Home economics: answering your property questions
Advice from our property expert on the legal implications of co-habiting, including the insurance consequences when there are valuable paintings in a house.
Question: I've found new love in my 50s with a lovely gentleman and he is moving into my house as he has had to give up his to his ex-wife as part of his separation agreement.
I'm anxious to keep the house in my name and bequeath it to my grown-up children when I pass. He wants to make some structural changes to the kitchen and add a sun room, which is a good idea, and he is willing to pay for them. He also insists on sharing household bills. While all of this is fine, I'm concerned it may confer some rights on him regarding the house if we were to split up. Neither of us is in a position (yet) to get married and I don't know if I ever will again.
Sinead replies: Congratulations on the new relationship. The property - as matters stand - is yours in full but you will need a new will to ensure it is passed to your children on your death and should you remarry, you should also do this again, as marriage nullifies a will. I asked Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors about your other query:
"By agreeing to his payment of the extension and any indirect contributions to the property, you would in effect be giving your partner grounds to claim a beneficial interest in the property should you break up.
"Under the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010, a redress scheme has been introduced for co-habitees which essentially provides for broadly the same range of orders that would be available to a married couple when breaking up.
"To qualify as a cohabitee, neither of you can still be married and you will have to cohabit for at least 5 years, so this may not immediately apply to you.
"The good news is that you can enter into an agreement to state that the redress scheme does not apply to you both but must ensure that both of you take independent legal advice before doing so to ensure there is no question over its validity in the future."
Question: My girlfriend and I have moved in together in my house. She from her family home where they are big art collectors and her parents have gifted her three pictures. I'm nervous about having these paintings here, but she says they are covered under our normal house insurance.
They're worth around €15,000 in total according to an estimate from a few years ago. Should we be concerned?
Sinead replies: Yes you should. Many ordinary house insurance policies have a 'per item' limit, which can be as low as €1,000. It is sometimes expressed as a percentage of your overall cover so, for example, if your overall contents sum insured is €40,000, they may limit 'high risk items' to five per cent of this, or €2,000.
So, if any of the three pictures are worth more than this, I'd be looking at insuring them separately. You can do this under the specified All Risks section, but it will carry an added premium on the policy.
Jonathan Hehir, of www.Insuremyhouse.ie says: "If the paintings haven't been valued in a few years, the best thing to do is to get an up-to-date valuation for them and retain photographs and provenance, preferably with purchase receipts so that you can have them as evidence in the event of a claim.
"Regarding whether or not they are covered under your normal contents insurance, this will depend on the value of each painting and ultimately which is the highest. Contact your insurer to get confirmation they are covered and, if not, there may be an extra premium to pay."
The Ryan review
Central Bank figures show the number of long-term mortgage arrears customers has fallen again as banks get to grips with their worst borrowers.
However, homeowners in arrears for more than two years still make up the majority of non-payers with more than 27,000 across the six domestic lenders. Banks get terrible press every time a family is evicted, pictured outside their home in pyjamas with cute kids clutching teddy bears, so it's no wonder they're slow to move.
Courts, for their part, are extremely reluctant to grant repossession orders, rightly, so it mires the whole thing in legal toing and froing for far longer than would be the case in other countries.
Indeed, local authorities evict far more people from council houses than banks do, albeit for a variety of reasons other than indebtedness, including anti-social behaviour, but they never get the same opprobrium from the public.
Presumably this is because we see private borrowers who have fallen on hard times as more worthy of our sympathy than a council tenant who hasn't paid his rent in a year.
While it may suit the middle-class narrative, along the lines of "there but for the grace of God go I", nevertheless it is absolutely incumbent on the taxpayer bailed-out banks to move either to settle or sell up when it is obvious that a borrower cannot, or will not, be in a position to repay their debt. Ever.
Otherwise, how long are we, the taxpayer, prepared to prop them, along with the local authority tenant, up?