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Stakeholder home

My partner tells me that she has a stake in my house, even though the mortgage and all the papers are registered in my name and I thought I was the sole owner. Is she right?

N Oblenko, Milton Keynes

Even though the house may be registered in your name, so that you are the sole legal owner, your partner may have an equitable interest in it. If she can prove that she is contributing to the running of the home via mortgage payments or even maintenance and household bills, then she may be right. If you are concerned or want further information, you should speak to a solicitor about your individual circumstances.

Conifer conundrum

My neighbour planted fastgrowing conifers at the bottom of his garden a few years ago. At first I was quite pleased; the trees acted as a bit of a barrier and looked nice. However, they are now growing to such a height that my garden hardly ever gets any sunlight. What can I do?

K Kirk, Bournemouth

These are quite likely to be the Leylandii trees which have been making headlines in the papers. They are one of the fastest growing conifers of all, and can grow to 100ft quite quickly. Estimates suggest that up to 60 million have been planted in the UK. Unless you can get your neighbour to agree to prune the trees, I suggest you take legal advice. But beware - a Birmingham man recently won a court case in similar circumstances to those you have outlined. He allegedly spent 17 years and over pounds 100,000 in legal fees in an attempt to get his neighbour's trees lopped.

However, help may soon be at hand: I understand the Government is considering new legislation to combat the problem.

Going it alone

I took out my mortgage four years ago immediately after finishing university. The building society insisted that my father act as guarantor because my annual income did not meet their lending rules. Since then my wages have improved significantly and I am able comfortably to afford all my bills without my parents' financial support. Is it possible to have my father removed from the mortgage? If so, what do I need to do?

J Hughes, Islington

It is possible to have your father's name removed as guarantor for your mortgage. Your lender will normally request up-to-date evidence of your income and financial commitments as they need to confirm you can now afford the mortgage from your own income. If you have been making the payments from an account in your name and on your own income there should be no problem.

If the lender agrees, you will probably be sent two release of guarantor forms which will need to be completed by you and your father. You will need to return both forms, so they can be officially sealed by the lender. One copy will be kept with the deeds to your property and the other will be sent to your father for his records.

You may be charged a fee for this, but this differs from lender to lender: you may wish to enquire about the fees involved before starting the process.

q George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

q 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: