Separation/Divorce

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 20:46

When negotiations fail to resolve all issues, and the parties cannot agree on a solution, then the parties may have no alternative but to seek the assistance of the courts. Learn more about the Courts.

You can seek assistance from the courts for the following:

(A) Judicial Separation

Where the court has power to grant a decree of Judicial Separation on a number of grounds including adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, existing separation or where a normal marital relationship has not existed for at least one year prior to the application. An applicant must prove their case to the court on the balance of probabilities. On granting a judicial separation the court must make proper provision for the spouses and any dependant children and can make a variety of orders in relation to custody of dependent children, the family home, maintenance and financial provision, among other matters. A decree of Judicial Separation can be sought in the Circuit Court or the High Court depending on the financial circumstances of the parties.

(B) Deed of Separation

A Deed of Separation, or a Separation Agreement as it is otherwise known, is in essence a contract entered into between a husband and wife, where they agree to live separate and apart and then deal with all other issues arising from their separation. The primary purpose of the Deed is to record what has been agreed between the spouses in relation to all matters such as the care of dependant children, if any, and all financial matters. A Deed of Separation can be entered into between spouses, even where they have already physically separated. In those circumstances, the Deed will formally recognise that the couple have separated and will then deal with all other agreed matters. A Deed of Separation is in effect an alternative to judicial separation proceedings but can only work if both husband and wife agree to its terms. Where a Deed of Separation is signed by both husband and wife, then they are both legally bound by its terms and are precluded from bringing judicial separation proceedings.

(C) Decree of Nullity

A Decree of Nullity is a court Order granting an annulment of a marriage. Marriages can only be annulled on very specific and limited grounds. Certain marriages are unlawful or “void” from the outset, for example if either person is already married and not lawfully divorced or where persons marry within a prohibited degree of relationship. Other marriages are lawful from the outset but are “voidable”, in other words they can be declared to be invalid by a court. There a number of grounds on which a marriage can be annulled on this basis, such as an inability to consummate the marriage or where a spouse lacked the capacity to form and sustain a normal and caring marital relationship. This incapacity which is relied upon  to have the marriage annulled must have existed at the time the marriage was entered into. A “voidable” civil marriage can only be annulled by a Decree of Nullity from a court. A church annulment has no legal effect on the validity of a civil marriage. The effect of the annulment of a marriage is that the parties are deemed never to have been married. As a consequence, the parties to the marriage lose all of the legal rights which they would have had as husband and wife. The rights of any children to the marriage are substantially unaffected by the annulment.

(D) Divorce

A divorce will only be granted if a couple have “lived apart” from each other for a period (or periods) amounting to four years out of the previous five, and there is no prospect of reconciliation between the parties. Proper financial provision must also be made for each spouse and the dependant children and the court has the power to make a variety of financial relief orders including Property Adjustment Orders, Periodical Payments Orders, Lump Sum Orders, Pension Adjustment Orders, and Financial Compensation Orders. When determining what constitutes proper provision, the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case and in particular:

a) the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each spouse has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

b) the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

c) the standard of living enjoyed by the family before proceedings were instituted or before the separation occurred;

d) the ages of each spouse, the duration of the marriage and the length of time the couple lived together;

e) any physical or mental disability of the spouses;

f) the accommodation needs of each spouse;

g) the effect on the earning capacity of each spouse of the marital responsibility assumed by each while they lived together and the degree to which the future earning capacity of a spouse is impaired for having given up the opportunity of paid employment to look after the home or care for the family;

h) the conduct of each of the spouses, if such that the court considers it would be repugnant to justice to disregard it;

i) the contributions which each of the spouses has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family including any contribution made by each to the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the other and any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;

j) the value to each of the spouses of any benefit which the spouse will forfeit;

k) the rights of any person other than the spouses but including a person to whom either spouse is remarried;

l) the court must also have regard to the terms of any Deed of Separation or Separation Agreement signed by the spouses.

Each case is decided on its facts. There is no automatic division of assets on a 50/50 basis. The division will depend on the particular facts of the case in question.

(E) Domestic Violence

A person who is either married or living with another and is subjected to domestic violence can apply to court for protection against their abusive spouse or partner. Applications solely in relation to domestic violence can be brought in the District Court. For married couples who are involved in judicial separation or divorce proceedings, it is possible to apply to the Circuit Court or the High Court in the context of those proceedings for court protection if a spouse is subjected to domestic violence by the other spouse. The court can grant protection, safety and barring Orders as appropriate. Those Orders are normally granted on an “interim” or temporary basis, while the judicial separation or divorce proceedings are ongoing. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the court would then decide if ongoing final orders are required.

