Property Clinic

Leaky roofs, capital gains tax and bathroom smells

Q A hole in my pitched roof was causing leaks and damp patches inside the house. A roofer looked at it and advised extensive works to fix the problem, but also kindly put an emergency patch on the hole and said this would keep it dry for a while. It has.

The leak has stopped, the damp has disappeared. I’m now thinking that this patch could last for years, and that the leak is fixed for now. I’m inclined to just pay the roofer for his trouble, and postpone the bigger job until the damp patches reappear or I win the Lotto, whichever comes first. Good or bad idea?

A This is a bad idea. I would not advise leaving this patch repair to the main roof of your property until the damp reappears. Even though the previous damp staining has now disappeared, the leak may still be occurring and damaging other elements of the roof, ie timber battens or rafters. Prolonged exposure of water ingress of this nature can lead to wet/dry rot in timbers, which then becomes costly to remedy.

Extensive works to a pitched roof usually entail that the existing roof covering (which is usually slate, concrete tile, clay tile or even thatch) is nearing the end of its life span and requires wholesale replacement. It may also mean that movement to the roof structure has occurred due to excessive loadings, timbers are decaying due to woodworm infestation and/or wet or dry rot, or the roofing felt has perished and requires replacement.


A good example of this is replacing roof slates with concrete tiles on old buildings. The concrete tiles are heavier than slates and, if structural strengthen works to the roof structure is not done beforehand, structural movement of the roof structure may occur, causing further damage. To rectify the above mentioned examples would be deemed “extensive works”.

I would therefore suggest obtaining a second opinion from an appropriately qualified professional such as a chartered building surveyor. They will be best placed to advise you on what the cause of the water ingress is and what the extent of the repair works are. They will also be able to provide budget costs accordingly, and make recommendations for reputable roofers.

If you chose to do nothing, I can safely say the damp staining will re-occur before you win the Lotto!

Michael Ferry is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland ,

Q My wife and I own an apartment in Dublin and a house down the country. We mostly live in the apartment and visit the house for about 20 weekends per year – about 80 days in total. I would hope to sell the house if and when the market picks up and also to designate it as my principal private residence (PPR) to avoid paying CGT. Can I do this given that I principally do not live there? Also, if I was to let the house does this compromise the CGT derogation? I paid the NPPR tax on the apartment.

A You should obtain specialist tax advice before trying to designate the house your principal private residence (PPR). If you do not principally live in the house, it is not your PPR.

According to Revenue, an individual’s principal private residence at any time is the building or part of a building occupied by the individual as his or her only or main residence: during the period of 12 months ending with that time, or where the building was more recently acquired, from the time of acquisition to that time.

The principle of the rules governing capital gains tax (CGT) exemption for PPRs is that the gains made on your main residence or the sole residence of a dependent relative are exempt.

You and your wife can only have one PPR between you. There are rules governing how long you can live away from the PPR, eg a period of up to 12 months immediately before the end of the period of ownership is treated as a period of occupation even though you may not have been actually living in it during that period.

Other permitted circumstances for living away from the house that do not invalidate its status as your PPR include: time when you worked outside the State; a period up to four years when it was a condition of your employment that you lived elsewhere provided the house was still your only main residence and no other house was eligible for exemption; and specific conditions relating to nursing home care which do not apply to your case.

Paying the NPPR on another property does not satisfy the requirements of the CGT exemption rules for claiming the house as your PPR. Renting out the house would ensure that it could not be regarded as your PPR. Your accountant should be able to advise you in greater detail.

Simon Stokes is chair of the residential property professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland ,

Q I am at a loss to know who I should contact to try and solve my problem which is as follows: I have a smell of sewerage emanating from the vicinity of my downstairs loo. The problem started about a year ago. This is more or less continuous with some days worse than others.

My plumber has made valiant attempts to locate the source including removing the floor boards to locate the pipes, etc, but without success. It seems to pervade the house at times. I am at a loss to know who to go to next. Would a civil engineer be the right person to contact or an architect?

The house is 35 years old and on its own grounds. There is no smell from the area outdoors and drains outdoors are kept clear.

I would appreciate any direction you may be able to provide. I enjoy your weekly Property Clinic – it’s most informative on lots of issues.

A The most common cause is a loss of water in the trap below the appliance allowing foul air to enter the house. This is associated with unvented modern plastic pipe systems. Dwellings will generally have an external soil vent pipe which receives waste water from toilets, showers, hand basins etc. Some appliances at ground floor route direct to outer drains. Internal pipes are normally 100mm diameter for toilets and 32mm waste pipes from general appliances.

Building Regulations state that an unvented 100mm soil pipe should not exceed 6 metres in length from WC to the outlet. Similarly hand basin waste pipes should not exceed 1.7 metres for 32mm pipes and 3 metres for 40mm pipes. If this criterion is exceeded, then there is a risk for foul smells to enter.

The smell you refer to may be for the aforementioned reason, however smells from drains can be deceptive. Dishwashers and washing machine plumbing can be unsealed and cause smells to enter the room.

Added shower rooms and toilets are prone to this kind of problem as they can be installed in an ad hoc manner. Even soaps and detergents can give off pungent odours.

Other issues could relate to lack of venting in the WC compartment with no window and/or mechanical extraction. Blocked and cracked drains can also present this problem. A CCTV specialist drain survey may even be necessary.

Your first step is to check the unvented issue. To assist, look at the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government website, (see Building Standards – Technical Guidance Documents – Part H Drainage and Waste Disposal – Section Diagram 3). This will help to determine whether there is risk of a loss of water in the trap.

If so, the installation of a 32mm vent pipe at the appliance vented to the outside, or an internal air admittance valve should solve your problem.

Failing that, I would seek the advice of your local chartered building surveyor to investigate.

Jim Drew is a member of the Western Region Branch of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,

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