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Why is Planning Permission Important When Buying a Property?

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Have you discovered a dream property in Ireland that you are considering purchasing but have been made aware of planning issues? If so, it is vital that you seek advice from experienced conveyancing solicitors, as failure to thoroughly investigate the planning status of a property can have significant financial implications further down the line.

In this article, we have covered the key planning permission-related issues that you need to be aware of when buying a property in Ireland.

Why is planning permission important?

It’s imperative to check and understand the planning status of a property that you intend to purchase as the bank will only lend you money if everything is in order. If there is anything dubious about the planning, your solicitor will need to write to the bank giving them full details of whatever the issue is and asking if they will still be willing to give you a mortgage.

Even if you are in the lucky position of not having to rely on a mortgage to fund your purchase, you should remember that “the day you buy is the day you sell.” In other words, if the planning is ropey when you purchase, you will need to ensure that you sort it during your ownership. If you don’t, a solicitor will be highly likely to raise the planning issue again when you come to sell the property years down the line. This could make it hard or even impossible to sell your property.

What could happen if I buy without full planning permission?

If you buy a property with “unauthorised development” (i.e. where work has been carried out that required planning permission but permission was not applied for), the local authority will have seven years from the date the work is completed to bring enforcement proceedings against you.

Whilst relatively rare, enforcement proceedings do happen and usually take the form of going to court to get an order compelling you to put the property back in the same condition it was in prior to the unauthorised development.

What is the ‘seven year rule’ in relation to planning permission?

The rule derives from Section 157(4) of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which states that local authorities cannot serve an enforcement notice for an unauthorised development that commenced seven or more years ago. Unauthorised developments may include additions to a property such as a loft extension, an annexe, or a modification to the land such as a swimming pool or a tennis court. If seven years have passed since a development of this sort was added to a property, the local authority cannot attend on-site to take enforcement action.

So, I can go ahead and buy the property if it has unauthorised development that commenced over seven years ago?

Whilst it may seem safe to proceed with a purchase if the unauthorised development is shown to have commenced over seven years ago, you should do so with extreme caution. Although the law states that local authorities cannot bring enforcement proceedings against you after seven years, Ireland has a ridiculous system whereby an unauthorised development (carried out at any time from 1 October 1964 onwards) remains unauthorised no matter how long ago it was completed. This means that you have to look back over 50 years to see if anything unauthorised was done.

What happens if I commence purchasing a property with unauthorised development?

Unless you apply for and obtain retention permission for an unauthorised development the consequences will be as follows:

  • You will not be entitled to rely on any planning exemption. For example, if you want to build on an extension at the rear of the property which would not normally require permission, if there is already some unauthorised development on your property you won’t be able to rely on this exemption.
  • The local authority will be entitled to disregard any unauthorised development. This means that if the local authority is obliged to make any payment to you based on the value of your property they will be entitled to presume that any unauthorised development doesn’t exist when working out the value of the property.
  • The local authority will be entitled to refuse to connect you to any public services it is installing in your area. For example, if the local authority is upgrading the water supply or sewage disposal services for the houses in your area and there is any unauthorised development on your property, the local authority will be entitled to refuse to connect you to the upgraded service.
  • If your property is partially or completely destroyed, whether by fire or otherwise, you will not be entitled to rebuild any part of the property which did not have the benefit of planning permission before it was destroyed.

What is the best way to proceed with purchasing a property that has an unauthorised development?

To avoid the consequences outlined above, you should rectify the planning issue by asking the vendor to obtain retention permission. This is where the owner of the property applies to the local council for extension or renovation work which has already taken place. An experienced property solicitor will be able to assist you in successfully negotiating this often challenging stage of purchasing a property.

Require assistance with a property purchase in Ireland?

At McCarthy + Co. Solicitors, we have a long history of helping people to buy and sell their homes in Ireland. Our conveyancing team are highly knowledgeable experts in their field who can guide you through the complexities of purchasing a property. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email info@mccarthy.ie and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Flor McCarthy

Flor McCarthy wears multiple hats, not only as the managing partner of one of Ireland’s leading law firms, but also as an author, speaker and an acknowledged expert in client service, innovation and marketing. Beginning his academic journey at UCC, Flor furthered his education with a master’s degree in law from UCD. After gaining valuable experience as a solicitor in Dublin, the allure of home and the family brought him back to West Cork to contribute his expertise to the family business.

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