Saturday 24 March 2018

Home economics: Sinead Ryan answers your property questions


Car park space. Stock photo
Car park space. Stock photo
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

When we bought our new property, we were allotted two on-street car parking spaces, as per the map in the original deeds signed by both ourselves and the builders. However, on Dublin City Council's (DCC) final inspection they objected to the maintenance of on-street parking spaces as they are private property.

We could only close the sale after a clause (pending outcome of negotiations) referring to a private management company was added and the parking spaces removed from the map of the property. I would however have 'exclusive right' to use the spaces. The contracts that we signed also very clearly said there will be no management companies operating.

What options do we have to be able to secure a status quo? Or if we lost the freehold interest and a management company is set up, can we ask the builder to compensate?

A. It is common place in the sale of a new property that a contract allows for amendments or variations to a development, says solicitor Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard.

"It seems to be the case that the development's roads and services were to be transferred to the local authority and that the authority has now refused to maintain the car spaces. It is refusing on the grounds that the intention was that these spaces were instead to be transferred to individual owners. This would be the correct position for the local authority to take as it can only maintain or should only maintain areas which it owns.

To rectify the situation, you are now no longer going to own the spaces but instead your title deeds should contain an exclusive right to use the spaces. This would seem to be the correct solution. From a financial perspective you do however now have a management company fee annually regarding the maintenance of the spaces (and possibly other common areas). Unfortunately you proceeded to close and so you cannot now look for compensation, as it appears you were aware of the situation and proceeded to close.

If there are areas in a development that are not going to be taken over by the local authority, it is actually very important that a management company is set up and these areas are transferred to the management company. Otherwise they remain in the ownership of the developer. You should be a member of this management company on closing - along with other owners and so get to vote on the amount of the service charge payable. If it only concerns the car space areas/external areas, the annual service charge fee should be relatively low".

Q. My husband is 81 years old and I am 77. All our family are gone. We have had our house valued recently at €350,000. The problem is we are struggling to live on our old age pension. I was wondering if there is any group who would buy our house and let us live in it until we both die.

A. There are many pensioners who find themselves (relatively) asset rich and cash poor. Insurance companies called 'equity release' providers previously allowed you to re-mortgage your home, freeing up cash, which would then be paid back after you pass away. But to be honest, these were a terrible idea as they carried punitive, cumulative interest rates and relied on increases in house prices to survive. Now they are closed to new business. A regular bank would be extremely unlikely to give you a loan with your house as security.

You could consider down-sizing. This may be unpalatable, as it requires you to move, and in addition, find a home cheaper than your own. I don't know where you live, but you could talk to a local estate agent who will tell you what might be possible in terms of other properties in the area.

You could, if you were inclined, take in a lodger. You can earn rental income, tax free, to a level of €14,000 p.a. under the rent-a-room relief scheme.

Are you claiming all of the pension and age related benefits you are entitled to? Give your local Citizens Information office or a local councillor a call just to check. Finally, please don't hesitate to call MABS, the State budgeting service. They are really excellent at assisting people in financial struggle. Call them on 0761 07 2000.

The Ryan Review

Do you believe the banks are chastened by their dressing down from Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe over the mortgage tracker scandal?

Of course not. Oh yes, their outward face (and spirited press releases) had 'mea culpa' written all over them, but in reality they're not all that bothered, for several reasons.

Firstly, they were all in it. When everyone is to blame, nobody is to blame.

Secondly, most of them (certainly the big two) have hundreds of staff diverted to working on the resolutions, compared to the Central Bank's much smaller contingent. Plenty of ways to delay, divert and distract so.

Thirdly, all have made financial provision for payouts; it's done and dusted.

But most importantly, and probably the only thing that is important to them, is that across the board, share prices increased on the news of the 21,000 customers affected, and in Bank of Ireland's case, rose again when a further 6,000 cases were identified.

Honestly, that's it folks. Shareholders are happy; unhappy customers are low on the list. The focus, far more urgent, is on the ECB's decision to stop printing money. When bonds drop, shares rise. Simples.

Indo Property

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