(F) Maintenance

Similar to domestic violence situations, it is possible to apply to court solely for maintenance. Where judicial separation or divorce proceedings have been issued, either spouse can also seek maintenance in the context of those proceedings. Maintenance can be claimed for dependant children and by a spouse personally, if that spouse is financially dependant on the other spouse). In such cases maintenance is generally ordered by the court to be paid on an ‘interim’ or temporary basis until the judicial separation or divorce proceedings are concluded. The level of maintenance which will be awarded on an interim basis will be dependent on the financial circumstances that exist at the time the application is made. However that ‘interim’ maintenance will be reviewed when the case is dealt with at a final hearing, at which time maintenance may be varied depending upon the overall financial settlement agreed by the spouses or ordered by the court.

(G) Co-Habitation

Under current Irish law, only married couples can apply for judicial separation or divorce. As a consequence, only married couples have the benefit of the very extensive financial claims which may be made against each other (for example claims against property and other assets, pension entitlements or succession rights). For couples who are not married but merely co-habit, there are no such automatic rights. However this will change significantly if the Civil Partnership Bill, 2009, is enacted.

(H) Foreign Divorce

If an individual has married in the past, whether in Ireland or abroad, and subsequently obtains a divorce outside of Ireland, then they are advised to seek legal advice as to whether or not that divorce is recognised in Ireland. Certain divorces obtained abroad will not be recognised in Ireland, in which case that individual would not be free to remarry in Ireland even if the divorce is recognised in other countries and the person would be free to remarry in those countries. However, even if one spouse has obtained a foreign divorce which is recognised in Ireland, it may be possible for the other spouse to make a claim for financial provision against the spouse who obtained the divorce, if it can be shown that sufficient financial provision was not made in the original foreign divorce proceedings.

(G) What are the Financial Reliefs Available?

On divorce or judicial separation the court has the power to make a number of orders which allows the court to make financial provision for the respective parties and any dependant children. The court has wide powers to adjust the financial position of both parties in order to ensure that there is proper financial provision in place for both the husband and the wife and any dependant children. While, in many cases, this might necessitate the sale of the family home so that both spouses can re-house post separation and a division of the proceeds of sale, in other cases, it can give rise to significant transfer of wealth from one spouse to another. Some of the Orders available to the court in this respect are as follows:

  • A Property Adjustment Order: directing a spouse to transfer a property(s) to the other spouse and/or dependant children. This may often involve the transfer of the family home to the dependant spouse.
  • Family Home: the court can give one spouse the right to reside in the family home to the exclusion of the other.
  • A Periodical Payments Order (Maintenance Order): There is a legal obligation on both spouses to maintain each other, although this obligation often tends to become focused on the spouse with the higher earning capacity. A Maintenance Order requires a spouse to pay a certain amount per week or per month in respect of the other spouse and/or any dependant children. Children are considered to be dependant until they reach 23 years of age or finish in fulltime education, whichever is the earlier. In addition the payment is sometimes secured against a fund or a property which can be drawn upon or sold if there is default in payment. 
    The level of maintenance depends on the circumstances of both the husband and wife and the court takes into account the spouse's reasonable needs and those of the children, and the true income of both parties.
  • A Lump Sum Order: this requires a spouse to pay a lump sum(s) to the other spouse in respect of that spouse and any dependant children. In some cases the court can order a spouse to make a lump sum payment either in addition to or in substitution for periodical maintenance. The quantum of the lump sum will depend on the circumstances of the case and the wealth of the spouses.
  • A Pension Adjustment Order: the court has the power to divide pension entitlements and can order a spouse to transfer all or part of a pension to the other spouse. The order can cover not only a pension paid after retirement but also a benefit payable in the event of death prior to retirement.
  • A Financial Compensation Order: this requires a spouse to put in place or to maintain in place an insurance policy in favour of the other spouse. This can sometimes be used to ensure that a spouse and/or children are properly provided for in the event of the death of the other spouse where the proceeds of a life policy will substitute for maintenance.
  • A Custody or Access Order: The court can direct which parent is to have custody of the children and what arrangements are to be in place in regard to access to them.
  • An Order with regard to Succession Rights: Following judicial separation or divorce, the court can order the renunciation and extinguishment of Succession Act rights. Following divorce, the right of a spouse to an automatic share in the estate of the other is ended but the court can direct whether a spouse can seek provision out of such estate.
  • Reviewable Dispositions: preventing the disposal of assets by either party or the waiver of rights.

