‘I’ve found a derelict garden in an estate. How do I go about buying it?’

Property Clinic: Reader hopes an apparently abandoned garden might be a site for a home

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

I have a question about purchasing a garden with the idea to build a modular or prefabricated home on it.

I have found a large section of garden in Dublin that is the lower part of an L shape, and from what I can see via Google maps looks abandoned. It is at the end of a lane which provides access to the back gardens of properties in the same estate and looks like it has been used as a tip.

Is it possible for the home owner (if they agreed) to sell me this piece of land? Who would I need to speak to first? Are there any immediate laws on pre-built homes I would need to understand first?

The first step is to employ a suitable professional to look at the zoning and planning possibilities for the site. Full planning permission is required for a modular or prefabricated home in the same way it is for a traditional build. Matters such as overlooking your neighbour need to be addressed. Access to services including water, electricity, broadband and drainage also need to be considered.

So an initial opinion from such a professional will set the scene for any negotiations with the owner of the garden. I assume it is overgrown with vegetation but check (subject to permission to access the site) for any remains of a ruin which may give you something to work on with the planning authority. If a building previously existed on the site this may help create a precedent for the planning authority in determining whether a new building should be built on the site.

Other considerations for a derelict site include flooding, so review any flood maps for the area and check also for Japanese knotweed.

Next you need to establish ownership and this is not straightforward for a derelict or vacant site. Start off with a knock on the door of the adjoining property. It may simply be an extension of their garden. Does it contain an old redundant septic tank or percolation area (you never know)? Look up any possible planning applications on the site or newspaper articles. If the site is poorly maintained and particularly untidy, try looking on the local authority’s derelict sites register.

It’s not always easy to find an owner for a piece of land but you could also try checking with the Land Registry or Registry of Deeds (both under the umbrella of the Property Registration Authority of Ireland). Quite a lot of Dublin properties are on the Registry of Deeds particularly if it has not changed hands for some time. Anything sold post June 2011 will be registered in Land Registry.

As it looks abandoned you need to consider if the owner is deceased and the property may be in probate. If there is a will and an executor has been appointed, then they will deal with the estate and this takes time to sort out.

Your solicitor could assist with the title search and provide you with ownership details. The fact that it is at the end of a lane could mean all sorts of rights of way issues and these need to be established also. You will need access across the lane to access the site so is it wide enough for construction vehicles. Is it taken in charge by the local authority?

Alternatively, you could consult with your local chartered estate agent.

Pat McGovern is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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