Tuesday, 29 January 2013

An Post puts it's stamp on The Gathering

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Dr Leo Varadkar TD unveiled An Post’s new postage stamp celebrating The Gathering Ireland 2013 at the GPO last Thursday 24th January.

According to the press release on the Minister's website "Speaking at the GPO, Minister Varadkar said: “It’s a real privilege to launch this stamp which was designed especially for the Gathering. This eye-catching stamp will make its way right around the globe, doing its own job of promoting the Gathering wherever it’s sent.

“The people of Ireland are key to making the Gathering a success. I’m delighted to report that more than 2,500 community Gatherings have already been organised across Ireland. The launch of this stamp is a great opportunity to organise more events this year. I urge anyone with family and friends abroad to use the stamp, send a letter, and invite them home in 2013.”

The picture from his site (above) shows Leo Varadkar launching the new Gathering stamp with Celia Holman  Lee and members of her agency, which is hosting the Gathering's Young Student Designer of The Year Award 2013 in Limerick. Celia Holman Lee is inviting students from across the UK, the US, Europe and Ireland to compete for the IPB International Young Student Designer of The Year Award 2013."

The Gathering issued a press release stating that  "The Gathering Ireland 2013 stamp was designed specifically for use on invitations to family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances to come to Ireland this year for celebrations which are expected to attract around 325,000 extra overseas visitors. Gatherings are being organised on a national scale, and by families, individuals and communities across the country." Find out more about The Gathering Here

If you are going to Ireland for The Gathering apart from booking self catering accommodation via jmlvillas.com , you can also arrange your Travel Insurance at irishpropertyinsurance and car hire and car hire excess insurance at insurance4carrrental.com

So make the most of 2013 and arrange your visit to Ireland now. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Danger of Wood burning Stoves in the news

The Irish Times property section on Thursday 24th January featured an article on "Poisoning risk from poorly fitted stoves"  This was about the 350,000 or so solid fuel burning stoves that have become a popular feature in some 350,000 Irish homes may have been poorly installed. These could be putting people at risk from CO  (carbon monoxide poison). The report says that according to Patrick Cowan, the president of the Chimney Sweeps Association of Ireland - "When a stove is fitted in front of a fireplace you are changing the material use of the chimney"

On the home page of their website they say "Warning on purchasing multifuel stoves and inset stoves - Due to the down turn in the economy and the high cost of home heating fuels, householders are purchasing solid fuel stoves and inset stoves in unprecedented or record numbers. These appliances work extremely well when they are professionally installed to Building Regulations 1997 TGDJ HPA and the manufacturers installation manuals. However, if these appliances are not fitted to the above regulations or guidelines then the chances of a carbon monoxide intrusion and/or chimney fire is greatly increased. 

Please do not listen to Retailers who tell you that;" if your house is less than 20 years old it's ok"," just get a chimney sweep to sweep it before we fit it" Or, "I have one of these myself and my chimney breast wall heats up too, but it's ok"...Worst still retailers who charge you 100 Euro for a survey but do not employ a CCTV  camera to inspect the chimney or carry out a professional smoke test. The 100 Euro is simply a sales tool to secure a deposit on a stove or inset stove they are trying to sell you."

"If you are thinking of buying a multifuel stove or inset stove then I would strongly advise that your chimney be professionally swept and inspected by a certified member of the CSAI. If on the other hand, you have already purchased a multifuel stove or inset stove and want to ensure that your appliance has been fitted to the above Building regulations and/or manufacturers installation guidelines? A CSAI member will inspect the installation of the appliance and issue a certificate. If your installation is in breach of Building regulations and/or the manufacturers installation guidelines then you will able to address your concerns with the retailer/ installer or as in one of our customers cases, The High Court." Source CSAI

According to the Irish Times article "a full inspection costs €300. If the survey finds that the chimney needs to be lined and the fireplace removed to better fir the stove it can can cost upwards of €3,000"

On the same day this article appeared in the Irish Times, I received an email from one the UK's specialist Solicitors Pain Smith who deal in residential lettings landlord and tenant law from their blog.

"Wood burning stoves and what agents need to know.

Over the past few years wood burners and open fires have come back into vogue. Most people agree that sitting in front of a fire on a cold winter evening is something they like to do. Open fires and wood burning stoves bring there own complications.

As part of the structure of the building landlords have an obligation to keep the stove and the chimney in good repair. Landlords should also check what the requirements are of any building insurer with regards to the same. 

We have recently received questions asking whether landlords need some form of certificate; and can tenants be required to clean the chimney?

With regards to any fuel burning appliance installed after October 2010 it must comply with appropriate Building Regulations. This means that any such appliance must either have been installed by a HETAS approved engineer, who can then self certificate, or specific Building Regulation consent should have been obtained. A homeowner should ensure that such certification is kept in a safe place as this may be required.

Under these regulations a carbon monoxide detector will also have to be installed which the landlord will have to check is in good order. The landlord will then be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and repair of such a stove whilst it is in the property. For appliances installed before this there is no specific requirement for certification save that landlords should be satisfied that they are safe and as part of this they would be well advised to ensure that a carbon monoxide detector is present.

We would always recommend that landlords carry out regular inspections to check what, if any, repair or maintenance issues may exist. There is however currently no statutory requirement to obtain some form of annual certification.

Generally such stoves require for general safety that the chimneys are swept at least once in every twelve month period. Many tenancy agreements contain a term that the tenant should ensure that this takes place. Some commentators seem to indicate that this is an unfair contract term relying on the guidance issued by the OFT in 2005. We disagree.

In our opinion provided a landlord can show that the chimney was swept before the start of a tenancy it is not unreasonable to place an obligation upon a tenant to ensure that the chimney is swept at regular intervals provided there is no obligation for them to return the property with the chimney in a better state than it was given to them. This can only apply to having the chimney swept and any maintenance which may be required from time to time would be the landlord’s responsibility. We are not aware of any specific challenges made by tenants to such terms and if anyone is would welcome hearing from them.

To summarise our view is that a well advised landlord will check if the installation was after October 2010 that they have a copy of the certificate. They will prior to any tenancy have the chimney swept (or make sure they have evidence that this happened) and also make sure that in any pre-tenancy inspection they check no repair or maintenance issues arise. We would always suggest that if in doubt a reputable professional is employed to undertake a check and the prudent landlord will ensure that their property has smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fitted." Source Pain Smith blog

Going back to the Irish Times article, they say that "a carbon monoxide alarm is essential  - Homes should have a minimum of two one in ceiling of the sitting room and second at breathing level in a bedroom.  Apparently the Department of the Environment in Ireland is looking   at making carbon monoxide detectors and alarms mandatory in certain circumstances. Maybe this will be first of all in rental properties in Ireland.

Unfortunately unlike the UK you did not have to have an annual gas safety check (Natural or Calor gas type cylinder) done on a rental property in the Republic of Ireland in a rental property as you do in the UK and France (Possibly other countries as well).

Hopefully the appropriate Government Department will introduce this safety check as it is a lot more important than the EU wide energy certificates - BER - EPC for rental properties.   

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Goodbye to the bedsit in Ireland

On Thursday January 17th 2013, The Irish Times property section had the headline "Farewell to the humble bedsit". Following their article on the 28th December, "It will be illegal for landlords to rent out bedsit-type accommodation under new regulations due to come into force at the end of next month.

From February 1st all rented accommodation must have its own sanitary facilities in a separate room, which means the days of rented rooms sharing a single bathroom will come to an end."

The Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008  (Details here) have been in place since 2009, there has been a four year grace period for the implementation of articles 6.7 and 8 which are about sanitation, food preparation and heating. Basically all properties that are on the rental market including those within multi unit properties (e.g. bedsits) will have to have their own bathroom, independently controlled heating appliances plus for cooking:

  • A four ring hob (not the type of cooker above that was typical in bedsits in my area in the 1980's to 2000)
  • Oven
  • Grill
  • Extractor fan
  • Fridge & Freezer
  • Microwave oven
  • Access to laundry facilities
This will mean that a lot of landlords will have to incorporate such features if they remain in the bedsit market and in effect convert their bedsits into "studio flats".

Those who are not able to convert can of course try and sell them as normal houses. Many of these properties of course will be larger than the average family, however could be ideal for those with "adult members of the family" still living at home. 

In the UK "Bedsits" have been regulated for a number of years under HMO - Houses in Multiple Occupation legislation that now incorporates licencing.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Tenancy Deposit Protection for Northern Ireland

The January / February 2013 UK Landlord magazine has reported news about the Tenancy Deposit scheme that is currently operated in England and Wales and Scotland going to Northern Ireland as well.

Legislation has now been approved for tenancy deposit protection schemes to be introduced in Northern Ireland early in 2013.

According to "UK Landlord" - Northern Ireland's Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland has invited expressions of interest from organisations to operate a new tenancy deposit protection scheme in Northern Ireland.

A new law recently approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly require an independent third party scheme to protect tenant's deposits as in England and Wales and Scotland. Minister Nelson McCausland said he expects the scheme to provide "benefits for both landlords and tenants, encourage a more professional approach to tenancy deposit practise, minimise disputes and go some way to improving the sector's reputation as a desirable option".

The minister said he wanted to appoint scheme adminstrators as soon as possible to allow the scheme to operate from early 2013 - Source UK Landlord.

The NI Direct  Department of Social Development says on it's website " Why is The Tenancy Deposit Schemes Legislation being introduced?"

  • Tenancy deposits will be protected by an independent third party.
    This will prevent deposit from being unfairly withheld by landlords or letting agents at the end of the tenancy.  
  • Quick repayment of deposits.
    Where a landlord and tenant agree about the return of the deposit the deposit must be returned within 5 working days.
  • Free access to an independent dispute resolution service.
    Every approved scheme will provide a free service to resolve disagreements over the return of deposits as an alternative to taking legal action through the courts.
  • Provision of information.
    Landlords must give the tenant key information about the tenancy, the deposit and the scheme that safeguards the deposit. Schemes will also provide information about the protection of deposits and their services to tenants and landlords.
  • Sanctions for non compliance.
    A tenant can report a landlord to the local council if they fail to submit deposits to an approved scheme and/or provide information to the tenant within the specified time limits. Councils will have the power to issue fixed penalties in these cases.
  • Improved professionalism of the private rented sector.
    The introduction of tenancy deposit schemes will raise standards in relation to management of deposits.
When will the tenancy deposit schemes be available?
Once a scheme administrator(s) has been approved by the Department and the necessary publicity of their approved scheme has taken place, it is anticipated that the tenancy deposits schemes will become operational and that the first deposits should start to be protected in early 2013. Source NI Direct
It will be interesting to see if the same organisations who run the Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes in England, Wales and Scotland run the new one in Northern Ireland. After all they have the mechanism in place. 
Deposit Protection Service - MyDeposits - Tenancy Deposit Scheme for England And Wales
The Letting Protection Service Scotland - Safedeposits Scotland - My|deposits Scotland for Scotland

Friday, 11 January 2013

Changes for BER - EPC certificates from 9th January 2013

Wednesday 9th January 2013 saw changes for BER certificates in Ireland and other EU member states

Whatever the local terminology of these certificates -  Diagnostic de Performance Énergétique (DPE) in FranceBuilding Energy Rating - Certificates in Ireland (BER) or Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) in the UK including Northern Ireland there were changes in the rules from Wednesday.

The changes come from the EU Directive (Council Directive 2010/31/EU). According to UK solicitors Pain Smith,  The directive mainly consolidates the regulations but there are some significant changes in relation to the contents, issue and display of EPCs.
In relation to residential lettings the significant changes are as follows:
• property advertisements are to include details of the energy performance certificate rating ( the A-G rating) where available;
• the requirement to attach the front page of the certificate to any written material is to be removed;
listed buildings are exempt from the need to have a certificate on their sale or rent.
The above does get around some of the problems that agents have been facing such as how to attach a front page to the particulars on display in the window. However agents will nevertheless have to produce the EPC on demand to potential tenants and there is no additional leniency in respect of obtaining it, and the penalties have not been amended for failure to comply. (Source Pain Smith)
 irishlandlord .com has sent out a reminder  Advertising of BER -  New Guidelines for 2013 - S.I. 243 of 2012 European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations, 2012 makes provisions for the inclusion of BER information in property sale and rental advertisements.  The regulations also mandate that the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) as the designated Issuing Authority shall publish guidelines as to how Building Energy Rating (BER) details would be conveyed such advertisements.

A summary of the provisions are:
A person offering a property for sale or rent on or after 9th January 2013, or their agent, shall ensure that the energy performance indicator of the current BER certificate for the building is stated in any advertisements, where such advertisements are taken relating to the sale or letting of that building.

Prospective buyers and renters will be shown the BER rating (Alphanumeric value) along with other prescribed content (dependent on the particular medium) in a prominent location in each specific advertisement

Where images of the property are used then the presentation of the alphanumeric value will be by way of the prescribed BER Alphanumeric Rating Motif for the particular property rating.
The BER Alphanumeric Rating Motif artwork files will be made available in electronic format from the SEAI website or on request to info@ber.seai.ie (Source irishlandlord.com)

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland said  - "Surveyors Remind Home Sellers on New BER regulations from  January 9 th"  The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) has reminded property owners that all properties for sale or to let must display a Building Energy Rating (BER) certificate on all advertising effective from January 9th.

The SCSI said that new Building Energy Regulations, which are being implemented at a European level, will require the Building Energy Rating of a property to be published on all marketing materials for the property.
Ed Carey, Chairman of the Residential Property Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCSI) said “From January 9th, the energy rating of a property must be published on all marketing materials relating to the property and home vendors and landlords must have a BER cert before the property is put on the market”.

BER certificates, introduced in 2009, are essentially a guide to the energy efficiency of the property. They rate the property on a grade from A-G, with A being the most energy efficient.
“My advice for anyone considering selling or letting their property is to have their property energy rated as the first step before contacting an agent as the agent will not be in a position to market the property until they have the BER certificate. A full list of BER assessors is available on the SEAI website www.seai.ie  ” Carey concluded.

There are exemptions for certain categories of homes, for example, protected structures and certain temporary homes (source http://www.scsi.ie/BERPR)