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The Property Doctor.


Q I am considering buying a house with a very large garden, part of which I want to use to build another property to sell. Any problems you can foresee?

A Sometimes people see an opportunity to develop another property on the land of an existing house. This may look a very tempting proposition, but before you spend any money on making offers and expensive planning applications you must check the title to ensure that any covenant on the property does not genuinely prevent the development of another property - regardless of the fact that indemnity insurance may be available. Even if insurance is available it may prove to be very expensive, or alternatively you may be faced with a substantial payment in order to release the covenant, which could cost anything up to 40% of the potential development value of the land. The message is - see a lawyer right at the outset so he can make all the necessary checks.

Q Do I need to worry about whether my wife and I own our house as joint tenants or tenants in common since the Government's change in the Inheritance Tax legislation last October?

A Prior to October 9 each individual spouse could only claim the individual allowance (currently pounds 300,000). This led to many people taking steps to ensure their wills resulted in each spouse maximising their allowances and effectively avoiding any tax charge up to the combined value of their estates of pounds 600,000. Now the unclaimed allowance of a deceased spouse, who had previously left everything to his or her spouse, can be claimed on the death of the second spouse resulting in a total of pounds 600,000 being free of tax. This also applies to civil partnerships, but not unmarried couples. But the catch remains that if the surviving spouse inherits all of the joint estate and he or she needs to go into a care home prior to their death then the whole of the joint estate will be available to pay for accommodation charges which may ultimately leave very little for the children in the way of inheritance. A Tenancy in Common - combined with a suitable Will - may still preserve one half of the joint estate from being swallowed up in accommodation charges.

Q When we last moved house 15 years ago I stored all the property documents away so they would be safe and sound, but I can't for the life of me remember now where I put them. Is this going to cause me problems now we are thinking of selling?

A People should be aware of where their title deeds are because if you don't know how to lay your hands on them when it comes to selling your home then it's going to cost you to get copies of relevant documents you are legally obliged to supply to your buyer.

Obtaining copies of planning permissions and other documents can cost anything up to pounds 20 a time. For some years now lenders have no longer retained title deeds on behalf of borrowers. They either return them to the borrower or they are retained by the solicitors who last acted for you. So if you are going to hide them away in the attic then remember which box you've put them in and mark it clearly. When you come to sell it's the documentation that accompanies the register of title (which is available online) that causes the problems. These documents include details of covenants, planning permissions, building regulation approvals, drainage rights, guarantees for double glazing you've had installed - and you need to keep them in a safe place.

Emyr Pierce is managing partner of Emyr Pierce Solicitors in Cardiff, Western Mail Conveyancer of the Year, specialising in domestic and commercial property. See
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 16, 2008
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