A case for a few cut­ting re­marks

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POINTS OF LAW

One of our neigh­bours used to cut the grass on his front lawn maybe once a year. This year noth­ing has been done. The grass must be two or three feet high and now in flower. Un­for­tu­nately, I think some of the other neigh­bours suf­fer from hay fever. Am I able to em­ploy some one to cut the grass or even do it my­self?

David Flem­ing writes:

Sadly, not­with­stand­ing that an un­tidy house and un­kempt gar­den can ad­versely af­fect neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties and the oc­cu­piers, a per­son is un­der no gen­eral duty to keep his house tidy or his lawn mown. In those cir­cum­stances, your neigh­bour is not in any breach of any le­gal duty to you. If he were, you might have been en­ti­tled to “abate the nui­sance” by cut­ting the grass your­self or get­ting some­one else to do it. As I do not be­lieve he is in breach of such duty, how­ever, legally you are not en­ti­tled to do this.

If you sim­ply went ahead and cut the grass any­way, the­o­ret­i­cally your neigh­bour could sue you. It is per­haps more likely that any such ac­tion on your part would re­sult in a con­fronta­tion.

I am afraid this is one of the many cases where my only ad­vice can be to try to rea­son with him. It may very well be that he has no par­tic­u­lar ob­jec­tion to his lawn be­ing mown but is sim­ply too idle to cut it him­self. He might wel­come a kind of­fer from you to do this chore on his be­half. David Flem­ing is head of prop­erty lit­i­ga­tion at William Heath & Co.

BRICKS&MOR­TAR

Our house was built in the early 1970s us­ing a variety of bricks of poor stan­dard. The most prom­i­nent at the front of the house are sand-faced Flet­tons. Many are dam­aged and were prob­a­bly a job lot of sec­onds.

I would like to tidy up the ap­pear­ance of the bricks with­out re­sort­ing to a cov­er­ing of ren­der. For ex­am­ple, are there any good- qual­ity brick fas­cias, per­haps ¼in thick, that could be ap­plied/glued over the orig­i­nal bricks and then re-pointed. If so, which com­pany man­u­fac­tures them?

David Snell writes:

In the early 1970s there was lit­tle al­ter­na­tive to build­ing in sand-faced Flet­tons be­cause most of the smaller brick com­pa­nies mak­ing harder stock bricks were in­de­pen­dent and had hor­ri­bly long lead-in times. In ad­di­tion, and per­haps be­cause of the ex­clu­sive­ness this cre­ated, the prices were ex­or­bi­tant.

The trou­ble is that the Flet­tons have not and will not stand the test of time and they will con­tinue to spall. In fact, once they start to go, the whole lot will soon fol­low.

You can clad the brick with brick slips. Most brick man­u­fac­tur­ers make them and quite a few are push­ing sys­tems for their use, to counter the short­age of brick­lay­ers.

Euro­brick Sys­tems (www. euro­brick.co.uk; 0117 971 7117) has a sys­tem that uses styrene and polystyren­e pan­els with pre-formed chan­nels, nom­i­nally 1200mm x 2400mm with 32 tracks or beds. Th­ese are fixed to the wall with ny­lon fas­ten­ers and brick slips, avail­able in 30 dif­fer­ent colours and tex­tures, are then glued into place to sim­u­late nor­mal brick­work.

One huge ad­van­tage is ex­tra weath­er­proof­ing. An­other is ex­tra in­su­la­tion; the 25mm backer panel gives a “U” value of 0.9 and the 50mm achieves 0.49.

A dis­ad­van­tage is the very thick­ness when added to ex­ist­ing homes, par­tic­u­larly around the re­veals, but the sys­tem does have a thin­ner panel that is 17.5mm thick. The other dis­ad­van­tage might be cost, at £100 against £25 per square me­tre for painted ren­der. But once done it is weather-proof and main­te­nance-free. David Snell will be speak­ing at The Lon­don Home­build­ing & Ren­o­vat­ing Show at Ex­CeL from Septem­ber 21-23. See www.home­build­ing­show.co.uk or 0870 906 2002 for de­tails.

MONEYMATTE­RS

Could you please ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion with Cap­i­tal Gains Tax (CGT) for sec­ond homes that are re­quired purely be­cause of the lo­ca­tion of your work? My job is 180 miles from our main res­i­dence and I spend five or six nights a week in the “sec­ond” home.

