PROPERTY: HOME TRUTHS

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Equity release

My wife and I retired over 12 years ago and own our home. We would like to increase our pension income so that we can spend more time overseas. I read a recent article in the press which stated that it was possible to raise funds via an "equity release scheme" through a home income plan. Could you give me further information about this?

K Sherrat, Brighton

An equity release scheme, as the name suggests, allows you to take some of the equity that is tied up in your home to provide extra income in retirement. The funds you receive can be used to buy an annuity, which provides a guaranteed income. By subtracting the interest payments you will make on the equity release mortgage you can calculate the amount of the income that can be used for your enjoyment. The lender is repaid from the equity in your property once your home is sold, often upon death.

Usually you have to be aged 70 or older to benefit from such a scheme, and the older you are when you take out the annuity the higher the rate of income you will receive. Lenders who offer such schemes will be willing to lend you a maximum of around 60 per cent of your property's value. I suggest that you make enquiries with a number of lenders to see how they can help you. You could also seek advice on the schemes available from a fully qualified financial adviser.

Satellite of war

I live in a semi-detached house and the whole building is listed. My next door neighbour has put up a hideous satellite dish. I have asked him if he needed planning permission and he said not. Is this right or can I get him to take it down?

E Brown, Cheshire

Living in a listed building does present certain problems. A senior architect from a local council has told me that, as a general rule, any material change to the character or appearance of a listed building needs council approval.

However, views can differ from region to region on what is and is not appropriate. I suggest that you should contact the architectural department of your local council, which will be able to tell you whether your neighbour would need permission to install a satellite dish on his property.

Fenced in

We have recently been contacted by a solicitor who is acting on behalf of our new next-door neighbours. They claim that they are entitled to move their fence half a metre into our garden as the boundaries are currently not correct. How do we find out if they are right, and should we appoint a solicitor to represent us?

Mr and Mrs McManus, Wigan

I suggest that you obtain a copy of the plan of your property, which should be included in your deeds. If you have a mortgage on your house then you should contact your mortgage lender, which will be able to send you a copy. If the deeds show that the current boundaries are correct and you are unable to resolve the situation straight away, you may want to consider seeking legal advice as to your rights and how you can proceed.

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, 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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