Home Economics: Answering your property questions
Q: My boyfriend and I are living with my parents while building a house on their land for ourselves. We have done the paperwork, got mortgage approval and the foundations are ready to go down. My question is, can we avail of the new Help to Buy scheme as it is a self-build and we've already started or is it just for 'estate' houses? The property is costing €128,000 to build, which we are financing with an 80pc mortgage.
A. Well the good news is that the Help to Buy scheme announced in the Budget applies to self-build houses as well as new builds in traditional housing estates, as long as you meet the other criteria, which is that you are a first-time buyer and are borrowing at least 70pc of the value of the property. However, the workings are somewhat different.
If you have already drawn down the first funds from your mortgage since July 19, 2016 (or do so before year end), you can claim the tax rebate and have the money transferred into your own account after the fact, as it were. If you don't draw down the mortgage until after January 1, 2017, it is paid into the specific mortgage account. It is just a technicality, but it's about Revenue being certain the rebate is used for the right purpose and actually going toward the loan itself. It recognises that an entire mortgage isn't taken all in one go and is honouring that for those who have borrowed some upfront for deposits and the like.
No applications are being taken until January however, as Revenue still needs to design and issue the forms it requires to run the rebate. I expect it will look for your bank's imprimatur and as much evidence as it needs to ensure you satisfy the criteria. The maximum rebate for you would be €6,400.
Q. My next door neighbour is renting (the owner of the house, whom I was friendly with, moved to the UK and has now rare contact). Although he is nice enough, I had noticed lots of comings and goings from different people, cars etc, since the summer, which was annoying, especially as much of it was late at night. We live in a scenic, quiet area. To my horror, my daughter discovered the house listed on Airbnb. Sometimes it feels like living next door to a hotel and I'm very concerned at the risk to my security from all these strangers. Is there anything I can do? Is he allowed to do this?
A. Whether he's allowed to do it depends on the terms of his lease, which I assume you're not party to. He is effectively sub-letting, albeit on an ad-hoc basis, and I can see how it would be annoying if there is lots of activity.
If his lease allows it (or even if it doesn't, but the landlord isn't bothered), there is probably little you can do. As you say, he is "nice" so it might be worth having a word with him about your concerns in the first instance. He may not realise the impact this is having on you and could be prepared to meet you halfway, like only allow guests arrive during the day, or not park their cars near your house.
You could always ask him a pointed question about the lease or perhaps suggest you have a closer relationship with his landlord than you actually do and might be prepared to call him (or is that just the badness in me?).
As a more serious step, you might want to get a solicitor's letter issued but you run the risk of him getting worse, not better, if he takes it badly.
If it is a real nuisance, you could report excess noise to the local authority, but they generally wouldn't regard normal coming and going as an environmental issue, I'm afraid.
The Ryan Review
We have more problems with the rental accommodation market than we thought.
A new report from the National Oversight and Audit Commission (no, me neither) has found that over half of all private rentals fail to meet basic fire safety standards. As basic goes, keeping your tenants from burning to death is surely the most fundamental duty of all.
The problem lies, according to the NOAC, with inspection standards, which it says are not fit for purpose and rely largely on landlords doing the right thing. Well, that's worked out well in the past, hasn't it?
Half of all local authorities inspect just five per cent of units for let. Of those they did, 55pc were non-compliant with fire and ventilation standards. There is a haphazard methodology of inspections: 34pc of units were checked in Cavan, but just one per cent in Louth.
That is quite understandable when you consider the fact that there are just 65 staff nationwide to conduct them.
Given the 285,000 units registered as rental properties, it's a tall order.
An additional issue is the lack of reporting. Tenants are so desperate to find somewhere to live that they're often prepared to turn a blind eye to defects.
Given the ultra-high standards we are now imposing on new builds, perhaps a little more attention could be employed to the existing stock, at least some of which must come under the heading of 'death trap'.