Property: Househunter/Pirton Grange, Shillington, Beds

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The Independent Online
For anyone who wants to put clear water between themselves and the rest of the world, a house with a moat is for sale in Hertfordshire. Pirton Grange, near Shillington, Bedfordshire, is thought to have its origins in the 15th century, and the smoke blackened roof timbers suggest it may once have been a Hall House. It is in need of complete restoration but is unique in that virtually nothing has been altered in the past 100 years. The installation of electricity and a bathroom were the only changes of note. The Hanscombe family let the house in 1878 until 1952, when it was bought by the tenants. It has about two acres of grounds with a gatehouse, old bake house and dairy. It will be sold at auction on 12 July, and is expected to go for well over pounds 200,000. Agents are Jackson-Stops & Staff (0171-589 4536).

For what it's worth

The growth in rented accommodation over the past few years has seen a mushrooming of letting agents, not all of whom are well versed in the complexities of regulations and tenancy agreements. What do you do, for example, if as a landlord your house is trashed by the tenants, or as a tenant your landlord refuses to hand over the deposit at the end of the tenancy? If the agent is a member of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) you can at least use their arbitration service.

At the association's annual conference last week, members were told about new competency tests they will have to undergo by the end of the decade. Malcolm Harrison, of ARLA, said the public wanted to use people with recognised qualifications. "The landlord has to be happy because we are dealing with his prized possession, and tenants must be happy because they need to know if things go wrong in their home they will be put right."

A "green" heating system could be on the cards for someone hesitating over the extra cost of an energy-saving boiler. Anyone installing a condensing boiler before the end of November can claim pounds 100 from the Energy Saving Trust, a non-profit making environmental organisation. Cashback hotline: 0345 023005.

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