SINEAD RYAN answers your questions about property.
I have been with my partner for a few years and he has invited me to move into his house. However, his ex-wife from whom he is not yet divorced has said half the house belongs to her.
They still have a small mortgage. I've offered to sell my apartment and 'buy out' her share. She won't hear of it, claiming it'll be worth more if she keeps it until retirement. Can I insist?
As a rule, a person cannot be compelled to sell a house to suit a buyer's wishes.
Simon McGarr of McGarr Solicitors says, "A property asset which meets certain criteria, can be classed as a 'Family Home' under the Family Home Protection Act. We don't know if that's the case here, but there seems no prior agreement between the writer and the lady owning the share of the house she wishes to buy. She then cannot invoke any contractual obligation to sell.
In the absence of special circumstances suggesting otherwise the general rule would apply: if a person owns something and doesn't want to sell it to you, you can't make them".
It is possible that in the event of a divorce between your partner and his ex-wife, the property will form part of whatever agreement is reached.
Hang on to your apartment in the meantime.
I've returned from a year abroad to find my neighbour has built some sort of structure in his garden, attached to our shared wall.
It looks like a shed, but is much higher, and overlooks my garden.
It's blocking out light and might affect the house's value if I sell. What can I do?
I'm assuming the structure isn't attached to your neighbour's house, i.e. an extension, so it needs to be established if it's an 'exempted dwelling'.
John Spain, chartered planning and development surveyor, John Spain & Associates says, "Class 3, Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 relates to exempted development provisions for the construction or placement of any shed, garage or similar structure.
Certain conditions and limitations are placed upon a structure including that it not exceed a plot size of 25sqm, and a height of 4m if it has a tiled/slate roof, or 3m otherwise and that it not be used for certain purposes, including the keeping of livestock.
"In addition, the amount of open space available should not be reduced below 25sqm.
"In the event the structure doesn't meet these criteria, then planning permission is required and you should complain to the local authority who will be obliged to investigate your concern".
Ulster Bank mortgage tax relief
In our November 9 column, a question was answered about the special mortgage interest tax relief introduced on mortgages taken out with Ulster Bank during the boom.
It was stated that the IT glitch which had caused the incorrect relief to be administered had been resolved. Now it appears that it will be late Spring 2013 before the correct tax relief will be applied.
Ulster Bank has now said that the ongoing monthly relief will only be applied fully next year.
Customers will get a rolled-up figure deducted from their mortgage.