts says that last month, the average no-notice savings account oered 0.9% interest, while a typical notice account paid 1.17%. Five years ago the equivalent gures were 4.08% and 4.23%. That means that to get the same 100 return on your savings cash as ve years ago, you would need to put an additional 8,660 into an instant access account, says the data provider. This highlights the heartbreak currently facing pensioners trying to supplement incomes, it adds. There are some accounts paying half-decent rates available if you look hard enough. This week, Leeds building society launched Bonus Access Saver, paying 2.65% gross, which it said was the top paying account available on the high street with instant access. Bonus Access Saver pays a variable 2.05%, boosted by a bonus of 0.6% until 30 September 2013. The minimum investment is 100, with a maximum investment of 20,000 (40,000 for joint accounts). Unlimited withdrawals can be made at any time, while additional payments in can be made while the account is open to new customers. The Leeds this week also launched its Bonus Isa, which has a headline taxfree rate of 3%. It is aimed at those who havent yet used their 2012-13 Isa allowance of 5,640. The accounts interest rate is 1.3%, plus a 1.7% bonus until 30 September 2013, and the minimum investment is 1. During the bonus period, two withdrawals or transfers can be made without notice or loss of interest, and from 1 October 2013 there are no restrictions on withdrawals. However, transfers in of previous years Isa subscriptions are not allowed. Both accounts can be opened online at leedsbuildingsociety.co.uk, in branch or by post. In other savings news, Nationwide building society has reduced the rate and bonus on its MySave Online Plus account to 2.86% monthly (2.9% AER), which includes a 1.36% bonus for 12 months. However, it remains in the top 10 comparable accounts with a bonus, said Moneyfacts. The account can be opened with 1,000-plus. Only one free withdrawal is allowed per year. Meanwhile, Derbyshire building society replaced its NetSaver with a new version paying a lower rate and bonus. Issue 5 pays 2.9% yearly; this includes a 1.9% bonus until 31 January 2014. The account is available to those over 16 with 1,000 or more to hand.

Money on the web Get the lowdown on the latest broadband, landline and mobile phone deals guardian. co.uk/ money

6 Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

Scorched corn in Indiana, as the US suers its worst drought in half a century Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP

Is it ethical to bet on food prices?


Investing As crops wither in the Midwest and Ukraine and the price of staples soars, speculators are rubbing their hands in glee. Patrick Collinson asks if its time to join in
mericas worst drought in half a century, poor harvests in Russia and Ukraine, and Britains washout early summer will all push up the costs of basic staple foods such as bread and pasta, while rising animal feed prices will send the price of meat soaring, experts are warning. Shoppers are already feeling the pinch, according to mySupermarket. co.uk, which compares prices at the major retailers. It said minced beef is up 19% over the past year, while peas, carrots and potatoes are up by 4%-8% though some of this is due to seasonal factors. Overall, global food prices rose by 6% in July, according to the UN. Americas searing summer, which has seen temperatures hit 43C (110F) day after day, has left the once-rich cornelds of the Midwest brown and shrivelled. The worst-hit farmers are reporting corn harvests of just a 10th of the previous year. It is estimated that, in total, 45% of the corn and 35% of the soya bean crop has been destroyed. The impact on family budgets, already hit by a steep rise in train fares and near-record petrol prices, could be severe, with economists nervous it will further delay any economic recovery. But while the crops are withering, speculators are rubbing their hands. At Glencore, the worlds biggest commodities trader, the head of its food trading business said this month that the US drought will be good for Glencore because it will lead to opportunities to exploit soaring prices. The Swiss and Jersey-based dealer in wheat, corn,

Price hikes
2011 Minced beef (500g) Frozen peas (90 0g) Carrots (1kg) Potatoes (2.5kg) 2.36 1.75 80p 1.91 2012 Increase 2.81 1.90 85p 1.99 18.9% 8.6% 7.1% 4.2%

... and fund increases


Soya beans Wheat Cocoa Sugar Coee
Year-to-date rise in price of exchange traded funds Source: mysupermarket.co.uk and ETF Securities

44% 34% 15% -16% -29%

oil and copper, made a prot of $2.3bn (1.5bn) in the rst half of 2012. Its not just big traders that have jumped on the food price bandwagon. Small investors are being encouraged to use exchange traded funds (ETFs) that track the price of individual commodities, and where minimum investments are as low as 2. Trawl the internet and youll nd articles such as How to invest for the global food crisis by Seeking Alpha, which claims it is home to savvy and inquisitive investors. At InvestorDaily, the headline is Food stocks whet investors appetites, while over at Nasdaq its Six agriculture ETFs on a roll. So far this year the ETF for soya beans is up 44%, wheat is ahead 34% and corn is up 25%.

But Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for a ban on institutional speculation in food commodity derivatives and commodity ETFs. The hunger of people must come before the hunger of nancial in stitutions, it says. Make Finance Work, a group of organisations committed to alternative solutions to the global economic crisis, is pressing the European parliament to control food price speculation when it votes next month on proposed reforms to nancial regulation. Its calling for consumers to sign a petition aimed at MEPs on its website, makenancework.org. If done right, it could protect the worlds most vulnerable from the whims of Europes big nancial players, campaigners say. But the MEPs, whose votes are vital, are being heavily lobbied by the nancial industry. We need to tell MEPs to vote to end excessive food speculation, and put the hunger of people before the greed of banks. A German lobby group, Foodwatch, last month claimed success in its campaign against speculation after Commerzbank removed agricultural products from its ETF oering. It is reacting to the debate about a series of studies which show that investment in this type of commodity fund pushes food prices upwards and so contributes to the hunger crisis in many parts of the world, Foodwatch says. Last year, Deutsche Bank also said it would refrain from launching new staples-based exchange traded products this year. But Fidelity Investments, the biggest fund manager, says investors

should be looking at agribusiness stocks, such as fertiliser companies and farm machinery makers, as the solution to the worlds food challenges. In a recent research note Food: from crisis to crisis, Fidelity highlighted World Bank estimates that demand will rise by 50% by 2030. Much of that will be driven by population growth and a big shift in Asian diets to more meat and dairy products. This has a signicant knock-on eect on grain demand as it takes 7 kilos to produce 1 kilo of meat. Fidelity reckons there could be a second green revolution as increased fertiliser usage improves yields in Africa and Asia. It tips fertiliser companies such as Potash Corp, Uralkali and Mosaic as potentially star stocks. Currently, British investors have a number of specialist agricultural funds to choose from including Allianz RCM Global Agricultural Trends, Baring Global Agriculture, Eclectica Agriculture,

It is not just big traders who have jumped on the food price bandwagon

First State Global Agribusiness and Sarasin Agrisar. James Govan, manager of the 132m Baring Global Agriculture fund, says: The things we are investing in are about expanding food supply, such as fertilisers, drought-resistant seed, irrigation equipment and so on. Although volumes are down in America, farm incomes are up because of rising prices, which has sparked an investment boom. Its one reason why Govan is a holder of stocks such as tractor maker John Deere, whose share price has more than doubled over the past three years. But despite the rise in global food prices, the agricultural funds have had surprisingly weak performance. Barings fund is up just 4.6% over the past year, Sarasin 9.7%, First State 6.2% and Allianz 3.6%. Eclecticas fund has fallen 2%. In contrast, the average fund in the UK All Companies sector is up about 16% over the past year. The hot money suggests there will be a fall in agricultural prices rather than a drought-inspired rise. According to ETF Securities, there has been an outow of $622m from agricultural ETFs in the past year, much of it in recent months. Meanwhile, the ETFs which short agricultural prices in other words, they bet on a fall in prices are seeing inows. Says Nick Brooks of ETF Securities: Many investors built up positions in agricultural ETFs a year to 18 months ago, but have been selling this year. A lot of investors view agricultural prices as too high, are selling their long positions, and some are going short.

