Ask the expert
My boyfriend and I are buying an apartment. I was left €25,000 by a relative in a will and am using this as the deposit. We are splitting the remaining mortgage 50/50. My father is insisting we have an agreement which shows that I will own more of the property than my boyfriend. Is this necessary and what difference does it make?
Your father is trying to protect you. Although you may not want to think this far ahead, it is important to consider what might happen to the property if the relationship breaks down or one of you dies. What if one of you gets a job abroad and the other doesn't want to leave? Do you own the property 50/50? Isn't it true you actually own a larger share due to your deposit? Perhaps it's fairer that this is reflected.
The fact that you are not married presents you with additional problems because ownership may or may not automatically transfer in the way you want. You really need to sit down with your solicitor and discuss how such matters might be addressed.
Elaine Breen of IFG Legal Services says that you need to decide whether you are Joint Owners or Tenants in Common. "If you decide to own the property with your boyfriend as Joint Owners, this would mean that the property is held equally between you. Also, if one of you dies, the property automatically on death passes directly to the other. Tenants in Common means that each of you will own distinct shares in the property.
"You can set out exactly what percentage is held by each of you, what would happen if one wishes to sell their part to a third party, if one of you dies or if the relationship breaks down. Such an agreement should cover all eventualities and when it comes to legal protection of your assets, it is better to be more cautious."
I would like to add solar panels to my roof but I really dislike the appearance of large solar panels. Is there an alternative shape that we could use? Our house has a pitched roof and is south-westerly facing.
You are not alone in your opinion. One of the most common reasons why people are reticent to introduce solar panels is that they look too obviously separate from the generic Irish house. While the intent may be there to use a renewable energy source the perceived reduction in the aesthetic quality of your home puts a lot of people off.
One alternative that you could explore is to replace some of your roof tiles with solar power roof tiles. While some people may deride them as being less efficient than your typical solar panel array, these tiles have evolved to become an almost seamless part of the roof. Mostly available in a deep-blue colour, they can blend in quite well with the average Irish roof. As with solar panels they pull power from the sun and use it to reduce your dependence on the grid.
Solar tiles come in a variety of sizes. They are generally more expensive than solar panels but you are paying for the aesthetic qualities of the tile. One particular company that supplies them in Ireland is Coolpower (www.coolpower.ie). The type of tile that they supply can be simply fixed with standard screws and battens and when all of the tiles are installed the leads from the tiles at each end are simply passed into the roof space for the electrician to finalise the installation. A display meter is also available which illustrates the amount of energy generated and the CO2 saved.
However, in the not too distant future, a solar paint may also be made available for domestic applications. Corus, a Dutch steel company, has developed a method of painting photovoltaic cells on to steel at manufacture. This could potentially mean a cheap mass-produced product which is capable of turning your whole house into a generator, well at least while the sun shines.
I recently received a gift of a Japanese maple for my garden. Where is the best place to plant the tree and how do I plant the tree most appropriately?
When planting a tree ensure it has sufficient space to flourish and is not too close to a building line or garden wall. This will allow the tree to fulfil its maximum potential in addition to mitigating the impact of damage to built structures.
Bear in mind that while Acer palmatum is a beautiful specimen, it has a slow growing habit and you will need to be patient if is to be placed centre stage in the garden. Container-grown trees can be planted at any time of the year but are more expensive to purchase.
Trees purchased root-balled or bare-root should be planted from November to the end of February when the tree is dormant and ideally should be planted immediately after purchase. Avoid planting trees when the ground temperatures are excessively low as was experienced in the recent cold spell.
To plant the tree firstly prepare the soil and loosen with a fork to reduce soil compaction. Then dig a planting hole no greater than the depth of the tree root ball but approximately three times the width of the root (a frequent cause of death of a tree is that the tree has been planted too deep). Next gently tease out the roots and place in the hole and back fill ensuring that there are no air pockets and water in times of drought. For juvenile trees staking may be appropriate but ensure that the ties do not damage the bark.