Measures to beat vandals; a landlord’s responsibility for utility bills; and points to consider when ending a mortgage early
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.
APOINTS OF LAW
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; www.lcplc.co.uk).
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.