Trying to puzzle out why gold has lost its shine


The price of this metal has fallen, defying the experts. Patrick Collinson and Jo Austin investigate
Is the great gold rush over? The price of the precious metal has soared over the last decade, jumping from below $300 (189) in 2001 to peak at $1,920 (1,211) in September 2011. But, since then, it has fallen to around $1,660 (1,047) defying predictions and the hopes of speculators that it would continue to hit new peaks during the ongoing nancial turmoil. The fall has puzzled analysts. At the end of 2011, Goldman Sachs predicted another glittering year with a rise towards $2,000 (1,262), averaging around $1,800 (1,135). It said low interest rates, limited appetite for risky assets and constrained supply would keep it shining. Others fretted that quantitative easing could spark a collapse in condence in so-called at money (issuing paper money without the backing of gold reserves). Typical was this analysis, made in mid-2011, by Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics, There is a new type of crisis. Investors are losing condence in governments and paper currencies ... the ight to the safety of gold could easily see the price surge well above $1,950 (1,250). Yet in the nal quarter of 2011 the price fell sharply, with only a brief recovery in early 2012 before it began sliding again. Figures from nancial adviser group Hargreaves Lansdown reveal that seven of the 10 worst-performing funds for small investors in 2012 have been gold, as the value of shares in gold mining companies fell even harder than gold itself. But critics will welcome losses for speculators, given the conditions under which some gold is mined. An investigation by Channel 4s Dispatches in June 2011 revealed that an estimated 90% of gold miners worldwide, many of them children, work for a pittance, using methods that do huge damage both to health and the environment. So why is gold falling in value, will the fall continue, or will it bounce back? In part, the decline of gold is because investors have preferred the dollar as a safe haven during the economic turmoil. Generally, when the dollar is strong, gold is weak. Neil Gregson, manager of JP Morgans 1.6bn Natural Resources fund, says shares in gold mining companies have fallen faster than the price of gold itself. They have been the worst offenders on blowing out capital costs and operating costs, so there has been a substantial margin squeeze, he says. But more important is the behaviour of investors in India, which is the biggest buyer of gold in the world and they have been selling. Says Gregson: The gold price is all about investment demand, not supply. India is important, as they are the biggest individual holders, with probably $1 trillion-worth of gold. But they are very price sensitive and buy less as the price goes up. Investors can choose between buying gold directly through an exchange traded fund, or through a fund that buys shares in gold mines. Many nancial advisers currently favour the funds because they have fallen harder than the gold price. Danny Cox, head of advice at Hargreaves Landsdown, says there is a recognisable breakdown in the relationship between mining shares and physical gold. He believes this is likely to eventually correct itself, so there may be an opportunity to invest in undervalued gold funds, such as JPM Natural Resources and Smith and Williamson Global Gold and Resources. But Charlie Parker, director of Citywire, an online nancial news and advice site, believes any investment in gold should be strictly long term, as a means of providing insulation and protection from an unpredictable economic environment, rather than a mechanism for short-term gains.

Gold prices
Forex Gold Index, $ per ounce 1,900 1,800 1,700 1,600 1,500 Sep 2011 Nov Jan 2012 Mar May Jul

Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

Best buys
Savings
Branch Account
Instant Access (top ve)
Contact Notice or term Minimum deposit () AER (%) Interest paid

Mortgages
Variable tracker rate
Top 5 Overall
Contact Rate% Period Max Fee ()Incentive LTV% 70 250 Remortgages free valuation (max 335). Remortgages in England & Wales free legal fees or remortgages 150 rebate. No HLC Early repayment penalty period 1st 2 yrs: 3% of advance To 31.12.15: 3% of sum repaid None None None

Leeds BS Virgin Money Newcastle BS Bath BS West Brom BS Santander Halifax Cheltenham & Gloucester Lloyds TSB Cheltenham & Gloucester ING Direct Allied Irish Bank (GB) Scottish Widows Bank BM Savings M&S Money Teachers BS Shepshed BS Leeds BS Aldermore Sainsburys Bank

0845 045 4048 0845 154 6303 0845 606 5522 Via branch Via branch 0800 100801 0845 122 1348 0845 602 0022 Via branch 0845 602 0022 0800 376 7799 0845 455 2222 0845 845 0829 0845 602 2828 0808 001 3131 0800 783 2367 01509 822000 0845 045 4048 0845 604 2678 0800 028 5269 krbs.com shawbrook.co.uk 08451 220022 0845 366 6333 shawbrook.co.uk krbs.com 08451 220022 0845 366 6333 0845 604 2678 mmbs.co.uk santander.co.uk 0845 730 1400 nationwide.co.uk 0845 602 0022 0845 122 1348 postoce.co.uk santander.co.uk nationwide.co.uk thederbyshire.co.uk principality.co.uk

Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant Instant None (H) None (B) None (K) None (T) None (K) None (T) None (P) None (P) None (K) None (H) 60 Day (W) 120 Day 60 Day (P) 6 Month (K) 95 Day 60 Day (W) 60 Day (P) 6 Month (K) 120 Day (K) 100 Day None (W) 18 Month Bnd None (W) Instant Instant None None None None None

100 1 1 1,000 1,000 5,000 1 1 1 1,000 1 1 1 1 1 25,000 25,000 1,000 1,000 1 1,000 1,000 1,000 25,000 1,000 1,000 1,000 25,000 1,000 1,000 1 2,000 1,000 25,000 1 1 1 1,000 1,000 1

