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Sunday 18 August 2019

Home economics: Sinead Ryan answers your property questions


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Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

I took out a tracker mortgage with KBC some years ago. I switched to an interest- only arrangement for a year but when it was up, the loan reverted to a variable rate with extortionate interest rate charges costing an extra €500pm.

I disputed this with the bank in 2009 and staff informed me that I never signed off on a tracker as they sent my solicitor an "amended letter of offer" which did not have the tracker rate.

They stated that by the time it came to drawing down the mortgage the tracker rate was no longer an option.

Do I have a case, and am I impacted by the bank's dealings with me?

A. KBC has said it has contacted all customers whom it believes are eligible mortgage holders in the compensation and redress scheme, as it was obliged to do by the Central Bank.

There were almost 1,000 cases in total, many of which have since been rectified but it says there are an additional 200 to 600 which it anticipates in the future, and says this process should be concluded by year end.

I can't say if you are one of them, but from your email it would appear that you were moved off a tracker to a variable rate loan after you attempted to move back following the interest-only period. Whether this was agreed in advance is the issue and without looking at the documents, I can't be certain.

Most of the serious cases seem to revolve around those not being allowed back on to a tracker after a fixed interest rate move, rather than an interest-only one, but you have nothing to lose by contacting the bank, formally in writing, with your case and supporting documentation (keep originals).

Do so at or by calling the bank's team on (01) 664 6983.

If you get no joy, head to the Financial Services Ombudsman on for further information.

My neighbour recently informed me she was installing "mesh fencing" in her back garden beside the party wall and that it would not infringe on me. I didn't really understand, but I said OK as it's her garden anyway.

It turns out to be an aviary and she is breeding small birds there. I am hounded now by the constant chirping and squawking from them, which I wasn't expecting. I've tried to be polite, but she says she had informed me of the building and it's her business.

Is there anything I can do? It's not like a dog barking or loud musical instruments, but I do like to potter in my garden and it's really annoying. I'm 78 so am retired and it's all day long.

This must be infuriating. She clearly misled you as to the nature of the structure and took advantage of your good nature.

Most of us enjoy bird song, but this is obviously a different matter.

From a building permission perspective there is little you can do, however, says solicitor Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard.

"If the structure was on the party wall you would have to specifically consent to it being constructed, however, if it is within her garden boundary, then she does not require your agreement," she says.

"I do not believe there is a planning issue either in that an aviary is likely to be deemed a structure that is ancillary to a dwelling similar to a shed and so should not require planning if under a certain size [25 sq mtrs]."

I'd advise a number of steps, in order: firstly, talk to her again, and see if she might move the aviary further away from your house.

The second is to complain to the local authority about noise pollution and the fact that she is carrying on a commercial activity for which permission may have been required.

This may well sour relations with her, so it is up to you how far you wish to take this.

The Ryan review

To fix or not to fix; that is the question.

With apologies to the Bard, the continuing cuts in mortgage interest rates could be enough to tempt borrowers to lock in, at least for a few years.

Someone more cynical than I might suggest the latest slew of rate chopping comes at an opportune time as banks are fleeing the bad press surrounding tracker mortgages.

Keeping customers from switching is a key priority but over at Bank of Ireland, the memo hasn't reached the desk of the standard variable rate offers, which remain stubbornly high.

That said, Bank of Ireland's new 3pc rate across one, two and five-year products, regardless of loan-to-value ratio, is competitive. It amounts to €50 a month for even a first-timer with a 90pc loan of €270,000 over 30 years, according to the people at

AIB's headline variable, usually a market winner, is now 3.15pc. Haven, EBS, Ulster and KBC are all prominent in the fixed market also.

There's little chance of the ECB following the Bank of England's lead and pushing up interest rates any time soon, but the only way from zero is up.

Maybe a three-year punt on a big loan isn't a bad idea, to keep the outgoings guaranteed.

Needless to say, you can employ a large bargepole if you still have a tracker mortgage!

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