Monday 5 December 2016

Home Economics: Answering your property questions

Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30

Fire safety needs to be checked
Fire safety needs to be checked

Advice from our property expert on first safety in an apartment block and on the benefits of Dwelling House Relief.

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Question: I am the owner of an apartment in a block of 40 units built 16 years ago. An apartment was recently for sale and the prospective buyer was happy to buy it, but was advised to update fire safety standards. Since this apartment block is relatively new and was obviously passed by the Local Authority at the time of construction, can you instruct me where do I, and the other owners, stand in regard to liability to upgrade to current standards regarding fire safety?

Answer: Kevin Hollingsworth of Omega Surveying Services and a member of the Society for Chartered Surveyors says a building constructed 16 years ago would have a fire safety certificate and the only requirement is to be in compliance with it, with some exceptions which require upgrading to current standards.

"Commonly, apartment block owners may take the decision to upgrade safety systems such as emergency lighting and fire alarms as best practice, but there is generally no obligation to upgrade further than what is set out in the approved fire safety certificate. It is a common misconception that any building is 'passed' by the local authority at the time of construction. The system in Ireland required a consultant (e.g. engineer, surveyor or architect) to issue a certificate of compliance saying that the building was in compliance with building regulations and the fire safety certificate.

"I would advise you to check the certificate of compliance for your building to establish if this is done on a 'visual inspection' only or whether the certifying professional undertook any inspections while the work was being undertaken. If the certificate of compliance was based on a visual inspection only, then this gives no comfort that any of the crucial fire safety elements under the skin of the building are present or installed correctly.

"If this is the case, I would recommend that you commission a local chartered building surveyor to obtain the approved fire safety certificate from the local authority and undertake an audit of the building to confirm compliance.

"This may require some surgical opening-up work to establish if the required passive fire protection is in place under the skin of the building."

Question: I am an elderly widow and have decided to move into sheltered accommodation. My grandson, who looks after me, has been living with me and still lives in my home. I would like to leave the house to him. It is worth around €300,000. Would he have to pay the standard tax on this or would he have an exemption since he has always lived there? Advice greatly appreciated since I am pushing up to 90 and I would like to have things settled.

Answer: Well I can understand your wish to get things sorted.

Normally, if you leave assets to a grandson, the tax-free threshold under which you can do so for Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) purposes is €30,150 which means he would have to pay over €89,000 in tax (which is charged at 33pc over the threshold).

However, Niall O Gorman, Managing Partner of deLoughry & O'Gorman tax advisers says he could avail of a specific relief called Dwelling House Relief.

"As your grandson has resided in the house for a number of years, and as long as he doesn't have an interest in any other dwelling house, he will be entitled to avail of Dwelling House Relief as long as he has resided there for at least three out of the four years immediately prior to the date of gift/inheritance.

"This particular relief will entitle him to receive the house with no CAT implications. There are also no other tax implications on the bequest."

It's probably important you chat with a solicitor first though, to ensure the house passes correctly.

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