Check your budget
Now that you own your home it is important to continue keeping track of your finances
Take a look back at your Budget Planner that you did when you were considering buying your home. Continue to take note of your income each month and all of your major outgoings. These will usually include:
- Mortgage payment each month
- Buildings insurance
- Service charges (if any)
- Life assurance
- Household outgoings such as heating, electricity, telephone or broadband fees.
You should also record spending such as your weekly grocery shopping, going out and other household expenses. This will help you see what you are spending your money on each month. Perhaps there are areas where you could cut back to help you save for anything unexpected. Continue to use the Budget Planner to help you keep track of your finances.
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot pay the important bills, you should seek independent financial advice early on. Click on the links below for more information.
Insuring your home
It is important that you have buildings insurance for your home at all times
Your lender will also require that you have this. You should make sure that you have insurance for the cost to rebuild your home if it were to be destroyed. This is sometimes called the reinstatement value of your home. Your lender may require their name to be noted on the insurance policy and may ask to see a copy of it.
There are other types of insurance you may wish to have in relation to your home such as contents insurance. This covers the items that are in your property. These could be items such as furniture, pictures, clothes etc. If you have high value items in your home you may wish to have these items separately insured.
If your home is an apartment, the management company may arrange building insurance for the entire apartment block. If it does you should get a copy of the insurance policy and make sure your name is noted as a party on it.
If you have to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of common areas, you should make sure that you have your own buildings insurance and that the person or company who looks after the common areas has appropriate insurance (public liability insurance) for the common areas.
Protecting your home
Below are some tips on home safety
Check where the following are located in your home:
- heating fuel shut off
- mains water shut off
- main electrical shutoff and fuse box
When you move into your home it is important to make sure that you have a working smoke alarm. The alarm should be tested every week. Also, you should have and practice a fire escape plan.
When you bought your home, the vendor should have given you a copy of the annual Gas safety certificate in relation to any gas appliances in the home. These could be a gas heating system or a gas cooker for instance. Make sure that the Gas safety certificate covers all appliances. Have all gas appliances checked every year to make sure that they are safe to use.
If your home has gas appliances or a solid fuel or gas heating system you should install a carbon monoxide detector in the home. Check the manufacturer’s instructions as to where to install the detector, how to test it and how to replace it.
It is important to keep your home in good repair and condition. If there is something that needs done make sure that you get a suitably qualified person to do the work.
- Check if the works need planning permission and/or building control approval from your local council. You can find information on your local council website.
- Check if you need the consent of any person or body to do the works. If you have a leasehold property, it may be that you need the approval of the lessor or similar person to carry out the works.
Depending on your circumstances there may be help in the form of grants to do certain works to the property. You should contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for further information.
You could also look at the Energy Performance Certificate for the home. It will give recommendations for works to be carried out to the home which will have a significant effect in reducing energy consumption and hence carbon emissions.
If your home forms part of a management company you will have to pay a service charge. You should also attend the meetings of the management company.
You should look at your mortgage terms from time to time and check if it would be worthwhile to switch to another mortgage product either with the same lender or to move to another lender. A good time to do this is to start looking shortly before you come to the end of a fixed mortgage rate. You can do this by visiting a lender directly or via a financial advisor. You should seek independent financial advice when considering this to see what would suit your circumstances.
Managing difficult circumstances
If you fall behind in your mortgage payments it is important that you take action and do not ignore the situation. There are certain things that you can do and the sooner you do this the better the outcome may be. This is because your lender could bring court proceedings for possession and you risk losing your home.
If you think that you will have trouble meeting your mortgage payments, you should
- Make a budget – work out if you can afford to pay the arrears over a period of time in addition to your monthly installments.
- Check entitlement to benefits – check if you are entitled to any benefits which might ease your financial situation. Also, you may be entitled to apply for a loan for mortgage interest from the Department for Communities.
- Get independent advice – this could be from an advice agency such as Housing Rights, Advice NI, Citizens Advice or a solicitor.
- Contact the lender – tell the lender how you propose to pay the arrears. You could ask the lender to: change your payment date if that would help, extend the term of the mortgage or change the type of mortgage. The lender will come back to you indicating whether they agree to the proposal or not.
- Attend court – if the lender takes repossession proceedings against you, it is important that you or your solicitor attends court. You can find out more at the Department of Justice.
What should I do now?
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