Home Economics - Answering your property questions
All the talk of the Marriage Equality referendum has brought up concerns for my brother and I. Neither of us ever married and we live happily together in our childhood home since our parents passed on many years ago. However, we're obviously not a 'couple' in the sense that married or civil partnerships are. We were wondering if that creates a problem when one of us dies? I read a question in your column about having to pay tax on a house that was left to someone and we're worried.
A: Normally inheritances between brother and sister fall into the Group B category, meaning that the first €30,150 received is tax exempt with 33pc payable on the balance which obviously creates an immediate problem if the asset is a house.
However, Revenue allows for a 'Dwelling House' exemption if the inheritance you receive is a house which has been your main residence for at least three years prior to the transaction and you don't own any other house.
You must continue to live in the house for six years after the inheritance (unless you are over 55 on receipt of it) or it is sold to provide nursing home care, but there are some reliefs if you sell it to replace it with another property after the date of death. If the 'replacement' house is significantly less in value, there may be a claw back of the exemption.
In the first instance I would visit, with your brother, a solicitor to make a will and get advice on how to pre-plan in the event of either of your deaths.
I own an apartment let to a good tenant that I wouldn't want to lose. However, she mentioned to me in passing that she was on the water charges march recently and had no intention of paying the bill when it came in; she hasn't even registered with Irish Water. What is the situation if she doesn't? Will they come after me? Can I force her to pay or do I need to do anything at all?
You're not alone. However the legislation is quite clear: the occupier is responsible for the water bill in the same way they are for the other utilities, e.g. gas, cable television etc, and Irish Water is shortly to begin a campaign encouraging them to pay up.
However, according to Stephen Faughnan of the Irish Property Owners' Association, if the occupier does not pay, it will not fall on the landlord under current legislation, however Environment Minister Alan Kelly is considering altering the law to compel landlords to discharge outstanding water bills from a tenant's deposit on a changeover of tenancy and remit it to Irish Water.
Mr Faughnan adds: "This attempt to make landlords responsible for utilities used by the tenant is untenable, unacceptable and unworkable. All other utilities are between the provider and occupier and water should be left the same way."
He says landlords should refuse to collect deposits from tenants but until there is further clarity on the issue, the limbo will continue. I'd have a word with your tenant as to her responsibilities either way though.
The Ryan Review
I've written often here about the discrimination which exists when prospective tenants on rent supplement attempt to secure accommodation. Ads stating "No Rent Allowance" are now as commonplace in Dublin in the way "No Blacks, No Irish" were in 1950s London.
Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain is introducing legislation to make this illegal under the Equal Status Act which, up to now, includes things like race and creed, but not income source. It's a welcome move but unlikely to work because policing it is virtually impossible.
If eight parties turn up for a viewing of a flat, who's to say why seven don't secure it?
Two thirds of landlords will not currently consider someone on Rent Allowance, according to Daft.ie which provided it as an online search filter until Minister O Riordain expressed his disappointment at this.
Ronan Lyons, Daft's economist, says after disabling the filter recently as a pilot, they had to reinstate it after complaints - not from landlords - but from people on RAS who ended up wasting phone time finding out instead that they weren't welcome.
The bigger issue obviously is lack of housing stock. Landlords are subject to the economic realities of supply and demand. Lick this, and the market settles itself. So, better news this month is that the European Investment Bank is to loan Ireland Inc. €300m to build social housing.
Anybody waking up every day in a B&B will be sceptical, but with a continuing dysfunctional market, it's the best we can hope for.