Property: Home Truths

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Band aid

Is it possible to find out the council tax band of a property we are hoping to purchase?

J Robb, York

You can either ask the people selling the property if they are willing to show you their last council tax bill or, alternatively, call the local council. If you call the council tax department and give them the address of the property they will be happy to tell you which band it falls into.

What's in a mortgage?

I want to take out a mortgage but am unsure of what to look for. My friends have told me that the only thing that really matters is the interest rate and I should take out the lowest fixed rate available. Is this true, or are there other factors I should consider?

M Jessop, Swindon

Your friends are partly correct as the interest rate charged will directly affect the monthly repayments you have to make. Fixed-rate mortgages are very popular as the interest charged on the mortgage is set for an agreed period.

However, there are other factors that should be considered. First, although there are a number of attractive fixed rates available, I would advise you to find out all about the offer before you decide. Some fixed-rate products are offered on condition that, on expiry of the fixed-rate term, you are tied for a period to the lender's standard variable rate. In some cases this period may extend to a number of years, and if you wish to alter your mortgage arrangements within this time, you may have to pay an early redemption charge.

Some lenders may insist that you take out certain insurance products with them as a condition of the loan, which may prove to be expensive. It is essential, therefore, that you read all the conditions of the offer. I would recommend that you speak to a qualified mortgage adviser who will be able to assess your circumstances and advise you of the best mortgage for you.

Permission to prune

I wish to prune a tree in my garden, but I have been told by neighbours that there is a tree preservation order on my property. Do I need permission to prune the tree? If so, from whom?

P Henderson, Lincoln

The tree preservation order will have been placed by your local planning authority to conserve the trees in your area. The order is to prevent the tree being cut down, uprooted, lopped or damaged in any way. I suggest that you contact your local planning authority, which will be able to advise you of exactly what you can and cannot do under the order.

Previous worth

Will the Land Registry tell me how much a house I am currently thinking of buying was worth when it was last sold?

S Terry, London

At present this is not possible. However, the Land Registry is considering adding "price paid" to the registry and has just issued a consultation paper on this subject. If you want more information regarding the proposals, you can contact HM Land Registry at Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PH.

q 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: