Untangling apartment building management

Your propery queries answered

The placement of external shutters can change the appearance of a property and for this reason planning permission is required. Photograph: Thinkstock

The placement of external shutters can change the appearance of a property and for this reason planning permission is required. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Q I am in the process of retiring to Ireland from the US and have recently viewed an apartment here which I fell in love with. I tried to investigate the finances and the management company, but was completely baffled. It appears that the registered office is at one of the four buildings in the apartment complex, but the individual apartment is not identified (just a brass plate outside)? So, at least on a quick visit, I couldn’t inspect the register of members, etc. Furthermore, a resident advised me that, unusually, there is no managing agent, as the complex is self-managed by one owner who is also a director and a company secretary. The auditor is apparently the personal accountant of this owner and she does not have to be licensed by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) as the complex is deemed to be self-managed. I am familiar with apartment living in New York, which is extremely strict and rigorous when it comes to regulations, finances etc. I would appreciate any advice.

A registered office of a company must be more than merely a post box for receiving communication, as there must be a facility for viewing company files, such as the register of members. It is also a requirement to have the company name clearly legible and obvious on the outside of the office or place, even if it is the residence of a director of the company.

Failure to comply with the Companies Act 2014 section 169 is a category three offence and thus can give rise to up to six months in prison and or a class A fine (up to €5,000) payable by the company and all its directors.

Self-managed apartment blocks are legal and often successfully run. It is, however, a requirement that the directors undertaking the function of a manager for the estate do not receive any remuneration, benefit in kind, inducement or gain for their time and efforts, without exception. In short, there is no reward at all for directors who self-manage multi-unit developments, other than hands-on control and first-hand operational knowledge of their owners’ management company within which sits their investment or home.

A property service provider (PSP) must have the following European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits or appropriate experience: Valuations 7.5; marketing/practice knowledge 30; economics 7.5; law 30; property management 20; building construction/technical 7.5; business studies/professional development 7.5. (“The number of ECTSs referred to above shall be supplemented by 10 ECTS credits in one or more of the specified subjects.” PSRA Guide to Becoming a PSP.)

The argument against not using a PSP is that the members do not have access to the PSRA compensation fund in the event of fraudulent activity. The PSRA is also required to audit PSPs to review their practices as set out by the Property Services Regulations Act 2011 and Client Moneys Regulations 2012. As with all regulatory bodies, the PSRA only has powers over licence holders and may only seek to have an unlicensed PSP cease their activities.

Paul Huberman is a chartered property and facilities manager and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie

Window shutters

Q I’ve been living abroad for more than 20 years. My husband and I hope to buy a small house in Dublin next year. It is very commonplace on the continent to have shutters on the windows of your home. Our 1930s house even has metal folding shutters for the front door. As we would not be living in the property full-time (we are still based abroad), security is essential during our absences. I spoke about shutters to a friend of mine, who said I might need planning permission? It seems very strange to me (but perhaps I’ve been out of the country too long), but I would like to know before we start house-hunting.

Shutters can be attractive on the front of a property. They are a very valuable security device, particularly if a home is to be unoccupied for any length of time. However, your friend is correct in advising you that the provision of shutters would require planning permission.

The placement of external shutters can change the appearance of a property and for this reason planning permission is required. Most local authorities have guidance about shutters on their websites. In general, they will advise about the type of shutter that is preferable to them. In all cases they will advise about the need for planning permission before shutters can be placed on a building.

Some shutters have unsightly boxes that contain the shutter when open or rolled up. This type of shutter would be of most concern to planning authorities and the type of shutter that would be unlikely to obtain planning permission.

If placed inside the windows shutters, would not need planning permission and this may be an option for you. Before you purchase your new property you should inform your surveyors of your desire to install shutters. They will guide you in more specific detail about solutions to your security needs.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and is a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie

Leaks and leases

Q I’m currently renting a house which has a significant number of structural issues. The bedroom ceiling leaks every time it rains heavily. The landlord has been notified each time it has happened over the past 13 months. He has attempted to repair the leak, but the problem persists and has led to a number of my personal possessions being damaged. As a result I no longer wish to live in the house and would like to leave before our 24 month lease expires. If we did this, would it be possible to get our deposit back. We have evidence of the leaks. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

All local authorities now have minimum housing standards for rented accommodation and these can be found on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government’s website www.environ.ie.

Under these standards it clearly states that all rental accommodation must be maintained in a proper state of structural repair. This means that the dwelling must be essentially sound, internally and externally, with roof, roofing tiles/slates and down pipes/fittings maintained in good condition and repair, and not defective.

For breach of minimum standards a tenant can contact their local authority and take a case against their landlord. Local authority inspectors usually inspect rental properties for the purpose of ensuring they comply with the regulations and can set out a timeframe to remedy any breach of the regulations. Where a property does not comply, the local authority can impose sanctions against a landlord until the breach of the regulations has been rectified.

The Private Residential Tenanacies Board (PRTB) was also established in 2004 on foot of the Residential Tenancies Act, and you can apply on line for an adjudication hearing or a dispute resolution for as little as €25, or €15 regarding standards not being maintained.

The PRTB will then hear the case and make a determination on whether you can serve your landlord with a “notice of termination” on the ground of failure of the landlord to meet their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

“Equally, a tenant who has entered into a tenancy for a fixed term is bound by the terms of the contract entered into and may not terminate the tenancy before expiry of the fixed term unless the contract so allows or there has been a breach of the landlord’s obligations”.

Alan Nolan is a chartered residential agency surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie