Last week, you answered a letter from a couple who are in their sixties and wanted a mortgage in the UK. We are in a similar situation, but with less money. We are going back to the UK soon and will have some pension income, but not very much. Is there a way that we can borrow towards buying a house and for the money to be paid back on our deaths? DF Dubai
Even if you do not have a substantial pension or other income, there are alternative mortgage options available in the UK. These are known as lifetime mortgages. This is where a lender will offer a loan based on your age and the value of the house, rather than based on a multiple of earnings or an ability to repay. The interest on these plans is "rolled up" and capitalised, that is, added to the amount borrowed. I recommend you speak with a UK-based mortgage broker who is familiar with such schemes to discuss the options available and the advantages and disadvantages.
My husband and I have accounts with HSBC, but we have a couple of ongoing problems that have not been resolved even though we have been in touch with them several times. One is to do with our online access. On numerous occasions, we have been issued codes that we try and then never work. At least five times this year, we have tried to access our online account, but have never succeeded. Secondly, we have been charged Dh100 per month for our Status account, but it was confirmed to us in June or July, after filling in a complaint form, that this monthly charge should never have been deducted from our account. From the moment my husband opened the account in May or June 2008, we have been charged. Staff at the HSBC branch in Mall of Emirates confirmed this fee should not have been charged and that it would stop, but we could not have the money refunded. I am sure the online access should be a simple issue to resolve. The matter of refusing to pay a refund when staff have admitted a fee should not have been charged cannot be correct, but I have had no joy in getting the money back. MMDubai
The issue was referred to senior staff at HSBC and after investigating, they have advised: "We have reviewed the issues raised and would like to advise you of the following: our customers opened a Status salary-based account with HSBC in 2008. As per our terms and conditions and tariff of charges, a service charge of Dh100 is applicable on a Status account. The terms and conditions were available on our website for customer review. Accordingly, our customer was charged. Further to our new Advance proposition effective from June 2010, our customers will no longer be charged the above monthly service charge and, accordingly, the customer has not been charged since. The bank will not be in a position to refund the earlier service charges as these charges have been applied correctly. With regards to the customer's issue with internet banking, she has been contacted and has successfully logged on to internet banking. We have contacted MM and she is satisfied with the resolution." I have since been in touch with the reader and she has confirmed that she is happy to have a proper answer and access to online banking.
I want to move out of my apartment and have just given my landlord two months' notice in writing as stated in the tenancy agreement. He has now come back to me and said that's OK, but he will also want a penalty payment of two months' rent as the agreement is not actually up until March next year. Surely the notice is enough and I don't need to pay him even more money. Am I being ripped off here? EB Dubai
I have seen a copy of the tenancy contract, which is fairly standard, and in addition to requesting two months' written notice prior to vacation of the premises, it also states: "If the tenant decides to vacate before expiry of the tenancy contract, he will be liable to pay two months penalty." This means that a penalty is payable in addition to giving notice if the tenant wants to leave before the end of the contract. The penalty is payable upon leaving the property. While there is no legal way around this, I have heard of cases where this penalty charge has been reduced if the tenant finds someone to move into the property straight away so the landlord has no loss of income.
I have been in the UAE for nearly five years, but having recently spoken to someone who understands tax issues better than I do, I have only just realised that I might be due a refund of tax from time spent in the UK before I moved here. Have I left it too late to make a claim? DH Abu Dhabi
According to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC), if you want to make a claim for any tax year there is a time limit within which you must do so. Each tax year ends on April 5 and for any particular tax year you have up to January 31 of the next year, plus a further five years to make a claim. For example, a claim for the tax year ended April 5, 2005, must be made by January 31, 2011. You may have even more time if HMRC is notified of your intention to claim by way of a notice of intent by the relevant date. HMRC will consider a claim received after that date provided it is received soon afterwards, without undue delay.
Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at email@example.com with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.
Letters can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org