2.61* 2.60 2.60 2.35* 2.26 2.30* 2.00* 1.90* 1.60* 0.88* 3.00* 2.80* 2.50* 2.40* 2.35* 2.80 2.80 2.75 2.75 2.50 3.35 3.30 3.25 3.23 3.20 3.35 3.25 3.23 3.20 3.14 3.00* 3.00 2.90* 2.02* 2.00* 3.01* 3.00* 2.90* 2.90* 2.85*

Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Mly Yly Yly Yly Mly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Mly Yly Yly Mly Yly Yly

Furness BS Yorkshire BS Nationwide BS HSBC rst direct

0800 220568 0845 120 0874 08000 304048 0800 022 3588 0800 482448

3.09 4.29 2.64 4.99

for 2 years for 5 years for term for term

3.39 to 31.12.15

75 80 60 90

295 Flexible option. No HLC 99 Free valuation. Remortgages free legal fees in Great Britain. No HLC 999 Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC - Free valuation. Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC

Instant Access (top ve high street)

Fixed rate with no tie-in beyond loan term


Top 5 Overall
West Brom BS Hanley Economic BS Leeds BS rst direct Leeds BS 0800 298 0008 01782 255000 0845 045 4049 0800 482448 0845 045 4049 0800 587 6599 0800 022 3588 2.95 to 31.8.14 75 90 75 90 75 999 No HLC
To 31.8.14: 3% of sum repaid valuation (max 240). House 900 Free legal fees (max 250). No HLCpurchase 250 rebate. Remortgages To 30.11.14: 2% of sum repaid free

4.29 to 30.11.14 3.25 to 30.11.15 4.99 4.58 for 5 years to 30.9.22

999 Lenders B+C required. No HLC - Free valuation. Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC 999 No HLC

To 30.11.15: 4/3/2% of sum repaid 1st 5 yrs: 3/2/2/2/2% of advance To 30.9.22: 6/6/5/5/5/5/4/4/3/2% of sum repaid

No Notice Accounts (with bonus)

Top 5 High Street


NatWest Mortgage Services HSBC 3.55 to 31.10.14 4.99 to 30.11.14 3.99 to 30.9.15 75 90 80 75 90 995 Remortgages free valuation. Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC 599 Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC
free 499 Remortgages200valuation. Remortgages free legal fees or remortgages rebate. No HLC To 31.10.14: 3% of sum repaid To 30.11.14: 2/1% of sum repaid To 30.9.15: 3% of sum repaid To 30.11.17: 5/4/3/3/3% of advance To 30.11.17: 5/4/3/2/1% of sum repaid

Woolwich from Barclays 0845 607 1111 Halifax HSBC 0845 727 3747 0800 022 3588

No Notice Accounts (without bonus)

3.99 to 30.11.17 4.99 to 30.11.17

245 Flexible option. No HLC 599 Remortgages free legal fees. No HLC

Remortgages (variable unless stated)


Top 5 Overall
Leeds BS Norwich & Pboro BS Furness BS Leeds BS Hinckley & Rugby BS 0845 045 4049 0845 300 2522 0800 220568 0845 045 4049 0800 774499 3.00D 3.34V 3.29D for 2 years for 2 years for 3 years 75 75 80 75 80 60 60 80 70 70 199 Free valuation (max 335). Free legal fees. No HLC 295 Flexible option. Free valuation. Free legal fees. No HLC
(max 335). - Free valuationfees. No HLC Free legal fees in England & Wales or 150 towards legal 1st 2 yrs: 3/2% of sum repaid 1st 2 yrs: 3% of o/s balance 1st 2 yrs: 3% of advance To 30.11.15: 4/3/2% of sum repaid To 31.8.17: 5/4/3/2/1% of sum repaid 1st 2 yrs: 2/1% of sum repaid To 31.10.14: 3% of sum repaid To 30.9.15: 3% of sum repaid None None

Notice Accounts
krbs Shawbrook Bank krbs Investec Bank plc Shawbrook Bank

3.75F to 30.11.15 4.15F 2.49D to 31.8.17 for 2 years

199 Free valuation (max 335). Free legal fees. No HLC. Lenders B+C required 890 Free valuation. Free legal fees. No HLC 499 Free legal fees. No HLC - Free valuation. Free legal fees. No HLC 499 Free valuation. Free legal fees or 200 rebate. No HLC 99 Free valuation. Free legal fees in Great Britain. No HLC - Free valuation. Free legal fees. No HLC

