We hate living in a flies’ graveyard
Send your property problems to: Property Clinic, The Daily Telegraph, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DT email prop[email protected] telegraph.co.uk
Our barn conversion is mainly original stone and brick under a slate roof. We face south-west and have fairly large windows, and Velux windows in the roof.
Each autumn, as it grows colder, we are pestered with flies. They are quite sleepy and appear to come in to die. Initially, we put the annual invasion down to the fact that the complex was once a dairy unit and thought that the problem would disappear. However, it has persisted, and we are at a loss to know what to do. David Snell writes: As the nights lengthen and the weather turns cooler, flies tend to congregate around the warmth emanating from house walls. While most die off, many will seek a place to hibernate. Often that is the loft but, if you are not careful, it might be your living space.
It is important to seal around any windows or doors. It is equally advisable, although far more difficult, to seal up any cracks by which they could gain entry to the loft. You can use a fly-killer, either a spray or a solid block. But do you want your loft to be toxic? Some recommend aromatic herbs such as lavender, mints or camomile as a deterrent.
The dead bodies of those that don’t make it through the winter are the biggest nuisance. A vacuum cleaner will suck them up, along with some of the dormant ones as well, although many of those will bury themselves beneath the insulation.
David Snell is contributing editor to ‘Homebuilding & Renovating’ magazine and author of ‘Building Your Own Home’, available at £25 plus p & p from 0870 155 7222.
My fixed-rate mortgage is coming to an end and I’ll soon be paying the lender’s standard rate. Friends have told me I should remortgage to take advantage of the good deals currently available. But won’t this be time-consuming and complex? I’d like to remortgage for slightly more than the house is worth to fund a new kitchen. Is this possible? James Cotton writes: Following the recent rise in interest rates, lenders’ standard variable rates are typically around 6.75 per cent, whereas the best deals on the market are about 2 per cent lower. For someone with a £100,000 interest-only mortgage, this represents a difference of £2,000 a year.
The process of switching from one mortgage deal to another can sound complex and time-consuming, but it need not be the case. Lenders now offer a whole range of deals suitable for remortgages and many offer incentives that reduce upfront costs, such as valuation and legal fees. The choice is enormous, but the internet is a good place to start looking. If you use a broker, they can recommend the best deal and do all the legwork for you. In some cases, your existing lender will offer you a new deal to make it worth staying with them — find out what they will offer you before shopping around elsewhere.
As a mortgage is secured on your home, borrowing more than its current value will put you in a situation of negative equity, so it is important that you are aware of the risks. There is a growing number of deals available both up to and beyond 100 per cent of the value of a property, but these are usually reserved for home-buyers — specifically those struggling to get a deposit together.
Northern Rock allows you to remortgage for more than the value of your home, via its Together mortgage range. The schemes work by allowing you to borrow up to 95 per cent of the property value as a mortgage, then up to a further 30 per cent as an unsecured loan — all at the same interest rate.
The rates are higher than standard deals (about 6 per cent and upwards) and, if you remortgage away from Northern Rock in the future but retain the unsecured loan, its interest rate will rise. Depending on how much you want to borrow, you may prefer to concentrate on getting the best deal on a mortgage, then get a separate personal loan to fund the new kitchen.
James Cotton is a mortgage specialist at L & C (0800 373300; www.lcplc.co.uk).
When we built our house, the requirement for the incoming water supply was that it must be laid at a minimum depth of 75cm to avoid freezing in winter and it was subject to inspection by building control.
My father lives in a house, which, like millions of others, has an incoming supply pipe of lead or iron; this is likely to need replacing soon. A water company contractor has proposed to lay a plastic pipe from the road under the drive to the garage door. The new pipe will then run aboveground along the length of the garage floor, through the main wall of the house and continue to the stopcock in the kitchen.
When questioned, my local building control office said it was “a bit of a grey area” as it was not their responsibility, but also that the proposed works made no sense. My father contacted building control in his area, who said it was not their responsibility but they would accept whatever the water company proposed.
While regulations change over the years, what sense can it possibly make to permit replacement water supplies to be laid above ground and over a site where no heating exists? John Winter writes: Whatever the legal position, it seems crazy to me to run a water main above ground. It is likely to freeze solid in the first winter, which will crack the pipe so that it floods when the thaw comes.
Some years ago, during an abnormally cold winter, many cold water pipes froze. The result was that legislation was introduced requiring the new cold water supplies to houses to be buried 75cm deep, as at that depth the ground is rarely frozen in this country. Such a sensible requirement needs little policing and your building inspector is probably right in saying that it is a grey area. Normally pipes are placed 75cm deep as a matter of course, so the building inspector does not need to be involved.
If your water company is really recommending a water supply pipe laid above ground, then they are being irresponsible and your father should not accept it. If he does, he is likely to find himself without water during the cold spell and with a fractured pipe when the cold spell is over. Someone is being silly and should be challenged. In fact they are being so silly that I wonder if there is a misunderstanding somewhere. If your father takes his complaint to the water company and gets nowhere, advise him to contact Water UK (www. water.org.uk, 020 7344 1844).
John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
I am a director of a company of leaseholders which has acquired the right to manage a block of 20 flats situated in a solely residential area. We are now responsible for insuring the property (apart, of course, from the contents of each individual flat).
Since it can be an expensive outlay, can you please say how frequently, in your opinion, it is necessary to have the property professionally revalued for insurance purposes? Is the index-linked figure suggested in the renewal notice from the insurance company sufficiently accurate? Lorna Vestey writes: The Association of British Insurers stresses that the vital thing is to have a good professional rebuilding costs valuation at the outset (note that this is not a market valuation). They advise that, providing you obtain cover from a respectable insurer with an index-linked policy, you should not then need to have the building reassessed unless significant alterations are made to the fabric, for example penthouses built on the roof. Annual increases proposed by the insurer should take into account the building costs index, which covers raw materials, etc.
Confirm with the insurer that this is indeed the case. Were I in your position I think I would get a reassessment every 10 years, just to be sure.
Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue-chip London estate agency.