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Byline: ROSS CLARK

Getting sniffy over a home-alone son

I have had problems with my 20-year-old neighbour ever since his parents'marriage broke down and they moved out, leaving him alone in the property. Hemakes a lot of noise and smokes drugs, the smell of which comes through thewalls. I have complained to the police and Environmental Health who say thenoise does not register loudly enough. Where do I stand now I am thinking ofselling?

You will have to disclose your complaints to any potential buyers on theSeller's Property Information Form as part of the conveyancing process. Betterstill is to wait until the situation is resolved before you put the home on themarket. The more evidence you gather on antisocial behaviour, the better: keepa log of all incidents. As for the smells, they may be entering through cracksin the wall or via the void beneath the floorboards if your property has asuspended timber floor. You might be able to stop this by using a sealantbetween the boards, though do be prepared for disappointment as it can bedifficult to locate the exact source of a smell.

The dangers of an insurance swap

Some years ago a friend who had had his house insured with the same company foryears changed to a cheaper company. During the following year, he noticedsubsidence cracks. His new insurer refused to pay, saying the subsidence musthave started before he changed to them. His first insurers also refused to paybecause they had not been notified during the time he was insured with them, sohe had to pay out thousands from his own pocket.I am thinking of changing myinsurance company. How can I avoid the same fate?

Check that the company you are switching to is a member of the Association ofBritish Insurers, which has an agreement whereby your old insurer will continueto cover any subsidence claims for eight weeks after switching. Thereafter,your new insurer should pick up the tab. To make doubly sure, you couldcommission a survey which would provide evidence that no subsidence problem waspresent at the time you switched insurers - though the cost of this might wipeout any savings made on your premium.

I'm caught in a mortgage trap

I recently came off my two-year fixed mortgage rate on to my lender's variablemortgage rate and have been waiting for fixed-rate offers to fall before I signup for a new deal. This has increased my repayments by [pounds sterling]120 a month, and ifthat was not bad enough, the lender has just increased its variable mortgagerate by 0.25 percentage points.

Lenders' variable mortgage rates are not tied to the Bank of England's baserate - unless they are marketed as a 'tracker' rate. What ultimately determinesmortgage rates is the market. For years, the banks have enjoyed access to cheapcredit via the international money markets. But this has dried up in the pastweeks in the 'credit crunch' sparked by the sub-prime lending crisis inAmerica. As a result, the banks now need to attract more savers by offeringthem more interest, and consequently mortgage rates are increasing. …