Your queries answered
Q We live in a ‘one-off’ house which was built while we lived and worked abroad. After a number of years we discovered that the vendor (now deceased) had altered the boundaries so that the actual site and the site registered with the Land Registry do not agree. The matter can only be resolved through court action which we cannot afford and would find too stressful as I am terminally ill.
As we are unable to sell the house because of the title problem, I see this as reducing the value of the property significantly and intend to value the house at below the Revenue’s figure. Is this likely to be contested?
A The matter of disputed site boundaries is one full of difficulty and has been the subject of significant legal actions over many years. The possession of a land registry map in its own right is not conclusive evidence of site boundaries. I note that you have consulted on this matter previously and were advised that court action may ultimately be your only remedy.
You should be aware that the Revenue figure on the Local Property Tax return is an estimate of the tax liability. It does not reflect an accurate valuation of the property and is simply an average estimate of properties in a particular area.
The Act refers to the Local Property Tax being based on the Chargeable Value of the property. The definition in the Act presumes good title with no restrictions and that there is full access to the property. Any matter that affects the transaction of the property on the open market, such as your case, will be an impediment to its likely value and should be taken into account when determining the value of the property.
As the basis of the local property tax is self assessment it will be your responsibility to determine the value of the property on May 1st and select the appropriate tax band. However, it would appear that you may have a case in seeking to have the valuation reduced for the property when compared with adjoining similar properties given the title issue.
In the first instance you should consult the Revenue website and if you don’t agree with the Notice of Estimate that you receive, this can be displaced by making your own self-assessment and submitting your Return. Revenue can contest self-assessed valuations and so it is important that you keep any supporting evidence/documentation relating to the manner in which you came to the valuation.
It would be prudent to contact a local property valuation professional/ Chartered Surveyor to assist in determining the value of the property in this instance.
Michael Cleary is chairman of the Planning and Development Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
Q I am in an apartment with storage heating and can’t figure out how it works. I’ve asked my landlord and she doesn’t know either. It gets really hot in the day but seems to be cold at night. Can you please explain why this is happening?
A Many homes are provided with storage heating devices, often referred to as night storage heaters which draw ‘Night Saver’ electricity over a few hours and save it as heat in a bank of special blocks to provide heating when needed.
Your electricity supplier will have several tariffs available and you should shop around to get the best deal and you must have a dual rate or digital electricity meter.
The daily lower rate charge time is always the same but effectively changes from 11pm to 8am in winter or midnight to 9am in summerr due to daylight saving. The night time stored heat is allowed to slowly escape into the room by the device as set by the user during the day and evening.
Only so much energy can be stored in the charging period so if all heat is used quickly the unit goes cold until the next charge up period. To ensure you get the best use and economy from the units you should only charge during the cheaper tariff period.
Older systems depend on the ESB meter timing and the charge timer being synchronised correctly to avoid using expensive energy. They may be on a dedicated timed circuit and that might be the problem.
Storage heating units mostly have two controls, an ‘input’ or charge controller and an ‘output’ or draught controller that controls the heat output, these are mostly set by the user or in later models can be automatic. There is also sometimes a ‘boost’ setting to enable heating during a cold snap or if the main unit is turned off during the summer and there may also be a central controller in the hall.
Check the make and model of your units – you can usually download the correct manual from the manufacturer’s website and set accordingly.
Set the ‘charge’ dial high and the ‘output’ setting low at night, the unit should gain maximum heat and will be hot to touch. When you need heat in the room open the ‘output’ dial to maximum to allow heat to flow out of the unit, turn it down to slow the output as needed to your comfort level. You will need to experiment as the weather changes to get the best results.
Mostly units should only charge up at night so if after setting the user controls they still only heat during the day you will need a qualified electrician to check that the charge timing system is operating correctly or if the units have a fault.
Fergus Merriman is a chartered building surveyor
Q I understand that the property tax due on a residence is based on the possible sale value of that property on May 1st next. My query regards our home which is a self build in a rural area. We have been working on this house for about 10 years and are now living in a couple of rooms while completing the rest. Building is being done largely by my husband to a very high standard. We know exactly what we have spent on materials but have not spent much on labour – a roofer, a plasterer and some stone masons are our main expenses. Because the house is incomplete – kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, external rendering and some electrical work still to do and a garden under development – we have no idea of its sale value although in the next 12-18 months it should be more or less finished and of considerable value.
We have not yet received our property tax return. Do you have any advice on how best to handle the return?
A As you mention, the Local Property Tax (LPT) is based on the value of the property on May 1st. The value will then remain the same until the end of 2016 regardless of any changes to the market value by way of home improvements or general increases in property values – so in other words it will be based on its value on May 1st and the completion of the rest of the house, while increasing the value of the property, should not affect your property tax liability until 2016, if it is completed at a later stage.
You need to self-assess the value of the property as it stands on 1st May. Obviously the condition of the property, internally and externally, will be a significant contributory factor and the value should be discounted to take this into account. You should also note that the value is not based on the building materials costs.
The difficulty will be finding comparable sales information on properties. My advice is to check the house price register available on psr.ie, the Revenue website revenue.ie and other property websites to try to get some comparable information but bear in mind that the other properties either sold or on sale are going to be fully complete and available to live in.
I suggest that you take dated photos and notes on what you base your value on and keep them on file. The likelihood is that your value may be lower than the average for the area and this could be queried by Revenue. If you have clear evidence and a rationale supporting your value, you should not have a problem should the value be queried.
Finally if you have not yet received your property tax return from Revenue, I suggest you contact them to let them know you exist – you should not seek to avoid payment.
Ed Carey is a Chartered Surveyor. A guide to local property tax is available at scsi.ie
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This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual
advice should always be sought