Property: Home Truths

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What's the damage?

I've been living in rented accommodation for three years, and have just bought a flat. The landlord is refusing to refund my deposit, which was two months' rent. He claims that I have damaged the furniture and carpets, but in my opinion it is just natural wear and tear. Can I force him to return my money?

S Titchmarsh, Leeds

If you did not have an inventory drawn up by somebody independent, such as the letting agency, when you first moved into the property, you may have trouble proving that you have not caused any excessive damage. You should talk to your landlord to try to come to an amicable agreement. If this is not possible then I would suggest that you seek legal advice. Members of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (Arla) are advised to have an inventory list drawn up so that this unfortunate situation can be avoided. If your landlord is a member of Arla, he or she may be able to use its arbitration services, but there is a fee for this.

Deposit required

I would like to move house and have been told by a number of lenders that I cannot get a 100 per cent mortgage, even though I could easily afford the monthly repayments. Could you explain why this is?

G Myers, London

Although the housing market is now seeing steady growth, many people who took out 100 per cent mortgages in the Eighties were financially stung by the market decline of the early Nineties. Therefore, some lenders believe that it may be irresponsible to offer a mortgage for the full value of the property. I am sure you will appreciate that if property values fall you may find yourself in a negative equity situation, which means that you owe more than the market value of the property. Many lenders require a minimum deposit of 5 per cent because it indicates that the borrower is committed to the mortgage by having a level of savings to contribute at the outset.

Neighbours from hell

In April we moved into a house with our newborn baby. What we thought would be a happy start has ended up a living hell, due to our neighbours who are incredibly noisy and generally abusive to us. What can we do?

R Lees, Gloucester

Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon. First, I would suggest that you contact your local council Environmental Health Services department who will be able to advise you on the best way forward. It is likely that you will be asked to keep a record of any times when your neighbours are noisy or abusive. This may be followed up by a visit to your neighbours from a council representative, or a letter may be sent stating that a complaint has been received. If this does not resolve the situation then a sterner letter may be sent, outlining legal action which may be taken. In persistent cases, the council may install noise monitoring equipment so that they can witness the noise and prosecute the offenders through the courts.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

q Send your queries on practical property issues to the following address: Home Truths, Travel & Money, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax: 0171-293 2043; e-mail: