Home Truths

Fencing match

The fence that separates my garden from next door was recently damaged during a storm and needs to be repaired or even replaced. How do I find out whether the fence is on my side of the garden boundary or my neighbour's?

CH, Lincolnshire

The title deeds to your property will reveal which fences (or any boundaries) you are responsible for. Where these cannot be easily established, it is assumed that they are party boundaries, which means you and your neighbours are jointly liable for the repairs.

I suggest you contact the solicitor who acted on your behalf when you brought your property. Part of their job is to carry out searches and to make enquiries of the vendor's solicitor to discover your maintenance liabilities.

Some buildings insurance policies cover for this type of damage, so check out yours.

Colour bar

I live in a converted property within an "A" listed development of special historical interest. My neighbours say that I can only paint my property in certain colours. Is this true?

SR, Edinburgh

Very probably. The planning laws in Scotland can be very strict, particularly for an "A" listed building. You should check with your local planning authority for details of any restrictions that apply to your property and how strictly they apply.

Mortgage panic

My girlfriend and I are looking to buy our first home but don't know which mortgage package to choose. Can you help?

FE, Hereford & Worcester

Choosing the right mortgage package is often the biggest nightmare for first-time buyers. It is also the area in which a specialist mortgage adviser can be invaluable. Not all lenders offer a full advisory service and you should ask when arranging a mortgage interview about the level of service the lender can provide. Reputable lenders and mortgage brokers have signed up to the Mortgage Code - ask for a copy when you go for your first interview.

The range of options are vast. First, you will need to decide whether you wish to have a repayment mortgage or an interest-only mortgage. With a repayment mortgage you repay the capital you borrowed together with the interest over the term of the mortgage. With an interest-only mortgage your monthly payment to the lender covers just the interest and you repay the capital at the end of the term usually through an endowment policy, a pension or a PEP. The next step is to choose between fixed, capped, discounted, or variable interest rates.

Make sure your adviser explains all the options and that you understand fully the mortgage package recommended, including the fees involved, such as administration, reservation, early redemption charges and any compulsory insurances.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

Send your queries on practical property issues to: Home Truths, `Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2043; e- mail sundayproperty@independent.co.uk. Home Truths is not a substitute for professional advice. Readers are urged to take appropriate legal and tax advice.

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