Questions of Cash: Should I be charged extra for mortgage delays?

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The Independent Online

Q. I have had persistent delays with the processing of my Woolwich mortgage. When I spoke to my solicitor, he said he had such problems with the Woolwich that he charges extra for its customers to cover the additional complications.
JO, Huntingdon.

Q. I have had persistent delays with the processing of my Woolwich mortgage. When I spoke to my solicitor, he said he had such problems with the Woolwich that he charges extra for its customers to cover the additional complications.
JO, Huntingdon.

A. Barclays, which owns the Woolwich, apologises for the problems with your mortgage. A Barclays spokesman says: "The Woolwich has been working hard to improve mortgage servicing for its customers and over the past 18 months has seen considerable improvements in the service, with a 39 per cent reduction in end-to-end offer times during 2004, and this has been acknowledged in the market. We are not aware of solicitors charging more for Woolwich mortgage applications; this is something we will look into further."

Q. I have been trying to find a bank account for my 14-year-old daughter that she can administer, making her own deposits and withdrawals through the local Post Office. However, I am finding it very confusing to understand what the banks are offering for children. Can you offer any advice?
BC, by e-mail.

A. Encouraging teenagers to operate their own bank accounts is a good idea. It helps them learn to budget and improves their understanding of some of the principles of personal finance - a theme close to the heart of The Independent, which is campaigning for personal finance to be taught more widely in school. But finding the right bank account for a child is, as you say, difficult.

Banks offer a variety of terms and different cash-withdrawal daily limits. There is really no alternative to comparing the terms offered by various banks to decide which you are happiest with. Several banks, including Barclays, the Co-operative and Lloyds TSB, have arrangements with the Post Office to handle current account transactions.

The daily amount that can be withdrawn from the Co-op Bank's children's accounts increases as the child gets older, with a cash card available from age 11. Up to £50 can be withdrawn per day from a Barclays children's account, which has a cash card. Lloyds TSB also provides a cash card with children's accounts.

Q. Sun Life loaded the burden on its customer to prove that mis-selling had occurred. Your readers should know that at the time of the sale Sun Life issued policies in the name of the Canadian parent company, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. But since de-mutualisation there can be no further call on the Canadian parent's assets, so the UK's 800,000 policyholders have lost out.
TG, by e-mail.

A. Janet Fuller, chief executive of Sun Life Financial of Canada (UK), says that it has 800,000 policies in the UK, but 500,000 UK policyholders, and strongly disputes your interpretation of events.

"When we demutualised, we sent out information on what it meant. We are financially strong and the Financial Services Authority has an ongoing brief to ensure that companies under its jurisdiction can meet their liabilities."

Q. I am concerned at the way that National Savings & Investments (NS&I) issues crossed warrants for payments. These are not cheques, as they are not covered by the Bills of Exchange Act of 1882. How well protected are the public when a crossed warrant is issued?
KT, London.

A. Although crossed warrants are not legally cheques, they are cleared by banks in the same way as a crossed cheque or banker's draft and are as secure a method of payment as a cheque marked "account payee only". Because they are drawn on NS&I, any fraud involving a crossed warrant is committed against NS&I which will, after investigation, reimburse the individual for losses.

Q. On taking up a variable rate loan to top up a fixed-rate mortgage to buy a new home, I was informed that I had to have home insurance under the terms of the second loan as well as continuing with my policy for the first home. Is this really necessary? Surely I would not be able to claim on both policies?
JS, Lancaster.

A. You are correct in suspecting that you have been overcharged. The first insurance policy, which covers the contents in your previous home, should have been cancelled by your lender, HSBC, when the second one was established. HSBC has now cancelled the earlier policy, is refunding your premiums of £250 and sending you a further £50 compensation.

Q. We took out a unit-linked endowment policy with Midland Life in 1992. At present the surrender value of the policy is £29,000, slightly more than we paid in. We think we could get a better return elsewhere, but we can't find anyone to buy the policy to enable us to get a higher price than the surrender value.
DS, by e-mail.

A. While it is often better to sell an endowment policy than to surrender it, this applies to with-profits policies, not unit-linked endowments. There is no demand for the purchase of unit-linked policies. Although your return may seem poor, it is not unusual for this type of policy.

You need to reach your own view on whether the endowment will now benefit from continued stock market growth, or if you are best off bailing out and investing elsewhere. It might also be worth evaluating whether you have grounds for a mis-selling complaint: these policies were often sold rather than bought.

* If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals.

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