Mea­sures to beat van­dals; a land­lord’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for util­ity bills; and points to con­sider when end­ing a mort­gage early

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - PROPERTYCL­INIC -



keep break­ing into the shed where we keep my chil­dren’s rabbits overnight. We have re­placed our fence with a higher, stur­dier wall — can we put some­thing spiky on top of it? A friend sug­gested car­pet gripper but I am wor­ried that if some­one were to hurt them­selves while tres­pass­ing we might be legally li­able.


David Snell writes: The sad fact is that if you do any­thing that could be con­strued as likely to re­sult in the in­trud­ers com­ing to harm you could be li­able. You do see walls with bro­ken glass embed­ded into a cap­ping of mor­tar and I can re­mem­ber driv­ing past Buck­ing­ham Palace and not­ing the ar­ray of metal spikes. But they have all been there for some time; the present own­ers/oc­cu­piers have done noth­ing them­selves that is cal­cu­lated to bring harm to oth­ers.

So what can you do? I would sug­gest that it would be per­fectly rea­son­able to grow climb­ing roses of a par­tic­u­larly prickly variety up the inside of your wall. An­other choice would be pyra­can­tha, which is ever­green and very spiny with at­trac­tive fo­liage, flow­ers and fruits. Th­ese could be trained up the wall and pos­si­bly backed up by a sec­ond line of berberis, all of which would serve to make en­try as un­com­fort­able as pos­si­ble.

Lastly, and per­haps most likely to be im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful, some flood­lights on a pas­sive in­frared sys­tem, pos­si­bly linked to a buzzer, would cer­tainly put off all but the most de­ter­mined in­trud­ers.

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. QLast

De­cem­ber I wrote to the util­ity com­pany to tell them that my ten­ant was va­cat­ing my prop­erty. I pro­vided a clos­ing me­ter read­ing for the gas and the elec­tric­ity, as well as his for­ward­ing ad­dress for the fi­nal bills. But the com­pany has been chas­ing me for the out­stand­ing amount, to which it has added in­ter­est and penalty charges. I pre­sume my for­mer ten­ant has ei­ther “gone away” or re­turned the bills un­opened. As the land­lord am I li­able and, if so, shouldn’t the util­ity com­pany have warned me that was the case?

David Flem­ing writes: When let­ting prop­erty it is al­ways im­por­tant to en­sure that the util­i­ties are placed in the ten­ant’s name. If you had done this, there would be no ques­tion of you be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the bills. If you failed to do this, I am afraid you are li­able and will have to pay the out­stand­ing amounts. You will al­most cer­tainly be en­ti­tled to re­cover the costs from your ten­ant if you can find him. On a more

Ageneral point, ten­ants leav­ing bad debts of­ten cause prob­lems for land­lords be­cause most credit ref­er­ence agen­cies file data by ad­dress. This means it is quite easy for a par­tic­u­lar prop­erty to be­come “blighted” for credit pur­poses. All you can do if some­thing like this hap­pens is to ex­plain the po­si­tion to any po­ten­tial lenders and ask them to take it into ac­count.

David Flem­ing is head of prop­erty lit­i­ga­tion at William Heath and Co.



sum­mer we took down a rick­ety old shed and some bro­ken old paving slabs, and had a deck­ing ter­race 10ft by 8ft built to re­place it. We live in a se­cluded spot and our only neigh­bours did not ob­ject when I told them what we planned. The builder said we wouldn’t need plan­ning per­mis­sion but some friends have re­cently had the sale of their house de­layed be­cause they had to ob­tain ret­ro­spec­tive per­mis­sion for very sim­i­lar deck­ing. I don’t want to stir up the coun­cil un­nec­es­sar­ily. What should we do?

AJohn Win­ter writes: Build­ing a deck at or near ground level does not re­quire plan­ning per­mis­sion. I can­not ex­plain why your friends had to ob­tain con­sent un­less there were spe­cial cir­cum­stances, such as their house be­ing a listed his­toric build­ing, or their want­ing the ter­race to park a car or a car­a­van. With


some ex­cep­tions, you can lay your gar­den out how you please, with hard and soft sur­faces to suit your taste. If you live in a con­ser­va­tion area you might have needed the coun­cil’s con­sent to de­mol­ish the old build­ing. There are re­stric­tions for homes in an Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, or for prop­er­ties listed by the Sec­re­tary of State as be­ing of spe­cial ar­chi­tec­tural or his­toric in­ter­est.

John Win­ter runs his own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice. QWe

are in the lucky po­si­tion of be­ing able to pay off our mort­gage early. Do we need to en­gage the ser­vices of a so­lic­i­tor or can we deal di­rect with the build­ing so­ci­ety to find out the re­demp­tion amount, ob­tain the deeds and, pre­sum­ably, have the loan de­tails re­moved from the deeds?

Richard Morea writes: The short an­swer is that you can deal with the lender di­rect; there is no need to in­struct a so­lic­i­tor. Be­fore you do so, how­ever, you might want to con­sider some al­ter­na­tives.

It is a for­tu­nate po­si­tion to be in but are you sure that you won’t need the funds in the fu­ture? Re­mem­ber that rais­ing an­other mort­gage will in­cur costs — a lender’s fees for the loan prod­uct and for val­u­a­tion, as well as le­gal ex­penses — which cur­rently could add up to as much as £2,000.

If there is any chance that you will need the funds, why not swap to a mort­gage that off­sets your sav­ings against the bal­ance and only charges in­ter­est on the dif­fer­ence (if any). That way you re­tain ac­cess to your cap­i­tal while min­imis­ing out­go­ings.

Al­ter­na­tively, you could re­duce the mort­gage to the min­i­mum your lender will al­low, which could be less than £100. This could make it eas­ier to bor­row fur­ther funds should you need to, and the lender will pro­vide a safe place to keep the ti­tle deed with­out charg­ing a fee, un­like your so­lic­i­tor or bank.

If the prop­erty is reg­is­tered with the Land Reg­istry, then the “pa­per­work” will be stored on its com­put­ers. How­ever, the deeds may have some his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance and pro­vide an easy ref­er­ence on such things as bound­aries, so it is still a good idea to keep them safe.

If you do re­deem your mort­gage in full, there will be some cost. Most lenders are likely to charge an exit fee, which could be as much as £300. They should no­tify the Land Reg­istry within seven days or so that the charge on your prop­erty has been lifted. How long it takes to be­come of­fi­cial will de­pend on whether they do it elec­tron­i­cally or on pa­per; it could be sev­eral weeks.

Richard Morea is a mort­gage spe­cial­ist at L&C (0800 953 0304;

AOur ex­perts re­gret that they can­not an­swer read­ers’ let­ters per­son­ally. All cor­re­spon­dence should be sent to them at the ad­dress given left. We re­gret that we can­not ac­knowl­edge let­ters. Please keep them brief.

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