Top 5 High Street


HSBC 0800 022 3588 NatWest Mortgage 0800 587 6599 Services Woolwich from Barclays 0845 607 1111 Nationwide BS HSBC 08000 304048 0800 022 3588 3.29F to 31.10.14 3.99F 3.59V 3.29V to 30.9.15 for 5 years for term

Monthly Interest
krbs krbs Investec Bank plc Aldermore Melton Mowbray BS Santander Lloyds TSB Nationwide BS Cheltenham & Gloucester Halifax

Monthly Interest (top ve high street)

Key: ASU: accident, sickness and unemployment insurance; B: compulsory lenders b uildings insurance applies; B&C: compulsory lenders buildings & contents insurance apply; D: discounted rate; F: xed rate; FTB: rst time buyer; HLC: high lending charge; HP: house purchase; U: unemployment insurance; V: variable rate. Incentive of free or discounted legal fees may only be available through lenders nominated solicitor. Lenders standard redemption conditions may also apply at any time. All rates and terms subject to change without notice and should be checked before nalising any arrangement. No liability can be accepted for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of, or reliance upon, this information. Readers who are not nancial professionals should seek expert advice. Figures correct as of 30 August 2012 Source: moneyfacts.co.uk

Internet Only Accounts


Post Oce Santander Nationwide BS Derbyshire BS Principality BS

Current accounts
Interest paying
Halifax Lloyds TSB Coventry BS Santander Leeds BS 0845 720 3040 0800 015 4000 0845 766 5522 0800 731 7774 Via branch Instant (A) Instant (C) Instant (A) Instant (D) Instant (E) 1 6.25pm 1 1 1,000 100 1.49 1.09* 1.00 0.05 Mly Mly Mly Mly Yly

Bonds
Fixed Rate Bonds
State Bank of India Halifax State Bank of India FirstSave United Bank UK 0207 454 4315 halifax.co.uk 0207 454 4315 rstsave.co.uk ublukonlinesaver.com 5 Yr Bnd 3 Yr Bnd 3 Yr Bnd 1 Yr Bnd 1 Yr Bnd 1,000 500 1,000 1,000 2,000 4.50 F 3.85 F 3.85 F 3.45 F 3.45 F Yly Yly Yly OM OM

Individual Savings Accounts


Cash Isas
Coventry BS West Brom BS Aldermore Manchester BS Post Oce 08457 665522 westbrom.co.uk 0845 604 2678 0161 923 8015 0800 169 9622 60 Day 60 Day 60 Day (K) Instant None (B) 1 1,000 1,000 1,000 100 3.25* 3.18* 3.15 3.06* 3.01* Yly Yly Yly Yly Yly

Childrens accounts
Childrens Accounts
Halifax Halifax Northern Rock Lloyds TSB Buckinghamshire BS 0845 122 1348 Via branch 0845 600 4466 Via branch 01494 879500 G 5 Yr Bnd Instant Instant 100 Day 10 500 1 1 1,000 6.00 F 4.00 F 3.00 3.00 3.00 OM Yly Yly Qly Yly

National Savings
Accounts & bonds (gross)
Notice () min Deposit Gross Rate(%) Int paid

NS&I Direct Saver Income Bonds Investment

None None None None 5 Year

1 500 20 100 25

1.50 1.46 0.75 2.50 2.50F

Yly Mly Yly Yly OM

Tax-free products
Direct ISA Childrens Bonus Bond - Issue 34

Key All rates are shown as AER unless otherwise stated. *Intro rate for ltd period; A Funding of 1K p.m. req; B Op by post/phone; C Funding of 1K p.m. req. 1.98% paid at 1K, 2.96% at 3K and zero % paid on portion of balance over 5K; D Acct fee of 2 p.m. req. Funding of 500 p.m. req. Zero % paid on portion of balance over 20K; E Min opening balance 100; F Fixed rate; G 1 yr reg sav acct min 10, max 100 p.m. Earlier access on closure only subject to loss; H Op by internet/phone; K Op by internet/phone/post; L Reg salary/pension funding req; OM Interest paid on maturity; P Op by post; S Aged 50+; T Op by phone; W Op by internet. All rates and terms subject to change without notice and should be checked before nalising any arrangement. No liability can be accepted for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of, or reliance upon, this information. Readers who are not nancial professionals should seek expert advice.

