HOME TRUTHS

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ENOUGH'S ENOUGH

I have written to my lender twice in the last two months about queries on my mortgage account. But I haven't had a reply from either letter. Is there a service standard for lenders when handling complaints? How do you suggest I get my enquiry dealt with?

Raymond McGruder

Sevenoaks, Kent

The Council of Mortgage lenders (CML) launched the Code of Mortgage Lending Practice in March 1997. This is a voluntary code, followed by lenders when they deal with personal customers in the United Kingdom. It sets standards of good mortgage lending practice which are followed by lenders subscribing to it. The standards of the code are encompassed in 10 key commitments. One of the commitments is that the subscribers to the code promise to "correct errors and handle complaints speedily".

I would advise you to take the following action to ensure your questions are answered:

n Phone them, and speak to someone explaining your problems - If their reply doesn't go far enough, or if they are unable to help, ask to speak to the unit manager. Make sure you take the name and number of everybody you speak to.

n If communications continue to break down, many of the larger lenders will have a Customer Service Line or a head office which you can ring or write to. You will need to give full details, including the names of the people you have spoken or written to so far and a contact number/address for yourself.

n If you are still not satisfied with the way your complaint has been handled, you can use the free service of the Banking or Building Societies Ombudsman Schemes. The Ombudsman will only look into your complaint if your lender has informed you they can do no more and have not been able to solve the problem. You can find out more about the role from the Ombudsman leaflet, which your lender should be able to supply you with. Alternatively, you can write to: The Office of the Banking Ombudsman, 70 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8NB; or alternatively: The Office of the Building Societies Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London, SWIP 4XS.

HOME ALONE

I am splitting up with my boyfriend and we have a joint mortgage, but in my name only. How do I go about doing this and could there by any problems?

P Shaw

Great Yarmouth

It is important that you inform your lender immediately if one party wishes to be taken off the mortgage for whatever reason.

Your lender would not normally object to the transfer of property ownership if you, as the remaining party, can pay the mortgage satisfactorily. Where there is to be a change of borrowers a new assessment of income and commitments must be made to insure that the mortgage repayments can still be maintained.

WHAT'S THE DIAGNOSIS?

I am a doctor, currently moving from one specialist area to another for post training experience. Would I be able to apply for, and get a mortgage?

Jane Underwood

Norwich

Some lenders do consider applicants who are employed on renewable fixed term contracts, providing they demonstrate a track record of permanent or contact based employment in the same area or industry over a reasonable length of time.

To give you an idea, you may be required to supply the following information so the lender can assess your application: the type of work involved; stability of the industry; length of contract remaining,; consistency of salary across contracts.

It is certainly worth approaching a variety of lenders to see how they can help. Lenders are becoming increasingly flexible in an attempt to mirror the different career patterns that are becoming the norm.

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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