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Dublin Housing

Renting
If you have recently arrived in Ireland, looking for somewhere to live can be challenging. A good place to start looking for a flat, apartment or house is the accommodation section of local and evening papers and accommodation websites. Try to buy the paper as soon as it comes out. Accommodation may also be advertised in shop windows or notice boards in supermarkets and colleges. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a place; word of mouth is surprisingly successful. Some places, especially if they’re being let through an estate agent, will have “To Let” signs outside. You should make an appointment to see the flat or house, and be sure to arrive early.

Accommodation agencies are also available but may charge a fee for helping you find private rented accommodation. Before you register with the agency and pay a fee, you should get answers to the following questions:

-Is the agency licensed?
-What services are offered for the fee?
-In what circumstances will you be entitled to a refund?
-How many landlords who accept rent supplements does the agency have on its list?

If you decide to register, make sure you get a receipt for any money you pay.

When viewing flats or apartments for rent, keep the following checklist in mind:
-Are there any signs of dampness?
-Do the windows open?
-What security is available (i.e., window locks, burglar alarm)?
-Is a smoke detector provided and is it functioning?
-Who pays for the heat? What hours is it on, and who controls it?
-Is hot water available all or some of the time?
-Are the appliances clean and in working order?
-What sort of condition is the bathroom in?
-Is there storage for bicycles, parking space etc?
-Is there a bus route or other public transport nearby?
-Are there shops and other facilities nearby?

Landlords will usually ask for a deposit, which might be a week or month’s rent. Make sure you get a receipt for any deposit you pay. You may lose your deposit if:

-You leave without giving proper notice or leave before the end of a fixed term lease
-You cause damage to the accommodation beyond normal wear and tear
-You leave with bills or rent unpaid.

Long term rental is widely available throughout Ireland. When you rent you usually sign a 12-month lease on the property and will in most cases be expected to pay two months rent in advance – one month for the rental of the property and one month for the deposit on the contents of the property.

The deposit will usually be returned to you if you leave the property in the same condition you rented it in, but for your own peace of mind you should take photographs of the property when you are moving in and when you are moving out, this should help resolve any disputes between you and your landlord.

You are also legally entitled to ask for a rent book. A rent book is a document that records details about the tenancy and notes all payments of rent that you have made to the landlord. Usually it is in booklet form but it can be in another form, provided it contains all the necessary details. Your right to a rent book is set down under Section 25 of the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings Act), 1982 and in SI 128/1993 Housing (Rent Books) Regulations 1993.

Your landlord should record all rent payments in the rent book. If the payments are made in person s/he should sign the book or give you a signed receipt with the details of the payment. If the payments are made in another way (e.g. by standing order or check) the landlord should sign the rent book or give you a written receipt within three months of the payment.

Your rent book should also contain the following information:

  • The address of the flat or house
  • Your landlord’s name and address and the landlord’s agent (if any)
  • Your name
  • The date the tenancy started
  • The length of the tenancy
  • The amount of deposit paid
  • The amount of rent and how it is to be paid
  • Details of any other payments for services, e.g., for heating or cable television
  • A statement on the basic rights and duties of landlords and tenants
  • A list of furnishings and appliances supplied by the landlord.

It is your landlord’s responsibility to give you a rent book. Rent books are available cheaply from all good stationery shops. If you are the tenant, you should keep the rent book in your possession but you should give it to the landlord when requested so they can make changes and record the rent and other payments.

If your landlord refuses to give you a rent book or provide you with receipts or statements of rent paid, this is against the law and they may be guilty of an offence. If you wish to make a complaint, you should contact the Housing Department of your local authority.

If you are a private residential tenant your landlord must give you proper notice of termination of a tenancy. If you have a dispute with the landlord over notice you can contact the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). The PRTB is an organization that registers tenancies and mediates disputes between private landlords and tenants.

Further information
Threshold is a charitable organization that provides advice, information and support to all citizens on housing rights in Ireland. The organization has three national offices (Dublin, Galway and Cork). Contact them for free, confidential advice and information at:

Threshold
21 Stoneybatter
Dublin 7
+353 1 678 6096

Private Residential Tenancies Board
Canal House, Canal Road
Dublin 6
+353 1 888 2960
Fax: +353 1 888 2819
Email: Tenancies_Board@environ.ie

Free information and advice on housing is also available from any one of the 85 Citizens Information Centers nationwide.
www.citizensinformation.ie

Online rental is available for properties throughout Ireland and the most popular sites are:
http://www.daft.ie/
http://www.myhome.ie/
http://www.let.ie/
http://www.lowe.ie/
http://propertyireland.net/
http://www.findahome.ie/
http://www.westcorkproperty.com/
http://www.letbynet.com/
http://www.rentorsell.ie/
http://www.property.ie/

Buying
It is not possible to buy any property in Ireland without seeking professional legal advice and assistance to help you in the conveyance process. Conveyancing is basically the legal process involved in transferring ownership of property and land from one person or party to another, the solicitor who completes this process on your behalf must be fully qualified and registered with the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. The primary methods by which property is sold in Ireland are private treaty sale and public auction.

Private Treaty Sale / Contracts for Sale
This type of property contract is a contract for sale that effectively binds both parties to the completion of the sale.  If you are the purchaser and at some point you decide to withdraw from the contract you may find that you have to pay a sum of money or lose the agreed deposit for the property. The completion date for final exchange of contract will be stated within the contract along with the balance of the agreed property purchase price.  During the time that it takes to complete the contract your solicitor will undertake searches on your behalf.  One particular check that non-Ireland residents may not be familiar with is finding out whether a Family Home Protect Act declaration is required.  Basically, if a home is classed as a family home, certain additional documents are required for the sale to proceed. These include proof that the interests of both spouses are considered in the sale, i.e. one partner is not attempting to sell the property without the other’s consent.  Other checks are much the same as in any other country, such as making sure that any extensions or alterations that have been made to the property have been completed with full planning permission.

When the sale has been fully completed, the purchaser’s deeds that now show the new ownership will be registered with either the Registry of Deeds or the Land Registry.  However, before this can happen the deeds must first be presented to the Revenue Commissioners who will calculate whether there is any stamp duty due to be paid on the property.  Stamp duty in Ireland is currently calculated as a percentage of the total purchase price and is between 3% and 9% dependent on the current value of the property.

Public Auction
A public auction simply involves two or more parties competing for the property.  Each party makes a bid and the highest bidder secures the purchase of the property.  As with many countries, in order to protect the vendor a reserve price is set and if that price is not reached during the bidding process the property remains unsold.

Before the auction it is normal for your solicitor to check the contract for the property and all of the title documents that are referred to in the contract.  When the solicitor is satisfied that all is in order, a survey of the property to ensure that is of sound build is also generally completed.

If you do decide to buy your Irish property at an auction, take the time to become familiar with the current status of the housing market, price variations within different regions and in particular, when looking for a property in Dublin, be aware that price fluctuations can be significant in comparatively short geographical distances.

Financing a Home
Buying a home in Ireland, whether you are purchasing for the first time or selling an existing home, is a considerable financial decision. House prices in Ireland over the past ten years have risen enormously and unless you are one of a very small group who can afford to buy a house outright, you will have to borrow the money and pay back the loan, usually over 25 to 30 years. A loan used for the purpose of buying a house is commonly called a mortgage.

There are broadly two sources of finance for buying your own home: commercial lending agencies such as banks and building societies, and local authorities.

Banks and building societies
Practices vary between different organizations so it is important to shop around. Generally you will be able to borrow two and a half times your annual salary where there is one earner in the household or two and a half times the higher earner’s salary plus the other salary where there are two earners. Many organizations may offer to lend you more than this, but be very careful not to over commit yourself. Lenders now offer up to 95% of the value of the house in some instances.

Local authorities
If you cannot get a mortgage from a building society or bank to buy or build a house, you may be eligible for a loan from a local authority.

Types of mortgages
Broadly speaking, there are two types of mortgages: annuity and endowment.

Annuity mortgages
This is the traditional mortgage and by far the most popular. The loan is taken out for usually 25 to 30 years during which time the loan is repaid with interest. (Some lenders now offer 35 or 40 year mortgages to first-time buyers or younger buyers). Each repayment covers the interest and something off the loan. In the early years of a mortgage, interest forms the largest part of the repayments so the amount owed reduces very slowly at first and then much faster towards the end of the mortgage. The interest rate moves up and down in line with general interest rates, so if interest rates go up or down, your repayments will go up or down too.

There are some variations on the standard annuity mortgage. A fixed rate mortgage provides a loan with the rate of interest fixed for a period of time. The advantage of this is that repayments are fixed and can be budgeted for accurately. The borrower gains if interest rates rise above the fixed rate and loses if they fall below it.

A low start mortgage postpones payment of some of the interest that is normally paid at the beginning of the loan by adding it to the amount of the loan, so that the loan increases over time. After a fixed period, normal interest is paid and monthly payments increase. Some people may be drawn to this, but it is important to be sure that you will be able to afford the increased repayments; and to realize that if interest rates rise, you could be in a situation where the outstanding loan is worth more than the value of the house.

The advantage of an annuity mortgage is that there is very little risk compared with an endowment mortgage. However, repayments usually depend on general interest rates and these mortgages tend to be expensive in the earlier years of the loan.

Endowment mortgages
With an endowment mortgage, the borrower takes out an insurance policy that is designed to repay the entire loan, usually after 20 years. So each monthly payment consists of the premium on the insurance policy and the interest on the loan. Nothing is paid off the loan until the policy matures. At that stage, there should be enough to pay off the whole loan, and possibly an additional lump sum. There are a number of different types of endowment mortgages and variations but the basic principle is the same.

The advantage of an endowment mortgage is that it generally offers better tax relief, although in recent years, the advantages have been reduced. However, the net repayments in earlier years are usually higher than those on an annuity mortgage. In addition, there is some risk since there is no guarantee that when the insurance policy matures, there will be enough to pay off the entire loan. A further disadvantage is that they are less flexible than annuity mortgages. If you get into financial difficulties, there is no scope for cutting repayments temporarily.

Mortgage income tax relief
Tax relief is available on the interest portion of any loan or mortgage taken out to buy or to repair and improve your home. With effect from 1st January, 2002, your mortgage lender now gives you the benefit of tax relief on interest paid. This means, that your mortgage repayment will be reduced by the amount of tax relief and the lender then claims this tax relief from the Revenue Commissioners.

If you take out a bridging loan while you are waiting for the mortgage loan to come through or because you bridging finance between the sale of one home and the purchase of another, you can claim tax relief on bridging loans.

Getting loan approval
It is sensible to talk to potential lenders before you start looking for a home. A lender will tell you how much they are prepared to lend you, based on your income, your credit record, your employment record, other borrowings, etc. This approval in principle may save you a lot of time later on.

As well as paying the mortgage, there are other costs involved in buying a home in Ireland. These can be significant so it is important to add them up before going any further with house purchase.

Deposit. Buyers will normally need to pay at least 10% of the purchase price and perhaps more as a deposit. The exceptions to this are where the mortgage is from a local authority, in which case the deposit may be as low as 5% of the purchase price or where the mortgage is under the Shared Ownership Scheme where the minimum deposit is 1,269.74 euro.

Lending agency fees. These may include the following: an application fee; the lender’s survey; searches; mortgage loan costs and an indemnity bond to ensure that if the lender has to repossess the property it won’t make a loss.

Legal fees. There is no fixed rate of charges for legal fees in Ireland. Rather, solicitors can offer competitive rates for conveyancing work (legal fees associated with buying a home) and you are advised to obtain some quotes before deciding on a legal firm. Solicitors may charge you a flat fee or a percentage of the purchase price. In the past, fees were of the order of 1.5% of the purchase price but again, shop around to get the lowest possible percentage fee or the lowest possible fixed fee. There may be other costs associated with the legal process including land registry fees and legal searches. VAT (at 21%) is also payable on the legal fees.

Buyer’s survey fee. This is different from the survey carried out by the lending agency. You will need one if you are thinking of buying a second-hand house. The cost will vary considerably, ranging from 127 euro to 380 euro.

Stamp duty on mortgage deed. Exempt if your mortgage is less than 254,000 euro. If your mortgage is greater than 254,000 euro, duty is charged at 1 euro for every 1,000 borrowed.

Mortgage protection . Mortgage Protection insurance is designed to pay the balance of your mortgage if you die before the loan is fully repaid. Lenders are legally obliged to make sure that you have adequate mortgage protection cover when you take out a home loan, although you do not have to arrange this insurance through them. Premiums vary but always reduce over the life of the loan as the amount of the loan reduces. Local authorities run their own plan ( The Local Authorities Mortgage Protection Plan ) and people borrowing under the Local Authorities House Purchase Loan scheme must take out insurance through this scheme.

Home Insurance . Most lenders will also insist that you take out adequate home insurance to protect your home in the event of fire or other damage. You are not obliged to purchase home insurance from your lender.

Stamp duty on house price. Stamp duty is a tax payable based on the value of the transaction.