We hate liv­ing in a flies’ grave­yard

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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.

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