Home economics: Our property finance expert answers your questions
Q My brother and his wife have separated and are in the process of getting divorced. It is very stressful for the entire family, not least because his wife is the 'front' of our family business, which is run out of our home. She has been instrumental in getting us customers while my brothers and I do the legwork. The problem is that, while she is not a director (the three brothers and our uncle are), she is now claiming a portion of the 'goodwill' aspect of the business in a divorce settlement. We really don't want to bring the lawyers in, but must protect the company. To make it messier, she's continuing to work with us, although that may change. What financial risk could we be at and could the home be challenged?
A Family businesses run out of family homes present you with a double dilemma. When they turn sour, for whatever reason, everyone is affected. This is a very complex area, and I really am loathe to delve too much into it, not least because I'm sure your brother (and his ex-wife) are already getting legal advice or mediation of some kind if they are in the divorce process.
In terms of your own aspect, and the home, it's not clear who lives in it from your question, so I'll need to put that aside. Deirdre Burke of family law specialists Burke Legal advises the following is taken into account...
Assuming the family home is not owned by either the company or by the couple separating, then it should be safe. If it is an asset of the company then it would fall into the general value of the company, which is an asset in the separation.
The company is a family asset in the separation, as the brother is a director, and presumably has a shareholding. The company, and its assets, will need to be valued as part of the family law proceedings and only the percentage which the brother owns will be taken into account in dividing his family assets.
If your sister-in-law is an employee, the business will need to honour its obligations to her as an employer. Working arrangements and salary should remain as is, until the separation is sorted.
If she has a claim on the business, it is in her husband's share only, together with whatever employment rights she may have. Just as your brother is getting his own legal advice, it's no harm for the other directors to get theirs.
Q We got a BER rating on our house as we are considering selling it and the estate agent said it was required. We were interested in any event, but disappointed to see it was rated D2. The engineer's report was very long, but we aren't at all happy and think it may now affect the sale. Can we appeal? It cost us €175 plus VAT and I don't want to pay twice.
A I don't share your view that a mid-range BER score will materially affect the price your house will fetch, to be honest. Most buyers rate other aspects - location, size, number of bedrooms, local amenities etc - far higher than the energy rating which, after all, they can do something about if they wish. BER certs are mandatory since 2009 before a house can be listed for sale, and a D rating is mid-scale, hardly the worst (which is G).
The difference is mainly in the average energy usage which, for a C-rated three-bed-semi, would be around €1,300 compared with an E-rated one of €2,450. Although all new builds must now achieve A-rated levels and, in time, this will filter through to the general housing population by economic incentives, new laws, retrofits etc, it's fully expected that most houses built before 1990 will score a D rating or below, according to the SEAI, particularly if they haven't been upgraded significantly.
I'm presuming the survey was carried out by a certified BER assessor. You could get another if you wish, at cost, but I really wouldn't overthink its importance. It will be stated as a matter of fact by the estate agent, rather than a tick box for or against you.