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.
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.
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.
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.