Property: Home Truths

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Freeing house equity

Is there any way I can free some of the equity in my house to pay for my children's school fees?

L Bodley

Norwich

Some mortgage lenders will let you borrow extra funds for "non property related" purposes, including school fees, using the equity in your property. The amount you can borrow, however, will depend on your mortgage lender's guidelines and whether you can afford the increased monthly repayments. Contact your lender who will be able to explain their guidelines. If they can't help, speak to your bank: it may be able to organise a non-secured personal loan.

NHBC protection

I am buying a new house and will be given a National House Building Certificate (NHBC). What protection does this give me?

F Lloyd

Bournemouth

NHBC 10-year notice certificates are issued to new properties and those under 10 years old. The certificate offers protection to anyone buying the property through a warranty and protection scheme. The builder must be registered with the NHBC, which will issue a certificate when the buyer completes the purchase. The certificate means that the builder will put right any major structural defects arising from faulty construction which appear within the first 10 years. However, the certificate does not cover major damage arising from subsidence or heave, which should be covered under your normal buildings policy. A duplicate NHBC 10-Year Notice will be given to your mortgage lender.

Lost property deeds

I am unable to find the deeds to my property. Is it possible to get another set?

N Jones

Wolverhampton

If you have a mortgage, your lender should hold the deeds to your property. However, if you own your property outright and you think you have lost the deeds, then after a thorough search you should contact the Land Registry office for your area. For the telephone number, call the Land Registry headquarters on 0171-917 8888. Assuming your land is registered, you should apply to the appropriate district land registry for an office copy of the register. The next step should be to apply for a new land certificate which will need to be supported by a sworn statutory declaration, which is a statement of facts which are "declared", or "sworn", before a person empowered to take declarations and oaths.

The Land Registry will need to verify that you are the owner of the property, as this acts as protection from the risk of fraud. You will be required to provide a number of items proving your identity, and a solicitor will need to certify in writing that they have inspected an original document proving your identity; a passport, for example. Additional information may also be required.

If you pursue this yourself rather than use a solicitor, you will have to go to the Land Registry office in person to prove your identification. Many people find it easier to instruct a solicitor. However, the Land Registry will give you any guidance you need. There will also be a fee to cover the Land Registry's administration costs, usually pounds 40 but it can be more in complex cases.

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: sundayproperty@ independent.co.uk

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