HOME TRUTHS

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TAKING SIDES

The fence that separates our garden from next door has recently been damaged and is now in need of repair, or possibly even replacement. How can I find out whether the fence is on my side of the garden boundary or my neighbour's, so we can work out who is responsible for it?

Mrs Dow

Falkirk

Garden boundaries are not always defined by fences. They may include a hedge, a ditch, a river or even a road. The title deeds to your property may reveal which boundaries or fences belong to you (normally a plan indicates boundaries by inverted "T" marks). Probably the quickest way of finding out who the fence belongs to would be to contact the solicitor who acted for you when you bought your property. Part of their job is to carry out searches and to make enquiries of the vendor's solicitors to find out what your maintenance liabilities are. Where the boundaries cannot be established easily then they are assumed to be "party" boundaries and you and your neighbour may be jointly liable for the repairs.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim on your buildings insurance policy for the damage to the fence. Although fences are not always covered, it is worth checking your policy.

MINE, ALL MINE

I am about to buy my first home and a friend has told me that I do not necessarily need to use a solicitor to do the work for me. If this is true, how easy would it be?

Alison Rycroft

Battersea, London

It is true that you do not need a solicitor to complete the conveyancing work on your behalf, although most people use one because they are not confident that they could do the job themselves. An alternative to employing a solicitor is to use a licensed conveyancer, who is a fully trained specialist who has passed professional exams. If you want to do your own conveyancing, there is nothing to legally stop you. However, the house-buying process is fraught enough for most people, and you must be sure that you know exactly what you have to do, and what your responsibilities are.

Whether you instruct somebody else, or do the work yourself, the responsibility remains to ensure that the conveyancing is done smoothly. This includes working with the seller's solicitor to prepare the contracts and setting out the terms, price and date of the exchange. Other tasks include conducting searches to discover if there are any impending or planned construction works that could affect your property, such as road widening schemes.

If you do not have a solicitor or licensed conveyancer already, ask your friends and family for recommendations. Alternatively, your mortgage lender may be able to provide you with a list of people operating in your area. You can also obtain further information and lists from either the Law Society (0171-242 1222) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (01245 349599).

See the feature above for information on what can happen when things go wrong.

UNDER THE HAMMER

I have just bought a property at auction, using my own money for the purchase. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I now need to raise a mortgage to reimburse myself. Is this possible?

M Peasley

Bearsden

It is possible to raise a mortgage on a property that has been bought and paid for at auction. However, your mortgage lender will need to be satisfied that the property is suitable as security for the mortgage. They will also need to be happy that you can comfortably meet the repayments. If you do take out the mortgage, and it is completed within six months of the date you purchased at auction, you will also be entitled to tax relief on the loan.

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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