Figures correct as of 30 August 2012

Source: moneyfacts.co.uk

Money on the web To nd the best deals on a range of nancial products and services go to: guardian. co.uk/ moneydeals

8 Work Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

DearJeremy
Problems at work? Our agony uncle and you, the readers have the answers
Should I go back to being an engineer or enjoy my retirement?
I am a retired professional engineer, living very comfortably on my pension and voluntary redundancy payment accumulated after 42 years with one company. This former company, now very short of engineers, is unable to find younger engineers and is looking to take on retirees on what are very lucrative short-term contracts. I am struggling to decide whether to become re-employed. I have no need of extra money as I own my own home, can take several holidays each year and be happy that my wife occasionally shops in Waitrose. I enjoy a close involvement with my grandchildren, taking them to school, dance classes, seaside excursions and music festivals. But I like being defined as an engineer working on a complex project rather than a taxi driver, nanny and unpaid maintenance man. Perhaps more significantly I strongly believe that the UKs economy can only recover if we all contribute to the best of our ability which will not be from my gardening. Can you advise me on this dilemma? only dream about. But for 42 years, being an engineer working on projects, working things out, applying your skills, having ideas, being apprehensive about challenges, passing on your expertise to others, earning their respect has been as much a part of you, as a person, as your family has been. And while you may have failed to get the work-family balance right all the time, I bet your wife recognises that your professional career beneted the whole family in more than material ways. Those fortunate enough to experience job satisfaction are usually more rounded, more contented people. So its my belief that you should certainly take on at least one of these short-term contracts (the fact they are lucrative is a pleasant bonus, but it is not why you should go for them). You are not making an irrevocable decision, your family will certainly adjust to your more limited availability and will probably value your continued contributions even more. My one proviso is this: if Im wrong in my assumptions, and if such a decision is going to lead to some denite decline in the standard of life for your wife and your children, then it is not such a simple decision as I have suggested. But it may still be the right one: for all of you. Getting a young person training and providing him with the skills you value so highly will make a far bigger dierence to the trainee and the economy. Gargoyle76 Retirement should be about doing what you choose to do. If you like the engineering side, then look on it as a hobby that happens to also pay you. Its a win-win. jayaess one higher up, and we certainly dont have a union. Im in a foreign country and learning the language so finding a new job isnt easy. What do I do? resolved. But in your case, primarily because of the nature of the company, I fear there is not. I urge you to realise that the pressure you are under and the misery it is causing could have a serious and long-term eect on your health and condence. You must not let it drag on. Your self-assurance is low because you are in a foreign country and working in a language not your own. That is understandable. But your letter shows an admirable grasp of English and I sense an indomitable spirit only temporarily intimidated. I know it wont be easy but youve got to make that jump.

Jeremy says
Small companies run by their owners can be a joy to work for. Communications are swift, problems can be resolved over a coee, nobody has to get agreement from upstairs, people are only too happy to do whatever needs to be done, irrespective of status. All that, of course, depends on just one crucial factor: the nature of the boss/owner. If the boss/owner is seen to be competent, fair minded and approachable, almost everything else falls into place. But when all those benign characteristics are absent, to be replaced by bullying and crass stupidity, then the potential disadvantages of a boss/owner business become starkly apparent. Nobody to appeal to; no union; no HR department; no higher authority: youve nowhere to go. Nowhere, that is, but out. Im always reluctant to advise my readers to cut and run. Theres usually some way to lessen tension, to achieve greater understanding of anothers point of view and make it possible for uncomfortable personal relationships to be

My boss is a nightmare, and a bully, but I cant get anything done


I have been working at the same company for more than a year. At first I thought my boss was just an oddball, but since Christmas he has become a complete bully. He is ridiculously stupid and it is unfair that someone this idiotic should be the boss of anyone, but hey, mummy and daddy left him money and so he has a company. He doesnt listen to what anyone has to say, and blames everyone else but his own bad judgment. On one occasion I had to explain the same thing to him 26 times but he still didnt get it. I dont cry often or get angry, and I care about the job, but I am finding it difficult to cope because he is constantly putting me down. Since Christmas I have had to leave the office at least once a day to calm myself down and not show weakness or show him that his behaviour is affecting me. I can take criticism if it is accurate and worthy, but he gives me grief just for the hell of it and Ive had enough. Since its a very small company, he is the top boss so I cant complain to any-

Readers say
I had a boss like that. He eventually got sacked through incompetence, but not before causing me so much stress I ended up seeking medical help. Its easy to say quit, but it appears to be your only option. Its not worth your health and sanity working with this fool. BigDukeSix Bide your time, keep learning the language and stepping outside every now and then so you dont explode, and continue to make other job applications. If its a case of having to take a position you dont want just to get out of there, then do it then take stock and go from there. ZadigCity For Jeremy Bullmores advice on a work issue, send a brief email to dear.jeremy@guardian.co.uk. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally

