Monday 24 October 2016

Home economics: Answering your property questions

Published 03/07/2015 | 02:30

Leak in the bathroom
Leak in the bathroom

Our property expert advises a couple who want the two houses they own to be in both their names when they marry and what to do when a landlord is slow to carry out repairs.

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Question: My fiancé and I are getting married later this year. We each come to the marriage with a house of our own and we plan to live in one and rent the other out.  However, we would like both houses to be in both our names. Is there a special way to do this or does our marriage make it an automatic fact? It's a little complicated by the fact that my father is guarantor on my mortgage. The bank won't let me remove him; will this cause a problem for my husband's co-ownership? 

Sinead replies: When you decide to live in one property, it will be nominated as your Principal Private Residence but also your family home. This is important to note, says Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors.

"When married, you can transfer the properties into your joint names with an exemption from stamp duty between spouses; you will have registration and legal fees though. The fact that your father is a guarantor is not a prohibitive factor, however you will require the consent of the bank to transfer the properties if they hold a mortgage. It is likely they will want you to re-mortgage the property into your joint names so that essentially you both become joint owners and joint mortgage holders. It is a good time to try and release the guarantee of your father however, ultimately, this will be a decision for the bank."

Inheritance rights will also change when you marry so that should something unfortunately happen to one of you, the other will inherit the entire estate in a situation where there is no will or children (a will lets you divide up your estate as you see fit subject to a spouse's legal right share to half). This might be of some comfort if the bank will not currently allow a transfer into joint names.

Lastly, there will be income tax on the property you let out along with possible Capital Gains Tax liabilities should you sell it later.

Question: My rented apartment has a leak in the bathroom. It's been there for ages, and has stained the wall and ceiling, creating mildew which I find disgusting. I've reported it a number of times to the landlord who keeps saying he'll "get around to it". My worry is that it may be originating in the upstairs flat and I'm concerned it's a bigger issue than it looks. I've waited two months now - can I withhold my rent until it's sorted?

Sinead replies: I wouldn't stop paying rent or it may affect your lease. Unfair as that sounds, your landlord has right on his side, even if he's acting in a very tardy manner. According to the Private Residential Tenancies' Board, repairs should normally be undertaken within three to five days if they are classed as 'urgent', and 14 days if 'routine'.

Two months is clearly too long and I would start by writing to him, formally, stating your concerns, telling him it's getting worse and that your fear is the ceiling could come down (even if this isn't the case - you can't know as you're not an expert).

You can also point out it will get more expensive to repair the longer it's left. Give him a week to sort it. You can complain to the PRTB - online it costs €15, while on paper it's €25 but they also have a telephone mediation service whereby they'll contact the landlord on your behalf. Perhaps just the threat of that will sort things out.

The Ryan review

News that seven banks have breached the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) is surprising only in the widespread nature of the wilful disobedience.

That banks do what banks do should come as no surprise however. And if, in attempting to recover debt, some, ahem, shady practice is undertaken, well they can always use the "everybody else is doing it" defence.

The Central Bank's recent sampling of arrears files showed customers being forced into top up payments on top of agreed repayment deals - changing their financial statements after the fact and pushing to repossess despite a repayment schedule being in place. Naturally, the banking big brother took out its powerful big stick and clattered them with it? Well, in reality it waved a small twig at the recalcitrant lenders. It said such practices were "inappropriate" and broke the spirit of the CCMA before skulking off to do absolutely nothing about it. Cue Enda, who wrung his hands in the Dail, and Noonan who almost furrowed his eyebrows. The banks must have been quaking in their silk-lined boots.

And there you have it. Because the CCMA is a code of practice - no more than a gentleman's agreement really - why are we surprised at the sometimes very ungentlemanly behaviour of the banks? We've learned you either need to legislate to get them to do something, or let them act as they will and stop whingeing about it.

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