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Personal Injuries

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 20:27

Talk to your solicitor if you have been injured to obtain advice about your entitlements to compensation.

All personal injury claims, with some exceptions, must first go to the Injuries Board, an independent government body. You are entitled to be represented by a solicitor throughout the application process and at any Injuries Board hearings.

If the person responsible for your injury is not disputing liability and gives their consent, your claim for damages can be assessed by the Injuries Board. Where the person responsible for your injury does not give consent to an Injuries Board assessment, the Injuries Board issues an authorisation to allow you to pursue your claim through the courts.

There is a limited period within which you can bring a claim so you should apply as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Once consent is received from the person against whom the claim is made, the Injuries Board has nine months to make an award. This period may be extended by a further six months, but cannot go beyond fifteen months.

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How can we help new business setup?

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 20:25

Solicitors are skilled in a wide variety of business-related services and can assist individuals, companies and businesses to establish and thrive in the commercial world. Legal issues permeate all aspects of business and a solicitor's input is often a key requirement to ensure that businesses meet their regulatory and compliance obligations.

Your solicitor can assist you with a number of business matters such as:

  • setting up in business
  • forming a company
  • directors' duties
  • data protection issues
  • defence of litigation
  • contracts
  • competition law
  • financial advice
  • debt collection 
  • employment matters
  • taxes
  • franchising
  • patents. trademarks, copyright.

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Buying or selling a property

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 20:24

Buying or selling a home is probably one of the biggest financial transactions you’ll ever make. It can be a stressful time and there are many pitfalls for the unwary. So it is important to involve your solicitor at the earliest possible moment, especially since the fee for conveyancing work usually includes preliminary advice.

Download the 'Moving Home' leaflet.

Information for landlords and tenants

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Data retention threatens journalists also

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 20:20

From http://www.digitalrights.ie

Henry McDonald in today’s Guardian has an alarming story about Garda surveillance of crime journalists, including routine monitoring of their mobile phone calls and messages:

Journalists in Ireland have raised concerns about the country’s draconian gagging orders on police officers talking to the media, including allegations that the state is monitoring their mobile phone calls to try to reveal sources.

Dublin-based reporters, some of whom are under death threats from armed criminal gangs, have told MediaGuardian that the Irish police force, Garda Siochána, has questioned them about police contacts, threatened them with arrest and has been checking their mobile phone calls to suspected sources…

Many experienced Garda sources now use cheap, disposable mobile phones to keep in touch with reporters.

The veteran crime and security journalist Jim Cusack, from the Sunday Independent, said he has faced threats of detention over his refusal to reveal sources in a story about a Real IRA murder.

Cusack said: “I have been threatened with possible arrest for ‘withholding information relating to a criminal offence’ – the 2005 act again – with a punishment of up to 10 years when I told gardaí I could not remember the source of a story about a dissident murder in Donegal several months earlier.

“The last time I was made aware my phone records were being hacked was last year after I contacted a detective involved in a murder case and left a message referring to some material I had come across which might be of use in the case.

“I was not called back. Instead a third party contacted me and said the detective had been warned by a colleague that my phone was under surveillance and the call had been logged by C3. This is the old name for the Garda security and intelligence section.”

Asked about both the continued gagging of gardaí talking to the media and allegations of journalists being threatened with arrest as well coming under covert surveillance, the Garda press office said: “An Garda Siochána do not discuss internal discipline matters.” The force’s press office declined to answer specific queries about journalists alleging their calls were being monitored.

These revelations are shocking but not surprising – it’s long been known that data retention laws pose a special threat to whistleblowers and journalists, particularly in Ireland where there are no adequate sanctions for police abuse of surveillance powers.

Some individual Irish journalists have done trojan work in raising these concerns – take a bow “Journalist C” in particular – but the Irish NUJ and other media organisations collectively have maintained a disappointing silence on the issue.

The position is very different elsewhere. The European Federation of Journalists has campaigned against data retention, as have journalists’ organisations in individual states such as Germany. For whatever reason, however, there doesn’t seem to have been any collective awareness amongst Irish journalists of the threat which this type of mass surveillance presents to their profession. Perhaps today’s story might prompt more action on their part?

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Why You Should Have a Will

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 12:34

It is so easy to put off making a Will but it is the only mechanism open to you to ensure that your wishes as to the disposal of your property on your death are properly expressed and followed through.

If you die without making a Will, the law imposes its own rules (Intestacy) which could mean that relatives or others inherit in an unintended way. A Will enables you to put the person (or persons) of your choice in control of your affairs after your death. If you do not make a Will the person who ends up dealing with your estate could be unsuitable.

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Appointing a Guardian

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 12:31

If you are a guardian of a child in Ireland, you have a duty to maintain and properly care for the child and you have a right to make decisions about the child's religious and secular education, health requirements and general welfare.

Married parents of a child are "joint-guardians" and have equal rights in relation to the child. The rights of parents to guardianship are set down in Section 6 of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964.

For children born outside of marriage in Ireland, only the mother has automatic rights to guardianship. (Even though a father's name may be registered on the child's birth certificate, this does not give him any guardianship rights in respect of his child).

Rules

If a child in Ireland is born outside of marriage, the mother is the sole guardian. The position of the unmarried father of the child is not so certain. If the mother agrees, the father can become a joint-guardian if both parents sign a "statutory declaration". The statutory declaration (SI 5 of 1998) must be signed in the presence of a Peace Commissioner or a Commissioner for Oaths. A copy of the statutory declaration (pdf) is available from the National Information Service of Treoir (see below) or on its website.

This declaration states the names of the parents of the child, that they are unmarried and that they agree that the father should be appointed as a joint-guardian. The declaration also states that the parents have agreed arrangements regarding custody of and access to the child. If there is more than one child, a separate statutory declaration should be made for each.

However, if the mother does not agree to sign the statutory declaration or agree that the father be appointed as joint guardian, the father must apply to the court to be appointed as a joint-guardian. You do not require legal representation to do this, you can make the application on your own behalf. Apply directly to the the District Court and contact the clerk of the court to institute proceedings. (This is possible, irrespective of whether your name is on the child's birth certificate or not).

While the mother's views are taken into account, the fact that she does not consent to the guardianship application does not automatically mean that the court will refuse the order sought by the father. Instead, the court will decide what is in the best interest of the child.

In situations where the father has been appointed joint guardian of a child, then his consent is required for certain things relating to the child's general welfare and other items. (For example, for passport applications for the child). Read more about passports for children of unmarried parents here (pdf). The father's consent is also required for the adoption of the child by another couple (or by the mother and her husband). Read more about adoption here.

Removal of guardianship rights

Fathers who have been appointed joint guardians by a court or by statutory declaration can be removed from their position if the court is satisfied it is in the child's best interest. The only way a mother can give up her guardianship rights in Ireland, is if the child is placed for adoption.

Marriage after the child is born

If the parents of a child marry each other after the birth, then the father automatically becomes a joint guardian of the child. There is therefore no need to apply for guardianship rights nor is there any need for the father to adopt the child.

Where the father is joint guardian and the mother subsequently marries another man or enters into a civil partnership, the father will remain the joint guardian of his child. If the mother and her husband wish to adopt the child, they must seek consent from the child's father. If the child's father consents to the adoption, then he gives up his right to guardianship of his child.

Same-sex couples

The issue of guardianship may arise if one of you has a child. You may have guardianship rights in relation to your child and you may wish your same-sex partner to also have guardianship rights. However, under current legislation, it is not possible for your partner to apply to become a guardian of the child. Nor is it possible for you and your same-sex partner to jointly adopt a child, even if one of you is the birth parent of the child.

Guardians and wills

It's very important if you are the guardian of a child (especially if you are a mother and sole guardian) that you make a will, appointing a guardian to act on your behalf in the event of your death. It's strongly advised that you talk this over with someone who could act as guardian and that he/she gives his/her consent to being named in your will as testamentary guardian.

The child's surviving guardian (if there is one) will then act jointly with the new guardian.

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Adopting in Ireland

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 12:30

Adoption is the process whereby a child becomes a member of a new family. It creates a permanent, legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the child.

In recent years, adoptions in Ireland have become increasingly rare and many prospective parents now look abroad to adopt a child. This process is calledInter-country adoption.

If you want to adopt a child, whether in Ireland or abroad, the first step is to contact your local HSE Adoption Service.

If you are eligible, have completed a detailed assessment of your suitability to adopt and have a child successfully placed with you, an application for an Adoption Order will be made to the Adoption Authority of Ireland, an independent statutory body, and the Adoption Authority will process the adoption application and make an adoption order in due course. If you are adopting from abroad, the process is a lengthier one. The legislation governing adoption is theAdoption Act 2010.

As adoption is a complex legal process, it is helpful to be aware of the basics of adoption law.

  • The HSE is the competent authority, under the Adoption Act 2010, for the processing of domestic adoptions. Accredited bodies will work with the HSE in all areas of adoption, undertaking those activities for which they are accredited.
  • An Adoption Order secures in law the position of the child in the adoptive family. The child is regarded in law as the child of the adoptive parents as if he/she were born to them. Legal adoption is permanent.
  • All applications for Adoption Orders are made to the Adoption Authority.
  • The law allows the adoption of orphans and children born outside marriage (including, in certain circumstances, children whose natural parents subsequently marry each other). In exceptional cases, the High Court can authorise the adoption of children whose parents have failed in their duty of care towards them (this can include children born within marriage).

Who Can Adopt?

In Ireland, in order to adopt a child, you must be at least 21 years of age and resident in the State. Where the child is being adopted by a married couple and one of them is the mother or father or a relative of the child, only one of them must have attained the age of 21 years.

The following persons are eligible to adopt:

  • A married couple living together,
  • A married person alone. The other spouse's consent to adopt must be obtained unless the couple is living apart and separated under a court decree or a deed of separation, or the other spouse has deserted the prospective adoptive parent or the other spouse's conduct has resulted in the prospective adoptive parent, with just cause, leaving the other spouse.
  • The mother, father or relative of the child (relative meaning a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child and/or the spouse of any such person, the relationship to the child being traced through the mother or the father);
  • A widow or widower
  • A sole applicant who is not in one of the categories listed above may only adopt where the Adoption Authority is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it is desirable. It is not possible for two unmarried persons to adopt jointly.

There are no legal upper age limits for adopting parents, but most adoption agencies apply their own.

Step-parent adoption

A step-parent adoption occurs when a child is adopted by a married couple, one of whom is the natural parent of the child (usually the mother) while the other is not. Both the natural parent and the step-parent must adopt the child in order to avoid the natural parent losing his/her rights and responsibilities to the child. If a child was born within a previous marriage, where the natural parent has now remarried following a divorce or the death of his/her spouse, the child is not eligible for adoption. There is more information on step-parent adoption on the Adoption Authority's website.

Consent

The consent of the parent/guardian of the child to the adoption is a legal requirement. If the child is born outside marriage, and the father has no guardianship rights, only the mother's consent is needed. Under the adoption legislation , however, birth fathers are now being consulted (if possible) about the adoption of their children. In situations where the parents are not married and the father does not have guardianship rights, his consent is not necessary for adoption. However, the consent of the father is required if he marries the mother after the birth of the child or he is appointed guardian or is granted custody of the child by court order.

The mother, father (where he is guardian) or other legal guardian must give an initial consent or agreement to the placing of a child for adoption by an approved adoption service. He/she must then give his/her consent to the making of an Adoption Order. This consent may be withdrawn any time before the making of the Adoption Order.

If the mother either refuses consent or withdraws consent already given, the adopting parents may apply to the High Court for an order. If the court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child, it will make an order giving custody of the child to the adopting parents for a specified period and authorising the Adoption Authority to dispense with the mother's consent to the making of the Adoption Order.

If a mother changes her mind about adoption before the making of the Adoption Order, but the adopting parents refuse to give up the child, she may then institute legal proceedings to have custody of her child returned to her.

When an Adoption Order is made, a new birth certificate can be obtained for the child. Although it is not an actual birth certificate, it has the status of one for legal purposes. It gives the date of the Adoption Order and the names and addresses of the adoptive parents and is similar in all aspects to a birth certificate.

The procedure involved in adopting a child is thorough and takes time, at least a year. When you have contacted your local HSE Adoption Service, you will be invited to attend an information session along with other interested couples, to learn what is involved in the adoption process. If you want to proceed, you ask for the relevant forms to be sent out.

