Property Clinic


Q I have noticed a few pre-63 buildings for sale on the northside of Dublin city and they seem to me to be reasonably good value at the moment.

I am considering putting in an offer on one with the idea of turning it back into a family home. Generally speaking, can they be converted back into family homes relatively easily or would there be significant planning permission issues?

AThe use of the building as of October 1st, 1964 will be the permitted use. The change of use from any commercial use (eg office) to use as a single dwelling will require planning permission.

However, where the building is in multi-residential use, for example as flats, it may be that it can revert to use as a single dwelling house where the previous use was as a single dwelling house.

This is set out in Class 14 of Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which provides that the change of use from use as two or more dwellings to use as a single dwelling of any structure previously used as a single dwelling is exempted development. The availability of this exemption is subject to a number of conditions and restrictions, for example it does not apply in the case of a protected structure.

It is recommended that a planning consultant be retained prior to purchase to advise upon these issues, and whether there are any exemptions available in relation to the change of use to a single dwelling house.

It may be appropriate to make an application for a Section 5 Declaration seeking the opinion of the planning authority as to whether the proposal is or is not development or is or is not exempted development.

In the event that there is no exemption available, a planning application will need to be made and the principle acceptability of the proposal to use the building as a single dwelling will depend upon a range of factors such as the zoning and the nature of the adjoining and surrounding uses.

John Spain is a member of the planning and development group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

Q We are first-time buyers and put a deposit on a house a couple of weeks ago. We have been advised by our solicitor that we should receive contracts in about three weeks time. He also mentioned that sometimes the exchange of contracts can drag on a bit. We are getting a little worried as the end of the year approaches that we may miss the deadline to avail of the mortgage interest relief, particularly as we get closer to Christmas. Is there anything we can do to speed the process up?

AAs a purchaser, there is a limited amount you can do to speed up the sale. Some buyers make a conditional offer whereby the sale must be completed within a certain period but this is more likely to be a condition that a vendor insists on.

In the first instance, once you agree terms and pay a deposit, the vendor’s agent will instruct their solicitors to prepare and issue contracts and this normally takes about three weeks.

During this period your solicitor can do very little but it is worth explaining that you are trying to complete in a very short time period and asking that they give the matter their immediate attention once contracts are received.

During this period you could also undertake a survey, have the boundaries checked and undertake a planning search.

This can be undertaken by a professional such as a chartered building surveyor or engineer.

If you are borrowing money, you should put your bank on notice that you have found a property and provide them with the details.

You might also inform them that you are seeking to complete the sale prior to Christmas and ask that they give this matter their immediate attention.

The bank will also appoint a valuer to undertake a valuation of the property.

Once contracts are received, the respective solicitors will exchange correspondence on pre-contract enquiries and the replies to these can frequently take some time.

If all is in order, once contracts are signed the closing date is normally four weeks thereafter.

In my experience, a six-week completion is quite fast and so my advice would be to discuss the situation with your solicitor to ensure that realistic timeframes are in place.

Gerard O’Toole is a chartered surveyor.

Q We are experiencing noise issues between our 1960s-built semi-detached house and our neighbours’. We can hear conversations, plugging and unplugging of appliances, etc.

We have already taken up the upstairs floorboards, and found that the joists were running through both houses, with large gaps around the joists. To remedy this we filled the gaps with an acoustic expandable foam and rock wool.

Unfortunately this did not fix the issue and we are at a loss as to what to do next. Should we examine the chimney breasts that are shared between the two houses or should we look at insulating the shared walls?

ABefore the days of building regulations, it was fairly common to find joists built into the party walls in older properties.

This is a weakness of your house, but at this stage it is not practical – or possible – to remove the joists, so the best option is to have the gaps suitably filled and sealed in as far as is practical.

However, I note that you used an acoustic expandable foam and rock wool insulation.

When we are dealing with sound insulation, it is all about density and the heavier the infill material, then the better the quality of sound insulation. None of the lightweight so called “acoustic” infillers will provide as good a sound insulation as a cement sand mortar infill. We would recommend the fill material be replaced with a cement sand filler, all properly compacted and infilled around the joist ends. It would be ideal if you could get your neighbour to carry out a similar exercise from their side, and this should give a significant improvement in the sound insulation.

Another common problem can be found in the attic if the wall is not properly built up and sealed at the junction with the roof. Again, this should be checked and sealed as appropriate.

I note your reference to the chimney breasts, and given the overall additional thickness of the chimney breasts, we would normally not expect any problem with sound transfer through these. However, if there had been a problem with a previous fire, then there could be a weakness within the chimney breast and this may be worth examining further.

Insulating the separating wall would be a last resort as this tends to be quite disruptive and relatively expensive.

Unfortunately, the actual building regulation requirement for sound insulation standard is relatively low, and this can be disappointing if you have a noisy neighbour.

Val O’Brien is a chartered building surveyor.

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This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought Your queries answered