Earplugs no de­fence against noisy neigh­bours; blighted by a new de­vel­op­ment; min­imis­ing the tax pain on a rental; beauty and the barn

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - PROPERTYCL­INIC -


re­cently moved to a ter­race house built in 1960. The party walls are solid brick and pre­vent noise travel very well, ex­cept for a loud whin­ing hum that wakes me early in the morn­ing even when I wear earplugs. It lasts from a few sec­onds to a few min­utes and is like a hairdryer or the sound a tele­vi­sion makes when a sta­tion isn’t trans­mit­ting. It fills the whole house at ran­dom times of the day and is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. My neigh­bours ad­mit that it’s their plumb­ing but have had it in­ves­ti­gated and no one can find the cause. Do you have any ideas?

David Snell writes: The ob­vi­ous first sus­pect must be their boiler. If it hasn’t been re­placed since the 1960s, it is al­most cer­tain to be mak­ing a noise, es­pe­cially if you’re in a hard-wa­ter area. Other sus­pects might be the pipes them­selves or the hot­wa­ter cylin­der. Limescale can build up on the heat ex­chang­ers and ren­der the boiler and cylin­der ex­tremely in­ef­fi­cient as well as noisy. So that’s the key to per­suad­ing your neigh­bours to change things. If you’re hear­ing the noise, they must be hear­ing it twice as badly, but per­haps they’ve be­come used to it; an ap­peal to their pock­ets might do the trick in­stead.

A new gas con­dens­ing boiler and a mod­ern fully in­su­lated hot-wa­ter cylin­der should pay for them­selves through lower fuel bills in about five years, not to men­tion the good it will do for the en­vi­ron­ment. Apart from that there’s very lit­tle you can do. Re­sort­ing to the pub­lic health depart­ment of your lo­cal au­thor­ity must only be a last re­sort as it would make life with your neigh­bours very dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble.

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


QI can’t sell my flat be­cause of a new de­vel­op­ment 30 yards away. Build­ing should have started in Jan­uary 2008 but has been put on hold. It has al­ready de­val­ued my flat and the val­u­a­tion of­fi­cer has just re­duced my coun­cil tax band­ing. He men­tioned a “blight no­tice”. I called my coun­cil, which said it had never dealt with one be­fore and that I would be li­able for its ex­penses. How does such a no­tice work and can the coun­cil re­ally charge me?

David Flem­ing writes: “Plan­ning blight” arises where a prop­erty is ad­versely af­fected by a

Aneigh­bour­ing de­vel­op­ment. Sec­tions 149 to 171 of the Town & Coun­try Plan­ning Act 1990 are de­signed to re­lieve hard­ship by mak­ing it pos­si­ble for peo­ple in your po­si­tion, sub­ject to cer­tain con­di­tions, to serve a blight no­tice on the lo­cal au­thor­ity, re­quir­ing it to buy their home. I am not aware of any pro­vi­sion en­ti­tling the au­thor­ity to charge for its ex­penses. How­ever, it may wish to chal­lenge your right to serve such a no­tice and would do so by serv­ing a coun­ter­notice. The mat­ter would then have to be de­ter­mined by the Lands Tri­bunal, which could or­der you to pay costs if you lose.

This is a com­plex area and I’d ad­vise you to con­sult an ar­chi­tect or a sur­veyor ex­pe­ri­enced in blight is­sues. It may be pos­si­ble to re­cover the costs of the fees if the lo­cal au­thor­ity ac­cepts its li­a­bil­ity to pur­chase your prop­erty or should you suc­ceed in any dis­puted claim be­fore the tri­bunal.

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


QTo cover her ris­ing mort­gage re­pay­ments and liv­ing costs, my daugh­ter has rented the sec­ond bed­room in her flat to a friend on an in­for­mal ba­sis. Is this monthly in­come tax­able and, if so, are there any el­e­ments that can be off­set against tax? Does she have to dis­close the ar­range­ment to her mort­gage provider?

Mag­gie Flem­ing writes: The rent is tax­able. How­ever, there is some­thing called the Renta-Room scheme, in­tro­duced some years ago to en­cour­age peo­ple to do just as your daugh­ter is do­ing. As long as she is charg­ing no more than £4,250 a year, no tax will be due.

If the gross rent is more, she has a choice: ei­ther to be taxed on the ex­cess over that amount, without tak­ing off any ex­penses; or to be taxed on the prof­its (rent less ex­penses) in the nor­mal way for land­lords. Say your daugh­ter is re­ceiv­ing £5,000 from her friend — she could be taxed ei­ther on the £750 ex­cess or on £5,000 less ex­penses. Ob­vi­ously the sec­ond method would be prefer­able if her ex­penses ex­ceeded £4,250.

Claimable ex­penses in­clude a pro­por­tion of mort­gage in­ter­est, in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums, re­pairs, and heat­ing and lighting costs. Ex­actly what pro­por­tion is based on the ex­tent of the prop­erty used by the ten­ant. Your daugh­ter can also claim 10 per cent of rental in­come as a wearand-tear al­lowance. Of course, if the gross rent is be­low £4,250, she does not need to think about ex­penses at all.

Your daugh­ter’s lender does

Aneed to know that there is some­one else in the prop­erty but they’re un­likely to ob­ject, al­though they may in­sist that your daugh­ter and her friend draw up a for­mal agree­ment. She should also ad­vise her in­surer, which may in­crease her pre­mi­ums; if she doesn’t, they could refuse to pay out on a claim.

Mag­gie Flem­ing is di­rec­tor of Isis Fi­nan­cial Plan­ners and a mem­ber of the Char­tered In­sti­tute of Tax­a­tion.


QI’m con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a two-bed­room barn con­ver­sion that won per­mis­sion for full res­i­den­tial use three years ago with no con­di­tions at­tached. When I spoke to plan­ning of­fi­cials about build­ing a third bed­room with en-suite bath­room, they said their pol­icy is to refuse ex­ten­sions for for­mer agri­cul­tural build­ings. Is this a na­tional or a lo­cal pol­icy? Such a re­stric­tion will have a big ef­fect on the prop­erty’s value.

John Win­ter writes: I know of no na­tional pol­icy of re­fus­ing ex­ten­sions to barns al­ready con­verted into dwellings. This is the sort of mat­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties may de­cide for them­selves.

The So­ci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of An­cient Build­ings dis­ap­proves of barns be­ing con­verted into houses. This makes plan­ning of­fi­cers cau­tious about giv­ing con­sent. When they do, the drive is to try to re­tain as much of the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter as pos­si­ble. Barns are of­ten seen as beau­ti­ful arte­facts and it is un­likely that an ex­ten­sion would do any­thing but de­tract from that. I can well un­der­stand your coun­cil’s view.

On the other hand, no pol­icy is set in stone. You are at lib­erty to make an ap­pli­ca­tion for the ex­ten­sion and to ap­peal to the sec­re­tary of state if it is turned down. Your re­jec­tion let­ter will tell you how to go about it.

Barns tend to be larger than houses, so it is un­usual for there to be a need for an ex­ten­sion. Can you not make a third bed­room within the ex­ist­ing build­ing? That way you would do the least dam­age to its char­ac­ter and would prob­a­bly not need plan­ning per­mis­sion at all. Many of life’s prob­lems have a de­sign so­lu­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, if you need three bed­rooms, per­haps this is not the home for you.

John Win­ter runs his own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice.


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