Home economics: Our property finance expert answers your questions

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Sinead Ryan

Q My father is in hospital after an illness which has left him disabled. He is awaiting a home care package to be approved before he can come home. We will need to adapt his house to take account of his disability. Apart from a stairlift, he may need a downstairs bathroom conversion. Are there any grants available for this kind of work?

A Yes, but they are means-tested, so without knowing your father’s financial circumstances, I can’t say whether he will qualify. The larger is the Housing Adaptation Grant, which runs to €30,000 and is provided by the local authority. It is precisely for the type of works you need, however, it tapers off depending on household income levels and if they are in excess of €60,000 it is not available. Either way he’ll be on a waiting list at the Home Adaptation section of his council.

The second grant is the Mobility Aids Grant which would cover the stair lift. It provides up to €6,000 for a maximum household income of €30,000. You should be able to get a stairlift fitted for around €2,000 so you could start there. It might be worth having in the public health nurse (a great resource generally) to assess what is actually needed before you spend money.

There is no tax relief available on the Med1 form for such adaptations (although hearing aids, and some other equipment is allowable), but the list is reviewed by Revenue regularly, so it might be worth putting in a call. Best of luck.

Q My aunt has moved into a nursing home and has asked myself and my sister to ‘look after’ her house. She has a tenant who lives with her but pays a very low rent as she has been doing some light duties such as going to the shops for her and so on. She is not an official carer and in any event is returning to her home country after Christmas. My aunt could benefit from having a proper, paying tenant in which may help defray her nursing home fees. The house is not in good condition, however, and we need to get it up to a habitable standard. We have no idea where to start. She has told us to spend up to €12,000.

AFirstly, there are more questions here than answers. Is your aunt in the Fair Deal scheme? If so, letting the house would result in up to 80pc of the income being used towards her care contribution. That in itself may negate any value in getting in a tenant.

Was she registered under the rent-a-room scheme? She should have earned the rent tax free (up to €14,000 p.a.) if so. If she was a pensioner, and not paying tax, it may not make a difference, but ought to have been declared. You don’t want this following her around later. It doesn’t apply now, as you need to be living in the house to qualify, so any income will be added to her pension and the entire amount eligible for tax.

A spend of €12,000 won’t run to a full redecoration or construction. It might pay for new kitchen cupboards and a bathroom and general clear out/paint and carpet.

A new rental needs to meet minimum standards in terms of electrics, alarms (smoke, carbon monoxide, house), boiler service, BER certificate, and appliances. If the house is in a rent pressure zone, the rent must be similar to others in the area and cannot be increased by more than 4pc p.a. Her nursing home fees could rise above this, however.

I’d consult, in order, an estate agent to value the property for both sale and letting, in writing and to give advice on the standards required; an accountant for the tax stuff – she’ll definitely need to make a tax return if it’s let on the market but there are deductions for the cost of letting in year one, and capital allowances for 8 years; and then a solicitor to manage the legalities of a lease, your responsibilities and her wishes set out in a Will.

Are you planning to be the landlord in her absence? This carries onerous responsibilities, so be cautious. You could use 1-2 months’ rent to pay for a full-service estate agent who’ll do this for you.


The Ryan Review

I often dedicate this space to picking on banks’ shortcomings when it comes to dealing with customers, regulators or the market. But shout-outs are important when they do things well, and given wraparounds of Fraud Awareness Week and Positive Ageing Week, it’s worth mentioning that most banks give their staff rigorous training on spotting and dealing with so-called ‘vulnerable customers’.

Whether it’s branch staff probing requests to withdraw higher than normal amounts for a dodgy tradesman waiting outside the door, to designing delays on online security access to stop screens freezing, or marketing materials being proofed to avoid loan applications being funnelled to customers who can’t afford them, banks’ appetites for profit shouldn’t extend to credit or product provisions to people who don’t understand what they’re buying, or who don’t need it. I have heard more than a few real life situations of pensioners in particular, being gently steered away from an imprudent course of action by a bank teller… that’s if you can find one these days.

Sinead presents “The Home Show” on Newstalk 106 FM every Saturday morning from 9am.

Indo Property

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