Jeremy says
With one proviso, to which I shall return, my advice is go for it. Thousands of retired professionals would love to be faced with this dilemma. You are already, as you freely recognise, hugely fortunate. You have a retirement life that many can

Readers say
You are in a position to get the best of both worlds. Could you go back part-time on the condition that you are training and mentoring someone to be able to be successful in the role in the future? RDUK123

Next week on the website


Read more problems and offer your advice well run the best of it alongside Jeremys in next Saturdays column guardian.co.uk/work

WorkGuardian General
Sefton Jobs
www.sefton.gov.uk/jobs

More jobs at guardianjobs.co.uk Saturday 1 September 2012

Sefton Council Arts & Cultural Services

Business Development and Marketing Manager


Hestercombe, an internationally famous heritage attraction and venue in Somerset, is an ambitious and dynamic organisation looking to expand and develop its prole and inuence.

Manager
Museums & Galleries
Grade K 38,961 39,855

www.hestercombe.com/vacancies

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Manager


32,429 - 40,864 pa (depending on experience) plus benefits 36 hours per week 18 month fixed-term appointment
For further information, please visit our website www.kew.org/aboutus/jobs Closing date: Wednesday 12 September 2012.
Committed to equality through diversity. Selection is on merit alone.

The Manager - Museums & Galleries will be an equal member of the Atkinson programme management team which includes expertise in performing and visual arts, community engagement and marketing. Through interdisciplinary working with the team, you will develop an innovative approach to the creation of high profile, original exhibitions, to the display and appreciation of Seftons own collections and to supporting the work of immerging artists and craft people. Community engagement lies at the heart of every aspect of the programme and the successful candidate will know how to foster productive links between the Atkinson and its host community. This 18m project opens to the public in the Spring of 2013 For details of the Atkinson, an introduction pack, job description and an application form go to www.sefton.gov.uk Sefton Council Arts & Cultural Services, 2nd Floor, Merton House, Stanley Rd, Bootle L20 3JA Closing date for applications is 21st September 2012. Interviews to be held 1st, 2nd and 3rd October in Southport

Sefton is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community

MAKE SURE YOUR NEXT MOVE IS THE RIGHT ONE


Turn ambition into reality with expert advice, guidance and coaching from Personal Career Management. In association with Guardian Jobs. Get in touch for exclusive offers and a free initial meeting. Visit personalcareermanagement.com/guardian Call 0845 68 66 121

10 Money Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

Bachelor&Brignall
Consumer champions Lisa Bachelor and Miles Brignall ght for your rights s
Pinning down Axa on buildings cover
I live in a house that was underpinned in 1990, which is now on the market. Axa, my buildings insurer, is refusing to cover any future owner. I have lost one buyer for this reason. I have written to Axa but have had no reply. Without insurance the house is unsaleable. I am told insurers are obliged to continue cover in these circumstances is this so? JS, Chislehurst, Kent It looks like Axa has done a U-turn on this since we became involved; either that or it needs to work on sta training. Once your prospective buyer dropped out, you are adamant you spoke to two separate people at Axa on two dierent occasions and were told both times that, indeed, your insurance cover could not be oered to a future owner. However, Axa says it not only has no record of being contacted by a potential buyer for your property but that it has a clear stance that it will oer insurance in this situation. It is not actually obliged to continue cover for subsidence but the Association of British Insurers says insurers should do under its voluntary best practice guidelines. These state: Where an insurer has previously agreed to continue cover and the property is subsequently sold, it would be good practice to extend the arrangement to the purchaser, subject to satisfactory information about the new owners, especially their previous claims record and the new owners agreement to continue management of ongoing risks (where appropriate). Axa has now contacted you to conrm that it will extend cover to a new owner. It has provided you with a letter to this eect that you can show to any prospective buyers. Good luck with the house sale. debt as unsecured debt in Scotland can become statute-barred after ve years (six years in England and Wales), meaning it cannot be chased. However, the case is dierent for council tax. Debt advice charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service tells us that council tax is excluded from this ve-year rule again, unlike England and Wales, where it does become statutebarred. In Scotland, councils can pursue the debt for 20 years. The council is entitled to recover any nonpayment if the debt is still due even if it made an error and closed the account before it was settled. Although the amount in this case is small, the CCCS says the council will always want to collect, and there is never any write-o. At least you know the legal position now and should pay the debt as soon as possible. transfer. Santander has apologised for its mistake and has made you an additional goodwill payment of 125. co.uk, operated on behalf of train companies by Atoc, the Association of Train Operating Companies. The idea was that, for the fare you would normally pay for the cheapest tickets that require you to stick to a set train, you would also get a three-hour window to catch a dierent service if you were delayed. The delay could be because the event you were watching overran or simply because you chose to potter around the Olympic Park and get a later service, according to Atoc. You bought two single tickets via this website. One was from York to London on the 8.30am train on Monday 6 August and the other was a return on the 8pm train the same day. With your particular tickets, the looser terms and conditions meant you could have got any direct service from York that day if you changed your mind about your departure time and could have got any train back before 11pm. The galling thing with these tickets is that lots of people, like you, probably paid for exibility they didnt really need. Anyone planning a day at the Games would be likely to have built in a few hours between an event and catching a train anyway. Having said that, we checked the prices of the exact same trains you took in August two months ahead and the cheapest fare we could nd was a 90 return. So, although you managed to nd a cheaper, inexible 70 return fare closer to your departure date, we dont feel you have paid much over the odds. Atoc also says: On the very few occasions where tickets became available that were cheaper than the special Games fares, and where customers contacted us before their journey, we were able to oer them a refund or to book a standard fare and refund the dierence, although these tickets did not oer the extra exibility and peace of mind.

