Questions of Cash: We just wanted a small, short-term home loan – but it's looking like a bridge too far

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Q | Our bank no longer offers bridging loans, so to finance a house move, we agreed to sign an application for a £50,000 mortgage secured on a buy-to-let property we own, with interest-only payments over five years. (We only wanted £40,000 over six to nine months, but we couldn't arrange that.) Our intention was to redeem it after two years – there is no penalty for early redemption before this.

When we read the small print, however, we started to worry; the mortgage is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA]. There is a 14-day cooling-off period, so we can pull out of it – though we have paid a £500 valuation fee. RH, Norfolk

A | Buy-to-let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA, said Ray Boulger at the broker John Charcol, which means that in the event of a complaint, there is no automatic right of recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

He added: "A buy-to-let mortgage will certainly have been cheaper than a bridging loan and so the advice to have one was very sensible. However, it is less clear whether the actual mortgage product was good advice. The reason I am concerned is that the reader only wanted £40,000 and for a maximum of nine months, which suggests a different lender would have been more suitable. Several lenders offer buy-to-let mortgages with no early-repayment charges, and selecting one of these would have avoided a two-year lock-in."

Apart from finding a bank that will lend a small amount for a short time, Mr Boulger added, "the key requirements in selecting the best mortgage should be: a low arrangement fee and preferably a free valuation and free legal fee; no early-repayment charges, allowing complete flexibility on when the mortgage is repaid; and a good interest rate".

But given the stage you are at with your purchase, and the fact that you have now paid the valuation fee, Mr Boulger suggests you proceed with the mortgage.

sky left me up in the air over refund

Q | In September 2014 I took out a one-year Sky broadband package, including line rental, costing £16.40 a month.

In June this year we moved flat within the same terraced house – one floor upstairs. When I contacted Sky, I was told it could not provide the services in the upstairs flat as the "exchange was full"; I would instead have to pay a higher cost, or cancel. I was given 24 hours to decide.

The next day an operator agreed to cancel free of charge, refunding me for half the month during which it could not supply the service I had paid for. But on 13 July, Sky took another £16.40 from my bank account. When I phoned to query this, I was told that £17.49, plus the refund, would be credited to my account within three to five working days. I'm still waiting. HC, by email

A | Sky apologises for what it calls the "confusion" over the timing of the repayment, which has now been made.

key was lost so the car was a write-off

Q | My daughter has had a car written off and junked and had to pay much higher insurance costs – all because she lost the keys.

The car was her partner's and she was a named driver. They had previously bought a spare key, but unfortunately did not have its chip programmed. When the original key was lost, an extensive reprogramming of car and key was needed.

My daughter approached their insurer, Covéa, to see if it would cover the expense. This request went via the broker, the AA. Covéa agreed and sent round a truck to collect the car for the key to be programmed.

My daughter heard nothing for days. When she inquired if the car was ready, she was told it was a write-off because reprogramming would cost more than the value of the car. Her partner would be entitled to a sum equal to its valuation less deductions of about £150.

They asked to have the car back so a local garage could disable the anti-theft system, making their spare key usable. Covéa said it was now written off and uninsured, so could not be driven.

The AA got Covéa to pay £600 and release the car, but it was a mess after being left outside for weeks with a window open. Covéa loaned a courtesy car and then my daughter bought a car, approaching Covéa to insure it; the firm quoted a very high premium. Other insurers offered much lower premiums. GT, Derbyshire

A | Covéa explains that the market value of the vehicle was £425, which was less than the cost of the reprogramming, so it was deemed a write-off.

"Our customer was informed and offered a market-value payment instead of repair, but declined the offer and asked for the vehicle to be returned," said a spokesperson for the company.

"During this process, mistakes were made for which we apologised – and by way of recompense, we increased the settlement valuation to £600, waived the excess of £300 and provided a courtesy car to minimise inconvenience. [The reader's daughter] and her partner accepted this resolution."

Covéa says premiums are quoted on the basis of a variety of factors, using automated electronic systems, which means that quotes vary considerably. It suggests that your daughter's quote was likely to be much higher than that of her partner because his premium benefited from a no-claims bonus.

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