Thursday 8 December 2016

Home economics: Answering your property questions

Published 29/05/2015 | 02:30

Dodgy plasterwork
Dodgy plasterwork

Advice from our property expert on property tax relief and how to deal with unsatisfactory work by a tradesman.

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Question: I read with interest your recent reference to tax relief on pre-1915 properties and am interested to know if this applies to specific designated areas in larger cities only or does it at all refer to more rural towns?

Sinead replies: The 'Living City Initiative' is a new tax relief designed to regenerate old or historic buildings which are in danger of being derelict and inject life back into cities.

It includes specially designated areas in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Kilkenny and your local authority's website will have maps of where these are. It applies to both domestic and commercial premises which are 'refurbished and converted' in line with Revenue's definition of this (see revenue.ie for details).

Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers explains the requirements: "You must be the owner occupier and be prepared to spend at least 10pc of the acquisition costs to get a 'qualified' cost (less any State grants) but there is no upper limit. The scheme acts like a pension contribution in that it is offset against income by 10pc per annum (you will still pay USC and PRSI). If you sell up, the buyer gets the relief continuation."

Revenue has a worked example: An individual has a house that has a market value of €320,000. The individual must incur at least €32,000 (10pc of €320,000) of expenditure in the qualifying period in order to qualify for the relief. The individual will then be entitled to a deduction of €3,200 from their total income per annum for 10 consecutive years.

The initiative will last for the next five years.

Question: I hired a tradesman to do some plastering in my kitchen. I got several quotes and he assured me it was a standard job. However, three months later the plaster has cracked and begun to peel. I have left messages for him but he refuses to return my calls. He told me he was 'registered and insured' but I don't know where. What options do I have?

Sinead replies: I'd start by complaining in writing to him, explaining the issue and what you expect him to do. This sets down on paper a timeline of the problem which may be useful should it go further.

The builder may be registered with the Companies Registration Office, so you could check here for the proper address, etc. (www.cro.ie). Keep all documentation and take photographs.

If you have a written quote, send a copy of it with your letter. Give him a time limit (eg, 14 days) to respond and inform him you will be taking legal action if not.

Failing a response, you have recourse to the courts, advises the Competition Consumer & Protection Commission.

If the spend involved is less than €2,000 (the maximum award allowable), the easiest and cheapest way is via the small claims court. This costs €25 and is quite quick. You don't need a solicitor - see www.courts.ie for the process.

They will issue him the complaint and if he ignores it, you will automatically be awarded the damages. If he engages, you both get your day in court and you can be assured of a listening ear from the judge.

The Ryan review

I was contacted by a reader who asked me to highlight his plight as a disabled person who is effectively being taxed on his disability. 

He had to vacate his apartment, bought in 2006, due to a leg amputation following an accident in 2012. The apartment became inaccessible as there was no lift. It made no financial sense to sell and he is still left paying the mortgage balance due to the market collapse.

He has written to several TDs and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan about the issue to no avail, and a number of issues arise for this man through no fault of his own.

The first is a forced sale - this was someone paying his mortgage on time and without arrears, effectively being thrust into a sale at a time when the market didn't favour it. The second is the issue of the lift - surely it cannot be unreasonable that all apartment buildings are required by law to have lifts. After all, commercial premises are, to cater for customers who cannot use stairs.

The third issue is that despite the Government's insistence it cares for the disabled, the Housing Adaptation Grant was cut from €79m in 2011 to €38m. These meagre funds are to pay for things like ground-floor bathrooms or ramps for wheelchair users. Not only are applicants left waiting two years or more, but if they take out a loan to do the work, the grant won't be retrospectively allowed. We've just had a referendum on one type of equality. We should look at areas of discrimination we still have.

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