Property: Home Truths - Damp digs

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We are two students living in a privately rented house. The house is in very bad condition with windows that don't shut properly and something that looks like rising damp. To top it all, mice appear to have started living under the floorboards.

As you can imagine, this does not create a good atmosphere for studying. We spoke to our landlord who assured us that he would have urgent repairs carried out. However, this was three weeks ago and since then we have heard nothing. Who should we contact for advice?

H Ward and A Pressey, Luton

I would suggest that first of all you contact your landlord again and ask when the repairs will be done. If you are unhappy with the answer you get, I would contact your local Citizens' Advice Bureau or the Student Services Department at your University or College. The Student Services Advisers will be able to explain your rights as tenants and advise the best way to resolve your problems.

Home security

There has been a spate of burglaries in our area recently and we feel that we should improve the security of our house. We have been looking at alarms and exterior lights. Which are the most effective?

R Reeves, Teddington

A burglar alarm system installed by a qualified person is the best equipment to stop a burglar. This can be expensive, but can result in reduced home insurance premiums. Extra locks for doors and windows are always worthwhile and a very good investment.

Exterior lights are something that I believe all homes should have. They are very effective at making a would-be burglar think twice. There are many types of exterior lighting available to suit any home and they are not very expensive. A security light contains a passive infra-red sensor which turns the light on when it detects movement.

I suggest you visit your local DIY store or chat to your local crime prevention officer, who will be able to advise you on the most effective ways to increase the security of your home.

Pet pig

We would like to keep a pig in our garden as a pet. Do we need special permission for this, and if so, from whom?

Mr and Mrs C Asher, Derby

I have been told that keeping a pig as a pet is not as easy as it would appear. First, you will need to make sure that whoever you buy the pig from has a licence from the Ministry of Agriculture. This licence allows the pig to be transported to your home.

Once the pig is at your home you should tell your local council that you have it as a pet. An Animal Welfare Officer may wish to visit you and check that the pig is healthy and that its living conditions are of an acceptable standard.

You should also think about your neighbours' feelings. Pigs can be noisy and, unless their living area is regularly cleaned, quite smelly, and this can cause conflict between you and them.

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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