Your queries answered
Q: We built our house in 2006 using direct labour. We had two solar panels fitted in the centre of the roof. We can now see that some slates surrounding the panels appear to have come loose and need to be replaced or secured. Our roofer has since emigrated but would it be the responsibility of the solar panel fitter to rectify this problem?
A: The problem you describe is not uncommon and occurs whenever tradesman such as a chimney sweeps or TV Ariel installers are allowed access onto roofs. Of course they all have a duty of care to ensure that precautions are undertaken to minimise damage.
Traditional pitched roofs are delicate structures due to the brittle nature of the materials involved. Natural slates vary enormously in their ability to withstand the elements and loads imposed on them. Their longevity depends on their quality and the ability of the roofer to correctly lay them. In the past we imported very good quality slates from Wales; latterly, due to price constraints they have come from Spain or even China and some of these recent imports are prone to a number of faults.
Fixing anything to the roof such as a solar panel imposes additional loads and strains on the roof structure causing movement and increased potential for failure of the components. Competent solar panel installers usually use good quality proprietary fixings to minimise the possibility of any damage and sometimes even strip back and replace small areas of the roof to ensure a proper job is done. Another problem is how they get the pipework inside and this is most often the problem area. Once again a proprietary entry fitting should always be used.
The tradesmen on your roof will probably claim that they acted responsibly and the fault lies in the slate. The passage of time is probably supportive of that argument and without full details of the problem and seeing exactly how the failure presents, I would consider they possibly have a case.
If the fixtures are substandard, you may have a claim against the installers. However, given the time frame I suggest that you will probably be left to resolve the problem yourself and you should seek professional advice to determine the exact cause and appropriate remedy.
Fergus Merriman is a member of the Building Surveying Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
Q:We are renting a house which was recently taken over by a receiver. The lease is up at the end of next month and we are keen to stay on, as we have been in the house for almost three years. I am worried that the receiver may (a) seek to increase the rent beyond what is reasonable or (b) sell the house, in which case we would have to move out. We don’t want to move as our children go to school nearby and there isn’t a great selection of similar properties to rent. What should we do?
A: Firstly, your occupancy is protected by the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. Based on the information provided, your tenancy appears to be a fixed term tenancy, terminating shortly.
The receiver may terminate the tenancy for the purposes of selling the property and where the tenancy is less than three years the Rreceiver will provide 56 days’ notice in writing, or if in excess of three years but less than four years, the receiver will give 84 days-notice in writing. A receiver can always sell a property with a tenant remaining in occupation and this tends to happen where the property is of more appeal to an investor than an owner occupier, for example in what is referred to as a ‘good letting area’.
Should you receive no notice from the receiver regarding a termination but the receiver requires the rent to be reviewed, this is possible once a year and tenants are to be given 28 days notice.
The receiver, for the purposes of your queries, is no different to any landlord as a receiver simply ‘steps into the shoes’ of the landlord or borrower.
Should there be any dispute regarding any of these matters, either party can refer to the Private Residential Tenancies Board, Canal House, Canal Road, Dublin 6. There is a good guide to residential tenancies on prtb.ie.
Peter Stapleton is a member of the Commercial Agency Professional Group Committee of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
Q: I have been invited to consider going forward to become a Director of an Owners Management Company of a small residential development of 21 units in Dublin. I recently retired and so I am interested in taking this on but am a little unsure of my responsibilities as a Director of the company. Could you please outline what my main responsibilities will be?
A: Under Irish legislation the responsibilities placed on directors are very onerous and exceed those of many other developed countries. These responsibilities are set out in the Companies Acts 1963-2009. In addition to them and as a director of an OMC, you have to be cognisant of your responsibilities under various property related legislation including the Residential Tenancy Act 2004, Fire Services Act 1981, Occupiers Liability Act 1995, Waste Management, Litter Pollution and Health and Safety Acts, as well as the more recently enacted legislation the Multi-unit Developments (MUD) Act 2011.
There would also be responsibilities specific to your own development as set out in the unit owners leases and the OMC’s Memo and Articles of Association with which you should familiarise yourself.
The space available here does not allow me deal with your question as comprehensively as I would like and therefore I will focus on the specific responsibilities of OMC directors as set out in the MUD Act 2011.
A key responsibility of the directors is to determine the OMC’s annual budget and set the service charge. In setting the budget the MUD Act imposes a responsibility on the OMC to make medium- and long-term provision for maintenance and not just the needs for the immediate year and this budget must be approved by the owners at a general meeting before it can be adopted and billed out.
The Act specifically mandates a sinking fund provision for specific purposes including refurbishment, improvement or maintenance of a non-recurring nature and therefore the directors must strike a prudent balance between service charge affordability and the long-term sustainability of their development.
Statutory Fire /Life safety system maintenance is a key concern and it is the board’s responsibility to ensure and confirm annually the adequacy of the maintenance arrangements and that proper contractors are engaged.
The MUD Act requires that the directors must report to and consult with the owners very comprehensively and particularly they are responsible for ensuring value in the selection and delivery of services to the development.
The Directors must ensure the OMC prepares an annual report for the owners, over and above the normal statutory and financial reporting and including details of fire safety arrangements in place, the insurance cover, confirmation of the adequacy of the rebuild valuation/sum insured, principle risks and policy restrictions and excesses.
In the main, developments such as yours are likely to have the services of a professional managing agent to advise on the above and have responsibility for undertaking the corporate administration, building services as well as financial and property management reporting to the board of directors.
From my experience, after considering the above responsibilities and if you decide to proceed there are three actions you should take before accepting an appointment. First, review the statutory accounts of the OMC to satisfy yourself that it is solvent, second, confirm there is adequate Director and Officer Liability insurance and third, establish that the management agent appointed is professional, competent and licensed.
Siobhan O’Dwyer is chairwoman of the Property and Facilities Management Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie
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This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought