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Tenant distinction

What is the difference between Joint Tenants and Tenants in Common?

B Conley

Chester

When two or more people take out a mortgage together, they can hold the property in one of two ways. Joint tenants: this is the usual form, with the co-owners having a joint share (usually half each) in the property. If one of the parties dies, their share is transferred to the surviving named person. Tenants in common: each party has a share in the property, they do not have to be equal shares. If one party dies, the share goes to their heirs, not to other tenants.

Expert conundrum

I have just found a house that I like and a colleague at work has recommended someone to handle the legal side of buying it. However, the person they have suggested is not a solicitor but is called a licensed conveyancer. What is the difference?

John Page

Liverpool

A solicitor is qualified to deal with a range of legal issues, not just conveyancing, but litigation, contracts, wills and so on. A licensed conveyancer is trained solely to handle conveyancing and other property matters. Both have to be trained and hold a licence issued by a regulatory body. For licensed conveyancers, this is the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (01245 349599).

Repossessions

I am a first-time buyer who works in the building trade. I want to buy a house that may need a lot of work doing and hopefully reap the benefits. A friend suggested I buy a repossessed property. How do I obtain information or a list of such houses locally?

Chris Thompson

Leicester

I suggest you approach your local estate agents, who should have information on any repossessed properties. Another likely source is house auctions, as many lenders now use them if a property has proved difficult to sell.

Legal niceties

I have read a lot in papers recently about commonhold. I own a leasehold flat and want to buy a share of the lease, but I am not sure of the difference between enfranchisement of the lease and commonhold.

Margaret Bellow

Portsmouth

A commonhold is a freehold block or building of at least two separate properties that shares common areas such as lifts, hallways and stairs that need communal management. The idea is to give owners in multi-occupied developments a system for the efficient management of the building as a whole. Commonhold is often confused with leasehold enfranchisement - this is the right of leaseholders to buy out the freehold owner collectively and therefore gain control and management of their freehold block.

Charges query

I think the service charge set by my freeholder is unreasonable. I refused to pay the bill last time, only to have my building society step in and pay. What can I do?

Jane Gower

Newcastle

Most mortgage lenders will pay outstanding charges to protect their security (your property) if you have not, for whatever reason, been able to pay the management fee.

Freeholders have the right to withdraw the lease on your flat if you do not pay the service charge, but the last government introduced legislation to make this more difficult. Be careful, though, if the outstanding amount includes an element of unpaid ground rent, as the new legislation does not cover this.

If you feel that charges are unfair, you now have the right to challenge them before a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and your lender should await the outcome of any hearing before paying any outstanding charges on your behalf. For further information, contact the Leasehold Advisory Service on 0171-493 3116.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

Send your queries on practical property issues to: 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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