Your questions answered
Q: I recently read about a new national inspection plan for septic tanks. I live abroad but own a holiday home in Wexford with a septic tank. I wasn’t aware that I might need to register it and have it inspected. I am also concerned that I have missed the deadline. Can you please explain how I can register and what the inspection plan is all about?
A: The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 introduces a new registration and inspection system for septic tanks and other domestic waste-water treatment systems in Ireland. This new piece of legislation has been enacted to achieve the targets of the Water Framework Directive and also to help Ireland comply with the requirements of the European Court of Justice ruling C 188-08.
Under this ruling Ireland has been prosecuted and fined for its failure to maintain a register of individual domestic waste-water treatment systems and also for its failure to monitor performance and discharges from such systems.
All owners of premises connected to a domestic waste-water treatment system were required to register their systems by February 1st, 2013. In relation to your own septic tank system you must register with Wexford County Council, which is the relevant local authority for Co Wexford.
While you have missed the February 1st, 2013, deadline, it is still possible to register and this can be done online at protectourwater.ie. There is no immediate penalty for late registration but you will not now be entitled to a remediation grant if your septic tank is deemed upon inspection to require remediation works.
Inspections under this new system will start in 2013 and inspections will be publicised in the national and local media. People should take care not to allow uninvited persons, or persons claiming to be inspectors, to enter on to their property in advance of the launch of inspections.
People will be formally notified by their local authority if their domestic waste- water treatment system is to be inspected. Inspectors will be required to carry identification and you should ask for this to be presented to you or to your representative.
* Terry O’Leary is a chartered planning and development surveyor
Q: My partner and I recently moved back to Ireland to settle. We are currently staying with family and are looking to buy a house in Dublin. However, there doesn’t seem to be a very good selection of three- or four-bedroom family homes in residential areas we like. We are very surprised after hearing all about the property crash while we were abroad and find it hard to believe there is apparently a shortage of houses. Can you explain what’s happening?
A: The price of property has been falling steadily for the past five years in Dublin city. Throughout that period there was a supply of good properties available at falling prices – it was a buyer’s market, as they say. The supply source was primarily made up of probate sales, economic hardship sales and relocation-driven transactions, with the volume of transactions much lower than the demand, creating a mirage of supply.
In real terms very few were selling and this masked the lack of supply. The Residential Property price register tells us that there were 6,896 sales in Dublin in 2010, falling to 5,818 in 2011 and jumping to 8,590 in 2012.
It would appear that in 2012 buyers decided that prices were at or near the bottom and acted accordingly, snapping up desirable properties quickly.
The lack of supply continues to be a significant issue in the Dublin market. Some vendors are holding off putting their properties on the market in the hope that prices may increase a little over the next 12 months and in other cases they are renting out their houses due to the strong rental market.
The banks policy of forbearance has limited the supply of hardship sales to a small trickle and they now may also benefit from the turn in prices, with each increase adding valuable capital to their balance sheets. New builds have almost ceased as current market prices don’t support a sustainable profit for builders and, as result, we have a short supply of three- and four-bed houses in the city.
If you are prepared to consider a move away from the city, a visit to one of the property portals would give you a choice of 190 four-beds for under €400,000 in Co Dublin. Places such as Swords, Lucan and Saggart to name just three can still provide a choice of attractive homes for low prices to buyers prepared to consider an area new to them. Supply spikes could well be a feature of the market over the coming years and latent demand for family homes will push prices upwards for the foreseeable future.
Our advice is to broaden your search in terms of localities. If you find a home that suits your needs and that you can afford to buy, then seriously consider buying it.
* John Craddock is a member of the Residential Agency Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
Q: We are about to sign the purchase contract for a four-bed semi-detached house built in the 1950s. We asked a friend with surveying experience to throw an eye over the house before we entered the final bidding process, and she was happy enough there were no major structural problems. Now we keep hearing from friends if they had their time again they would have conducted a more thorough survey before buying their homes. Can we get someone in again to look over the house at this late stage, and if so, is there a checklist of snags to look out for?
A: No it is not too late, but you may antagonise the vendor by arranging what they will see as a second survey. You certainly should get a detailed survey done. A seller is under no obligation to disclose defects in a property. There is little consumer protection in buying a house, and the classic defence of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) rules in the property market.
The timing of the survey is important, and in a private-treaty sale it should be done before you sign the contract for sale. Your solicitor will advise you best on this. If for whatever reason you must sign now and have not had the time to commission a building survey, your solicitor may add in a “subject to survey” clause which provides for a change of mind should the survey report advise pulling out. But the contract for sale binds the parties to the completion of the sale. If you withdraw from the sale after this contract has been signed, you may lose your deposit.
A surveyor will undertake a building survey report prior to signing contracts. This is a detailed inspection of all elements of the dwelling, including roofs, roof voids (attics), walls, ceilings, floors, internal joinery, services, insulation, external grounds, out-houses and boundaries. Other issues that are foremost on the mind of buyers today include pyrite and fire-prevention issues.
Depending on the location of the property it would be worth conducting a planning search, a boundary check and a review of certificates of compliance, which will confirm that any extensions and alterations are built in accordance with the conditions of the planning permission and in compliance with building regulations or building bye-laws.
* Pat McGovern is a Chartered Building Surveyor, scsi.ie
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This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought