Home Economics...answering your property questions
I bought a mid-terrace townhouse in a new development last summer. Since then I have been plagued with noise on both sides - a family of small children on one and a house of students on the other. I sometimes work shifts and need to sleep during the day and it's very difficult. Is there anything I can do by way of sound proofing and would it be very expensive?
Sinead replies: Your situation must be difficult. The good news is that retro-fitting of soundproofing is possible, even in a terrace. Mark Swords of Weatherseal says one of the most effective methods is to spray-foam the underside of the roof which cocoons everything in the house and absorbs sounds in all directions from the highest apex in the roof.
"There's nowhere for the sound to penetrate to with an airtight seal. But it's vital to maintain a ventilation space in the roof to meet building regulations," he says.
There are different variations of insulation but you'd probably want to avoid having your interior walls damaged by 'piping' beads into the cavity space. Use a reputable firm who will assess the suitability of your house - expect to pay up to €2,500 but don't forget there are grants available from the SEAI for which you may be eligible.
They are quite generous and not means tested under the Better Energy Homes scheme. In addition, any works carried out this year qualify under the Home Renovation Initiative for a 13.5pc VAT refund.
Q. I own a two-bedroom apartment in a busy town in North Dublin. I've had a number of tenants in two years and the current one has just given notice. I'm abroad a lot and this is a hassle for me and I think rather than finding a new one I was considering renting it to the council under the RAS scheme. How would I go about it?
Sinead replies: The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is run by location authorities by contracting landlords with suitable accommodation to make it available to eligible tenants, usually those on long-term rent supplement. The landlord provides housing for an agreed term and the local authority pays the rent directly to the landlord, with or without a contribution from the tenant. Deposits are not offered since the contract is with the council and not the tenant.
To become eligible as a landlord, you must be registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), have a BER certificate and the property must meet minimum standards regarding facilities, appliances, structure and state of repair. Local authorities will from time to time have vacancies for properties and you can find out your RAS liaison officer from the Dept of Environment, Community and Local Government website.
If you don't want the hassle of renting yourself, consider putting the apartment into the hands of a letting agent instead. They will locate, vet, manage and replace your tenants for a fee, generally one to two months' rent.
The Ryan Review
Once again the bank chiefs were hauled in before an Oireachtas committee and asked (not very) searching questions about their mortgage arrears work-in-progress.
I was amused by Ulster Bank's Jim Browne (who shouldn't be there at all, since giant UK parent RBS bailed them out and not us), who told the committee he had "never heard of" New Beginning's billed mortgage-to-lease scheme, widely written about and aired the previous week in all national outlets, including this one.
Whether or not he agrees with it, or sees a market for a big Maltese investment fund buying up €2bn of bad assets, you'd imagine it might have crossed his desk at some point. He was more forthcoming about the similar 'mortgage to rent' scheme initiated by the Government over two years ago, via charitable housing agencies and local authorities, pronouncing it an "over-engineered, bureaucratic disaster". In this, he was correct.
Barely one in ten of the anticipated deals have been completed. The banks weren't prepared to have the losses on the mortgages crystallised and for renting back the properties to their previous owners as tenants without any compensation. There were too many lumbering agencies involved, and the income and house value restrictions for those who qualified were too low, especially in Dublin.
I have no idea if the latest scheme will work but the banks must engage more on the arrears front to move things along.