Assessment

People wishing to adopt should apply to one of the pproved Adoption Societies (see contact information below) or their local HSE Adoption Service. While there is a statutory entitlement to an assessment for inter-country adoption, there is no such entitlement to be assessed for domestic adoption. Applicants being considered by an adoption agency will undergo a detailed assessment. This assessment takes place over a period of time, ranging from 9 to 15 months, sometimes longer. The purpose of this assessment is to establish applicants' suitability as prospective adoptive parents. The assessment is carried out by one of the agency's social workers. It includes a number of interviews and home visits. Where the application is in respect of a married couple, there will be both individual and joint interviews. The social worker will discuss such areas as previous and/or current relationships, motives for adopting, expectations of the child and the ability to help a child to develop his/her knowledge and understanding of his/her natural background. All applicants are required to undergo a medical examination.

If you are planning to adopt abroad, the assessment will also take in issues of the child's cultural background and possible special needs.

Report

The social worker then prepares a report, which goes before the agency committee or (HSE) Area committee and a decision is made.

If you are adopting in Ireland, you will not be entitled to see the report.

If you are adopting abroad, your social worker will share the report's contents with you and you are free to raise any issues you wish. If the social worker agrees, the report can be amended. If the social worker does not agree, after mediation, you can attach a written comment on the disputed matter, which will be submitted to the committee. You have the right to appeal any recommendation/decision made.

Adopting In Ireland

If your application is approved, you will most likely wait a long time before a baby is offered. When a baby is offered, an application must be made to the Adoption Authority, along with your medical records, personal details and three references. The Adoption Authority has statutory responsibility for authorising placements and regulating agencies. A social worker from the Authority will visit you twice before an Adoption Order is made. It normally takes between six to twelve months to process a domestic adoption application to a stage where the Adoption Authority is satisfied to make an Adoption Order.

When the Adoption Order is finally made, you will come before the Adoption Authority and give sworn evidence as to your identity and eligibility. You will also be given information on how to go about getting a new birth certificate for the child. The new birth certificate will normally be available through the Registrar General's Office within four weeks.

How to apply

If you have an enquiry about adoption in Ireland, contact your Health Service Executive (HSE) Local Health Office.

A certified copy of an entry in the Adopted Children Register, which can be used for legal and administrative purposes, costs €10. You can download an application form for a certified copy here.

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Buying a House

Posted by Higgins O Reilly on July 10 2013 @ 12:27

Find out what you can afford

It is important to evaluate all costs involved in buying a home, for example, mortgage costs, legal fees, registration of deeds and stamp duty. If you have calculated that you can afford to buy a property taking into account all of these costs, then you are ready to buy.

Get a solicitor

Conveyancing is the legal work involved in buying or selling property. Conveyancing charges can vary between solicitors, so it is worth contacting several solicitors to compare prices. You can use the Law Society’s website to find a solicitor in your area.

Find a property you like and can afford

Property websites, auctioneers and estate agents are the main ways of finding property for sale. There is a public register of auctioneers and estate agents on the website of the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

Sometimes individual sellers advertise their property themselves Newspapers may also have property supplements or publish advertisements for properties for sale.

Since September 2012, the Property Services Regulatory Authority publishes a Residential Property Price Register. It contains information on residential properties bought in Ireland since 1 January 2010. You can check the register to see what price was paid for a property if it was sold since 1 January 2010.

All homes for sale must have a Building Energy Rating (BER). A BER will inform you how energy-efficient the home is. It will help you make an informed choice when comparing properties. It also offers guidance on steps that can be taken to improve the energy efficiency of a property.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland recommends that you check whether the home is in a High Radon Area on its Radon Risk Map and enquire as to whether the home has been tested for radon. More information on radon in homes is available from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and in our document on measurement of radon levels.

Get a survey

A seller is under no obligation to disclose defects in a property. You should get a survey of the property to find out if there are any defects before finalising the purchase. The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is the professional body for chartered surveyors.

Get mortgage approval

Very few people can buy a home without getting a mortgage. A mortgage is a long-term loan secured against the property you buy. This means if you don’t repay your mortgage you may lose your home.

There are different types of mortgages and different mortgage providers. Contact a number of different mortgage providers to find out who can offer you the best deal. More information on mortgages and choosing the best one for you is available on the National Consumer Agency’s website.

You can get mortgage approval in principle before you start to look for a property; this will let you know how much you have to spend. However, when you find a property you like, you must get formal mortgage approval before you sign the contract for sale (see below). If you sign a contract for sale and subsequently don’t get mortgage approval, you will lose your deposit and there may be other penalties.

