Home economics: Sinead Ryan answers your property questions
Can a mother who is a widow, gift a house (which is not her principal residence) to a daughter, who in turn is divorced with children and also has a disability, and be exempted from Inheritance Tax or Capital Gains Tax? I understood there was such a relief but am wondering if her marital status has any implications?
A. You are most likely contemplating Dwelling House Relief, but this has been pulled back of late, and is quite restrictive now, after some abuses of it by wealthy individuals attempting to avoid tax by passing on houses to children.
As a result, I would firstly urge getting independent advice either directly from Revenue on your specific case, or a tax adviser. First things first, though, the marital status of an individual has no bearing at all, but the rules regarding exemptions from reliefs are generally very specific.
Maeve Corr, Head of Private Clients Services at Crowe Horwath explains: "Depending on the nature of her disability and whether the daughter has any other interest in a property, the mother may be able to gift the property free of tax.
"The gift is tax-free once she meets the following conditions: she is a dependent relative of the person making the gift because she is permanently and totally incapacitated due to physical or intellectual disability and is unable to earn a living, and/or 65 years or older at the date of the gift; the house was her main home for the previous three years and she does not own, have an interest in or a share in any other house when she takes the property; and the house is her main home for six years after she receives it. There are many reasons why these conditions may not be met in your case, not least if she has not been living in the property to date. In addition, it is worth bearing in mind also that the mother may be subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the 'gain' of the disposal of the property. In addition, there will be stamp duty costs on transfer."
I heard about a Government-sponsored insulation programme for older houses which I and my neighbours would be interested in availing of. Can you tell me if they pay for it to be done and where I could have my house assessed? It is a 1960s property and subject to draughts and cold.
You are referring to the Deep Retrofit project which indeed is grant-aided, but is based on the BER of the house rather than its age. It must be D3 or worse to qualify (you can have this checked easily but I suspect you may well be eligible) however, it is a community-based rather than individual programme.
The SEAI, which implements the scheme says: "Support is available for groups of houses, eg five or more. Organisations such as community groups and local authorities with the capacity and ability to deliver home upgrades can all apply to SEAI for the pilot programme. The grant typically covers up to 50pc of the investment cost."
The purpose is essentially to bring the homes up to an A-rating, with insulation and other measures. There is a significant outlay on behalf of the owners too, though, so bear that in mind. You can check out www.seai.ie or call (01) 808 2100 for information.
Alternatively there are a range of fixed grants toward individual works on the Better Homes scheme on the same site, giving about a third toward the works involved. These include attic and internal and external wall insulation and retrofitting heat pumps and heating controls.
The Ryan Review
We've spent billions shoring up our banks, stuffing a load of regulations on them and creating strict lending practices to avoid future mortgage lending crashes.
So why don't we let them get on with it, instead of creating a nutty sub-prime mortgage scheme to flog cheap loans to borrowers who have failed to convince a bank to lend to them, and which has, to nobody's surprise, been a damp squib.
Only 455 loans have been approved out of 1,499 applications under the Rebuilding Ireland plan and just five (five!) have drawn down their funds. Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy had branded the plan "an important aspiration in a Republic of Opportunity". An aspiration to deflect headlines from the housing crisis, perhaps.
In reality of course the reasons can be seen as clearly as the Spire on a sunny day in Dublin: there simply aren't enough houses priced under the €320,000 limit in Dublin and other cities to qualify; those seeking to borrow can't earn more than €50,000 and they have to have received two rejections from mainstream banks. They're pretty easy to get, by the way, since few banks would touch them with a barge pole.
Neither, it turns out, will the Housing Agency. A total of 48pc of applications has been rejected (spoiler alert: if the bank of last resort, ie the State, rejects you it's a pretty good indication you should be renting).
The department claimed the rejection rate was a good thing as it proves it has been 'robust' in assessing ability to repay and that it doesn't want a 'raft' of non-performing loans. Indeed.
Given all ordinary retail banks already do 'robust' stress testing on every application by law, why not just leave them to it and concentrate on building affordable homes, that people will pass natural, rather than artificial, tests for?