Home Economics: Answering your property questions
Advice from our property expert on an attic conversion and your rights when faced with an eviction notice.
Question: We are living in a spacious two bed first floor apartment. There is a huge attic (9m wide) which we would like to convert. Does it add any value to a property and is it true that it cannot officially be used as a bedroom? If so, how would you advertise it when selling?
Sinead replies: Well, first things first. You will need to check whether you legally have the right to convert the attic says Michael Gaynard of ArdCo Construction.
"With apartments, unlike a house, title to the attic space is often retained as part of the common areas and so owned by the management company. You should have the title to the property reviewed and if necessary, ensure the consent of the management company is obtained.
The layout within the existing apartment would have to be adapted to allow for current regulation stairs to the new conversion (i.e. not a ladder type arrangement).
Even if you do get to use the floor space and maximise it, there is an issue regarding roof lights/windows for planning. Some attics will not have floor to ceiling height to allow them become a habitable space when completed, which will basically give you a large fully fitted storage area. Structurally the original plans would need to be inspected as a number of modifications would need to be required to create a new layout within the attic. A full survey by a competent builder or architect prior to commencing any of the works would be financially advisable".
In terms of the value, generally more space adds to the re-sale price, but it's not a good enough reason of itself to do the work, as the increase in value may not actually cover the outlay.
If it is not a structured, proper 'bedroom' in terms of all the constrictions mentioned, you cannot call it one. An estate agent would best advise on the terminology.
Question: My landlord has given me notice of eviction which has left me in a quandary regards affordability in my area. I've been here for almost two years and have always paid on time.
He claims he needs the flat for his son who is starting college, but there's no college near here. Do I have any options?
Sinead replies: You cannot be evicted without a good reason. Under Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, once you have occupied the property for a minimum of six months, you are entitled to stay for four years in total unless the termination is 'valid' or the lease was for a specifically shorter term.
Valid reasons are outlined in S.34 of the Act and may include where the property is being sold, or used by a family member.
It is occasionally the case that landlords claim to be selling the property or giving it to a family member only for the tenant to find it listed for let for a higher rent to another tenant.
If this is the case (or you suspect it to be the case), you should contact the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB.ie or phone the board on 0818 30 30 37 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) to seek advice.
There is a small fee for this (€15 online or €25 on paper) and although waiting lists have been long in the past, things are improving.
In the meantime you must continue to pay your rent.
Under new rules in the proposed Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, such actions will now result in a fine up to €3,000 if it is shown that the eviction wasn't for legitimate reasons.
The Ryan review
"Let's hope it works". Never was a Government initiative endorsed with such apathy, almost skepticism, yet that's how Minister Michael Noonan responded when his colleague in Environment, Alan Kelly, launched his long awaited rent control measures which may be the best thing since sliced bread or, alternatively, fall flat on their face by being too little too late.
Noonan wasn't exactly back-patting, but even these policies had to be dragged tooth and nail over the line.
Rent freezing is not the CPI-linked control that Mr Kelly wanted; however, for those who have signed leases this year, it gives certainty until 2017, which is good news. Likewise, the extension of notice periods to 90 days, giving renewing tenants time to shop elsewhere.
We'll have to keep an eye on built-in hikes for the unfortunates whose leases are up before year end.
Expanding the powers and budget of the PRTB can only help alleviate the chronically long waiting times of which that organization has been accused. With over 6,000 complaints so far this year, it will have its work cut out. The increasing of HAP payments to urban tenants gives them a glimmer of light as does the simple and effective tax relief measure to encourage landlords to rent to them.
There are 700,000 people in rented accommodation at present, up from 455,000 just two years ago.
To coin a phrase, and let's not be as apprehensive as Mr Noonan, "every little helps".