Buying your house
The biggest single purchase in most people’s lives is their family home. It is important that you are left in a “safe pair of hands” that can guide you through the process. The Member Firms of the National Solicitors Alliance recognise the importance of fully explaining to their clients the legal issues arising when they are purchasing a house, such as the importance of ensuring there are documents to prove compliance with planning permission, fire safety legislation and building regulations.
For example, the rules imposed by the Central Bank on banks have had the effect that it is more difficult to obtain a mortgage now than it was during the Celtic Tiger era. However, many prospective purchasers find that they are being asked to sign contracts that are not “subject to loan approval”. This can leave them exposed to losing their deposit if their bank delays or refuses a loan.
Another issue that arises is where the “title deeds” for the property you are purchasing are registered in the Registry of Deeds (“unregistered land”), as opposed to the Land Registry (“registered land”). In such a case, your solicitor would have to undertake additional searches to guarantee that the title is correct so that the Land Registry can register the title when you purchase (which is always recommended as it will make it easier to sell the property later).
You may notice that sometimes properties are advertised for sale at “bargain” prices at distressed property auctions. While they may appear to be “good deals”, these properties often come with problems concerning disputed boundaries or planning permission problems or missing title deeds. Our solicitors have come across situations where the property is land-locked, and other cases, where there may be unpaid financial contributions dating back to when the property was originally constructed or failure to complete the development such that the County Council will not take the roads and common areas into their ownership. In such a case, you would have to repair the potholes yourself if you were to buy.
It is therefore very important for anyone thinking about purchasing a property at auction to retain a solicitor at a very early stage. This is because, if you purchase a premises at auction and sign the contract you will forfeit your deposit if you do not complete the purchase of the property and will not be able to modify the terms of the contract once the auction has concluded, even if you find that there is no planning permission, or it is landlocked, or if the title deeds are missing (such that you will not easily be able to ever sell the property), or any of the other matters that your solicitor will identify.
Selling your house
Whilst you might think that it is easier for your solicitor to act in the sale of your house rather than a purchase of a house, this is not often the case. There have been a series of significant changes over the last ten years in relation to the way property is registered in Ireland and the manner in which sales of property are carried out. For example, if title to your property is not already registered in the Land Registry and it is only the deeds that are registered in the Registry of Deeds, you will need certain documentation to ensure that the purchaser of your property can successfully register the property after purchase under the new rules in the Land Registry. Your solicitor will be in a position to review the title deeds and explain to you what extra documents are required.
Additionally, as has been widely reported in the media, thousands of properties constructed and sold during the Celtic Tiger era are of poor and potentially dangerous build quality and were constructed with below standard materials and in breach of the fire safety regulations.
Accordingly, a purchaser of your property may require more documentation and paperwork than your solicitor would have received at the time you purchased the property. Your solicitor will be in a position to discuss any such queries with you and may recommend that you might need the assistance of an engineer, architect, surveyor or planning consultant to deal with these queries.
Another issue which often occurs in relation to sales of properties which were purchased in the 2006-early 2008 period is that many of these properties may still be in negative equity and your solicitor may have to enter into aggressive negotiation with your lending institution in relation to what is to happen to the shortfall on the sale of any such properties.
Landlord and Tenant
Residential leases and commercial leases set out the terms of occupation of a property by a tenant. In negotiating a lease, it is important that the covenants relating to the repair of the property are clearly understood and the costs they may impose must be proportionate to the value of the property. The Member Firms of the National Solicitors Alliance can assist you in negotiating the terms of a lease. If a dispute arises between a landlord and tenant, the Member Firms will be in a position to advise their client and act on their behalf before the courts and the Residential Tenancy Tribunal for residential properties.
Ownership or occupation of land can lead to many types of property disputes with neighbours, local authorities, visitors and other parties. Sometimes a strongly worded letter is all that is required to get a trespasser to stop trespassing on your property or making excessive noise or smells or otherwise causing a nuisance. However, if a strongly worded letter does not resolve matters then you may find that your only option is to engage the services of a solicitor. The Member Firms of the National Solicitors Alliance have solicitors across the country who can assist you with your property disputes. They will be able to advise you in relation to the many important matters that a trusted solicitor can bring to your attention that you might otherwise overlook.
The law in relation to boundary disputes, rights of way and trespass claims is well established in Irish law. It is part of our cultural history to recognise the importance of land. The rights attaching to land are primarily dependent on the title deeds to the property. Sometimes the title deeds can reserve a right of way for the benefit of third parties. It might define a property by reference to words or by reference to a map and it is only with legal advice that you can be sure of the precise parameters of your property and third party rights attaching to it.
The rules on the use of land may be dependent on restrictive covenants in the title deeds, but in all cases, it is subject to the rules on planning permission and the general law on tort concerning nuisances and interference with neighbouring property owners’ rights. The Planning & Development Act 2000 contains the rules on planning and development in the country and if your neighbour breaches the grant of planning permission attaching to his land then it is open to any member of the public to bring a “planning injunction” to seek an order from the Circuit Court to restrain him from continuing to breach the planning permission. This can occur in cases such as quarries or concert venues or factories or abattoirs that suddenly double in size and in intensity of use, to the great detriment of neighbours. Equally, it can occur in the case of residential houses that suddenly operate as a business premises and many other examples of breaches of planning permission. In every such case, it is important to act quickly as the grant of a planning injunction is dependent on a party coming to court without delay and in any event within seven years of the breach commencing, as after that date the party in question is immune from the risk of a planning injunction being brought.