independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Landlord wants me to fix broken gutter

I rent a house in a rural area with many overhanging trees. The leaves have clogged one of the down pipes and it has detached from the main wall and cracked.

My landlord lives abroad and told me to claim the damage on my own insurance, but I think he should fix it.

First, check your letting agreement. There may be a specific provision for this. If not, the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 comes into play and under its provisions a landlord is obliged to repair the structure of the dwelling as necessary.

Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors explains: "As a tenant you are obliged to notify the landlord of any matter requiring repair and you have met this obligation.

"Despite what your landlord has insinuated, you are not obliged to deal with the damage to the property.

"It is the landlord who is obliged to maintain a policy of insurance in respect to the structure of the dwelling.

"Write, formally notifying him that he is responsible and should he fail to remedy it, he is obliged to reimburse you under the terms of the 2004 Act."

As a tenant you have an obligation not to do anything to cause the dwelling to deteriorate beyond normal wear and tear but this one is not your fault.

You are my last resort. I've been involved in a protracted battle with my bank, a sub-prime lender, over my mortgage which I haven't paid for a year.

My arrears have built up and I simply want them to take the house off me and agree that I will never be able pay this debt. They are doing this for some people, why not me?

Well, if they are, they're not advertising the fact.

It's true that there have been a handful of debt write-offs, most recently €110,000 for a customer of Pepper (formerly GE Money) who agreed the settlement if the €200,000 property is sold for €90,000.

Pepper is an Australian lender which took over most of GE Money's loan book and has a refreshing view on write-downs which other banks don't necessarily share.

However, they are happening, but very much on a case-by-case basis and I don't see this changing. FLAC's Paul Joyce says the response to mortgage arrears is "uneven" at best.

"Both banks and customers are afraid of the shortfall in the event of just selling off the property. Crystallising the debt is not attractive to either party.

The Central Bank is trying to push banks into long-term decisions on mortgage forbearance, but progress is slow."

He adds that there have been more voluntary surrenders of property than repossessions but says surrender is "a dangerous option without a formalised plan".

His advice is that you: "Step away from the 'battle'. Pay something, anything, on a regular basis.

"Hold tight. Your bank will not seek to repossess before a minimum of two years in arrears.

"Wait for the Personal Insolvency Bill due in Spring. There will be options for you within it.

"You are still in your home and this is the most important consideration."

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