Tuesday 26 September 2017

Home Economics... Answering your property questions

Converting a retail unit into a home
Converting a retail unit into a home
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

I'm buying an old townhouse in a busy village which has an unused retail unit attached. I will be using it entirely as my principal private residence, i.e. with no workplace. Are there any particular things I need to note when it comes to converting the property?

Michael Gaynard of ArdCo Construction helped out on this one.

"A change of use from retail to residential will unfortunately attract a planning permission application.

"You should, in the first instance, liaise with an architect or the local town planners to see if there would be an objection to the change of use or if financial conditions would attach (often when a commercial unit is changed, a financial contribution is charged as the unit will no longer attract rates for the authority). If planning issues are overcome, you should then bear in mind there may have to be a large amount of internal works/refurbishment to bring it to building regulation standards for residential purposes."

Your architect will best advise how extensive these may be and much will depend on the interior construction and condition of the retail premises. S/he may then be in a position to recommend a builder to complete the works, although you'll be best advised not to start down this road until the legalities have been sorted.

My partner owned a house in Dublin briefly around 10 years ago, which he sold at no profit a year later before emigrating to the UK. I've never owned property. We are now married and returning here, and are concerned about the new deposit rules as we have saved 10pc of the price we can afford of a house but I'm now confused: are we first-time buyers or not because 20pc would be impossible for us.

First time buyers (FTB) were spared the 20pc deposit requirement in the recent announcement by the Central Bank, needing only to save 10pc for the first €220,000 of their house price. Revenue is quite clear on what constitutes a FTB, as defined by S.92B of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999, as a buyer:

• who has not on any previous occasion, either individually or jointly, purchased or built on his/her own behalf a house (in Ireland or abroad) and;

• where the property purchased is occupied by the purchaser, or a person on his behalf, as his/her only or principal place of residence and;

• where no rent, other than rent under the rent-a-room scheme, is derived from the property for five years after the date of the current purchase.

There are some exceptions regarding trusts and divorce cases, but I can't see any that apply to you so it looks like the 20pc rule will apply. However, I would mention in this regard that banks are allowed operate outside the rules in up to 15pc of cases; the discretion is theirs, and most likely dependent on financial circumstances for those expected to earn consistently high incomes.

Without that, you're considered a trader-upper, I'm afraid.

The Ryan Review

I stand corrected - an uneasy position for me. I assumed last year the entire populace, bar a few 'pinko lefties' would roll over when the water charges were introduced. 

In my defence, the evidence was with me. We grumbled and groaned and talked to Joe when the household charge (HHC) was issued; the local property tax (LPT), the outrageous USC, not to mention the pensions levy, which was nothing more than wholesale theft.

We're a compliant nation. When push comes to shove, we don't really set fires or riot like other hot-blooded Europeans.

Not that we should, but I believed after an appropriate amount of huffing and puffing we'd simply pay up. But with Irish Water looking askance at the low compliance numbers and the chipping away of its funding by a nervous Government, one group particularly at odds with the establishment are landlords, and who can blame them?

It should be straightforward. Water's a utility, like gas or Sky television. If a tenant wants it, they pay for it - the landlord doesn't care. The problem here is one of perception. Water is seen as a basic human right, indeed, a vital one. Therefore, any attempt to charge for it is viewed as a tax, not a utility (which is, arguably optional although you may be left in the cold and dark, and without re-runs of Friends, but that's your business).

When the HHC became the LPT there was no doubt it was a tax so the Government did the only thing it could to aid compliance and got Revenue to collect it. Is that what it will take now and whom should they bill?

Please send your property finance questions to Sinead at siryan@independent.ie.

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