Council wins tax claim despite 10-year delay


BPO Collections have written to me trying to recover some council tax arrears on behalf of Glasgow city council. The amount outstanding is 106.02 and relates to charges for 2002 when I left the property midway through the year. I went to Edinburgh for 18 months but then returned to Glasgow where I have continued to pay council tax via direct debit and have never missed a payment. This letter turned up out of the blue as Glasgow city council appear not to have been able to nd me on their system in the eight or so subsequent years since I returned to Glasgow. BPO tell me that some of the direct debit payments I had set up back then didnt go through. The council cannot conrm the details of the payments because their systems do not go that far back. I am unable to conrm payments with my bank as they only hold records for seven years. Do I have to pay this? MON, Glasgow It is unfortunate that Glasgow city council has taken so long to track you down for this debt as, had it acted sooner, you may have been able to prove you did in fact pay it. However, unfortunately for you, the council has the upper hand regardless. At rst we thought that too much time had passed for it to chase the

Exclusive Olympic fare was no bargain


I had a ticket to the Olympic Games on 6 August. I commute regularly by train and I saw posters, both on the train and at the station, advertising the nationalrailgamestravel.co.uk website, which oered exclusive fares for London 2012 Games ticket holders. The implication from this was that, as a Games ticket holder, I would get a discounted fare down to London. On the website I found that an example fare from York to London was 15 one way. My tickets however, bought on 19 April, cost 90 return, far more than the example given, although I appreciate it often depends on the time of day that you travel. In mid-July I decided to check the East Coast website, to see how much a ticket to London was on the day I was travelling. I was very disappointed to nd that, had I waited, I could have got a return ticket to London for under 70, considerably less than the 90 I paid. As mentioned above I was led to believe that as a Games ticket holder, I would be entitled to a cheap fare to London if I booked in advance, but I now nd that I have been ripped o. I wonder if other people have had a similar experience and whether this website should have been allowed to get away with this? LN, York We can understand why you thought you would get a cheaper train ticket. Exclusive fares does seem to suggest that but, in fact, the fares are exclusive because they include extra exibility that would not normally be allowed under the terms and conditions of travel. Train companies launched these fares for London 2012 more than a year ago for Olympic and Paralympic ticketholders. They are being sold via the website nationalrailgamestravel.

2002 arrears council claims it is owed

106

Isa transfer lost on route to Santander


I opened an Isa account at the end of March 2012 attracted by Santanders widely advertising campaign. In response to the formal request from Santander, my previous Isa provider, NatWest, transferred 20,000 to Santander in mid-April. The 20,000 has still not been allocated to my account by Santander, despite numerous phone calls. No progress is being made and my faith in the British banking system is severely shaken. BB, Aldeburgh, Suolk

restored after four months in transit

20,000

Your money was apparently transferred into a dierent Santander customers account, although the bank was unable to tell you how this happened. All it told us is that it was a clerical error. The good news is that the 20,000 has now been transferred into your account and the interest has been backdated to the day you made the

Contact us
We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@guardian. co.uk or write to Bachelor & Brignall, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number