Rev­enue and Cus­toms doc­u­men­ta­tion im­plies that a prop­erty linked to work may not be li­able, but it will not give an an­swer to a di­rect ques­tion as to whether CGT is to be paid. Are you able to help clar­ify this sit­u­a­tion, please?

Mag­gie Flem­ing writes:

It sounds as though you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The re­liefs that ap­ply to peo­ple who work at a dis­tance from home are in­tended to pre­serve prin­ci­pal private res­i­dence re­lief on their main res­i­dence when they sell it, not to ex­tend that re­lief to the sec­ond home. With­out such pro­vi­sions, they could find them­selves pay­ing tax on the sale of their fam­ily home on the grounds that they were not liv­ing in it for the en­tire pe­riod of own­er­ship.

A per­son can have re­lief on only one prop­erty at any one time. For th­ese pur­poses a mar­ried cou­ple or reg­is­tered civil part­ners are treated as one unit and can have only one prop­erty be­tween them qual­i­fy­ing for the re­lief. It makes no dif­fer­ence that the sec­ond prop­erty is used solely be­cause of the lo­ca­tion of your work­place.

Pro­vided you are in time, you could elect to nom­i­nate your sec­ond home as your main res­i­dence for CGT pur­poses – there can be tax ad­van­tages in nom­i­nat­ing a sec­ond prop­erty for a short pe­riod, as it en­sures that the fi­nal three years of own­er­ship are ex­empt from tax. The elec­tion can be back­dated but the dead­line for mak­ing it is two years af­ter the sec­ond prop­erty to be ac­quired has first been used as a res­i­dence. You could then vary the elec­tion in favour of your main home, if that is the one with the great­est po­ten­tial gain.

This is a com­pli­cated area and you should con­sult a qual­i­fied tax prac­ti­tioner about it. Mag­gie Flem­ing is a di­rec­tor of Isis Fi­nan­cial Plan­ners and a mem­ber of the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Tax­a­tion.

THE MAR­KET

My mother-in-law lives in a pri­vately rented house which is paid for by the lo­cal coun­cil as she is reg­is­tered dis­abled. Though she has lived there for 10 years, her land­lord is not re­li­able at deal­ing with re­pairs and the house is de­grad­ing and be­com­ing more ex­pen­sive for her to live in.

My hus­band and I would like to buy a newer prop­erty for her to live in, some­where cheaper for her to main­tain and bet­ter de­signed to cope with her dis­abil­ity. How­ever, we can­not af­ford to buy the prop­erty and give it to her rent-free. Is there a way that we can pur­chase the prop­erty as a “buy to let” and still gain the rent from the dis­abil­ity al­lowance?

Lorna Vestey writes:

The main ben­e­fits that may be avail­able to the reg­is­tered dis­abled are the Dis­abil­ity Liv­ing Al­lowance, At­ten­dance Al­lowance or In­ca­pac­ity Ben­e­fit. Ad­di­tion­ally, there are Dis­abled Fa­cil­i­ties Grants, which may be given to help adapt a home, and some lo­cal au­thor­i­ties give Re­lo­ca­tion Grants to help to­wards the cost of mov­ing house if your home is not suit­able for adap­ta­tion.

How­ever, none of th­ese ac­tu­ally pays the rent. Your mother-in-law must there­fore be re­ceiv­ing Hous­ing Ben­e­fit or Lo­cal Hous­ing Al­lowance, which is not de­pen­dent on dis­abil­ity but on low in­come and sav­ings.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties do have pow­ers to in­ter­vene and re­quire a private land­lord to un­der­take im­prove­ments if the prop­erty is be­ing al­lowed to de­gen­er­ate to the ex­tent of be­ing un­fit, and grants or spe­cial loans may be avail­able to the land­lord if he can­not af­ford to do the nec­es­sary works.

There are na­tional rules on pay­ment of rent by a lo­cal author­ity when the land­lord is a rel­a­tive of the ten­ant. As­sum­ing the ten­ant is el­i­gi­ble, the rent can be paid pro­vid­ing that: (1) the land­lord is not res­i­dent in the prop­erty con­cerned; (2) the rent charged is re­al­is­tic; (3) a for­mal rent agree­ment is in place; and (4) the prop­erty is not owned in the ten­ant’s name. Lorna Vestey is a for­mer part­ner of a blue-chip Lon­don es­tate agency.

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