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Home economics: Answering your property questions


Air to water heating system

Air to water heating system

Air to water heating system

I recently bought my own home after years of renting. I applied for rent relief five years ago, so is it up to me to inform Revenue that I am no longer renting? Is it also possible that I now owe them money? How do you figure out how much the relief is worth? My rent was approximately €500 a month?

Revenue operates a self-assessment system when it comes to tax credits. It is up to you to ensure you are compliant rather than them to police it.

Barry Flanagan of Taxback.com explains: "Once you claim an annual tax credit such as Rent Credit, this is added to your Tax Credit Certificate (TCC), remaining in place until such time as you advise Revenue to remove them.

"The TCC is usually issued in January and Revenue expects you to review it and revert with any errors or omissions. In this case, you would have been expected to inform Revenue you were no longer renting and that they should remove the Rent Credit from your TCC.

"On that basis, it's possible that tax is therefore owed. Interest and penalties may also be due, but Revenue may not seek to impose them if you make a voluntary disclosure so this is what you should do.

"The maximum rent credit that could be claimed by a single person under the age of 55 is decreasing annually, as it is being phased out. It was €160 in 2014, €200 in 2013, €240 in 2012 and €320 in 2011. So, you may be potentially looking at a liability of €920 if you have claimed the credit incorrectly for the last four years.

"However, you may be able to generate a tax refund to offset a portion of the liability. Did you have any unreimbursed medical or non-routine dental expenses in this period? Or are you eligible to claim flat-rate expenses? It may be worth your while contacting a service provider for a free review of your position to see if there is any way of reducing the liability."

We are buying a new house currently under construction. The builder has told us it has an "air to water pump" heating system and no gas or oil. The house was to have had solar panels but we are now told they are not needed. Can you explain about this type of system and if it's any good?

Most new houses are now built with energy efficiency to the forefront. A BER rating of 'A' is coveted and there are many ways to achieve it, including double (or triple) glazed windows, solar panels and gas condensing heating systems.

Air to water (A2W) pumps are environmentally friendly and economical and they work particularly well when coupled with underfloor heating. I asked a couple of builders their views:

The system works by a fan on the outdoor unit drawing in warm air from underground. A refrigerant inside converts it to liquid, absorbing its energy and it becomes gas, being fed into a compressor which pressurises it to boiling point.

The hot gas is then pushed into a condenser, which is the heat emitting part. Energy released to the heating system is then 'dried' through a filter which collects excess moisture and so it converts back to a vapour again.

That's the science bit, but what's important is that a good system should deliver all of all your heating and hot water requirements for a normal-sized house and has a lifespan of around 20 years. You don't need solar panels as well. A2W is predicated on air/ground temperatures not being too cold, but its efficiency may slow in periods of extreme conditions.

The water is heated as it leaves the tap and some houses have an alternative or back-up heating option, eg a stove. The SEAI has a good explanation of such systems on its website (www.seai.ie) under the 'Renewables' section.

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The Ryan Review

You'd imagine that if you were serious about introducing a decent mortgage arrears alleviation measure, you'd have the cop on to line up the ducks first. 

Yet it seems a key player in the Mortgage-to-Rent scheme - which has been an abysmal failure - wasn't even told about the new, improved version launched by the Government.

There were to be 1,500 cases where families, in long-term arrears, were to have handed back their house to the bank, to have it sold on again to Cluid or one of the other charity housing associations, and then rented back to the family.

The purpose was to allow them to stay put in a neighbourhood with ties like work and school, and the neighbours wouldn't be any the wiser. But nobody thought it through properly and a dismal fraction of those cases highlighted were actually completed.

The banks hated the complexity (and, presumably, having to crystallise their loss on the property); Cluid wasn't funded properly and the strict income limits and house value limits placed on those who might have benefited was punitive.

The house value limits have been increased from €220,000 to €350,000 in Dublin, which was news to Cluid but nothing else seems to have moved along. So what exactly is the problem allowing people who can actually afford to pay decent rent, but not a full mortgage, availing of this if they want, and why not remove the middleman and let the banks do it directly - albeit under suitably strict rules?

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