How to buy the property you want

The two most popular methods by which properties are purchased and sold are:
• Private treaty sales 
• Public auction

Private treaty sale

A private treaty sale is where the property is not put into an auction. You can contact the seller or the seller’s agent, usually an estate agent, to agree a purchase price.

If there is an estate agent involved, once you have agreed to buy the property you may be required to pay a booking deposit to the estate agent. The legal process to buy the property may only start when the estate agent receives your booking deposit. This deposit is refundable up to the signing of the contract for sale (see below).

Your mortgage provider will give you formal mortgage approval and issue you with a loan pack. You will need to have mortgage protection insurance and home insurance. You can organise these with your mortgage provider but it is advisable to shop around. When your solicitor has checked the contract for sale, you will sign it and pay a deposit (less any booking fee).

Public auction

Notice of the date and time of the auction is usually advertised in a local newspaper, estate agent or by a sign on the property. A reserve figure is set for the property, usually by the seller or the auctioneer. The reserve figure is the value the property must achieve; anything below this and the property will be withdrawn from the market.

At all times during the auction, however, the vendor (seller) can withdraw the property from the market, even if it has achieved the reserve figure. The vendor can also reserve the right to sell the property before the auction.

Before the auction takes place, your solicitor should check the contract for sale for the property (issued by the seller's solicitor) and all title documents that are referred to in that contract. When your solicitor has satisfied his or her enquiries, you can organise a survey of the property to ensure it is sound. It is also advisable to get formal mortgage approval for the property you wish to bid for.

The successful bidder immediately pays a deposit and signs the contract for sale (see below). It is important to get home insurance as soon as possible.

Regulation of estate agents and auctioneers

Estate agents and auctioneers are regulated by the Property Services Regulatory Authority. The Authority has introduced a voluntary code of practice for estate agents and auctioneers which sets out their responsibilities to buyers. However, it is important to remember that the estate agent or auctioneer is acting on behalf of the seller and is acting in the seller’s interest.

Sign the contract for sale

The contract for sale binds the parties to the completion of the sale. If you withdraw from the sale after this contract has been signed, you may lose your deposit. If you buy at auction you must immediately sign the contract for sale. If you buy through private treaty your solicitor will check that the contract is in order before you sign it.

In the case of new developments this contract for sale usually includes "building agreements" as most properties these days are sold and developed by the same company. In the past, but now rarely, one company would sell land to a buyer and a different company would build on it. In such instances, the contract is actually a "contract for sale and building agreement" but in almost all residential sales, a contract is simply known as a contract for sale. The completion date will be set out in the contract and the balance of the agreed purchase price will be due on that date.

Closing the sale

Requisitions on Title and Deed of Conveyance

After signing the contract and before the completion date of the sale, your solicitor raises some general queries about the property with the seller's solicitor.Requisitions on Title are a standard set of questions relating to the sale of a property that deal with such things as whether fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.

When your solicitor gets a satisfactory reply to Requisitions on Title, a Deed of Conveyance is drafted by him or her and approved by the seller's solicitor.

Your solicitor makes arrangements for searches to be made against the seller to ensure that there are no judgements lying against the seller (for example, bankruptcy or sheriffs' searches). Your solicitor should also conduct a search where the title to the property is held (either in the Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds) to ensure that there is nothing adverse attaching to the property, for example, an outstanding mortgage.

Once the Deed of Conveyance is approved by the seller's solicitor, your solicitor will contact your mortgage provider to request the issue of the approved loan cheque. This is the remaining balance of the purchase price. It is paid to the seller's solicitor and all documentation, and keys to the premises are handed over to your solicitor.

Stamp duty

Your solicitor will calculate how much stamp duty is due and request this from you before the closing of the sale. The stamp duty is paid to the Revenue Commissioners, who place a stamp on the deeds. Without this stamp, the deeds cannot be registered. The deeds name the owner of the property.

After the sale is completed

Deeds 

Once a sale is completed, your deeds, showing the new ownership details and mortgage details, if relevant, must be registered with either the Registry of Deeds or the Land Registry. The Property Registration Authority is responsible for both systems of registration.

Your solicitor will continue to assist you with finalising the deeds to your house with the Property Registration Authority. This can take from months to years to complete. Even if it does take a long time you are still the owner of the property and if you wish you can sell the property before registration is complete.

Moving house

There are many things to do when moving house, for example, redirecting your post and changing your details on the electoral register. More information is available in our document on moving to a new home.

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