A Guide to Property Certificates

house for sale.jpgWhether you are in the process of buying a home for the first time or you are seasoned in the art of buying and selling property, you will no doubt have heard your solicitor mention the need to obtain ‘Property Certificates’ at an early stage in the conveyancing process. 

Like much of the legal jargon related to the process of buying and selling property, it is likely that many people have no idea what these certificates are and why they are necessary – some people may believe it is simply a further cost that is added onto their bill and that these certificates serve no real purpose in the process.

The truth of the matter is that obtaining and reviewing Property Certificates is an essential element in any conveyancing transaction.  Here we have set out for you the purpose of these certificates and why they are so important.

So what exactly are Property Certificates?

In any conveyancing transaction, the seller’s solicitors have to provide property certificates to the buyer’s solicitor. These certificates provide up to date information about the property.

There are two main property certificates:-

  • Regional Property Certificates
  • Council Property Certificates
What is a Regional Property Certificate?

A Regional Property Certificate contains information obtained from the Department of the Environment.  This certificate will confirm the following:-

  • That the road used to access your property is maintained by Transport NI and is not private.
  • That the sewers are either maintained by NI Water or the property is served by a septic tank and that the necessary statutory consent for this is in place.

This certificate will also show the planning history of your property.  Your solicitor will review this certificate along with the title deeds and your survey to make sure that any alterations there have been to the property over the years have the necessary consents in place.

What is a Council Property Certificate?

A Council Property Certificate contains information provided from the Council in which your property is built.   This certificate shows the Building Control history of your property.  This is important as it is the function of Building Control to make sure that any works carried out to your property are up to a required minimum standard.

The Council Property Certificate will also show the correct postal address of the property and confirm if the property is in a smoke control zone which can impact on the type of solid fuel you can use.

Why are Property Certificates important when buying or selling my house?

The information contained within Property Certificates is important when you are buying a property so that you are fully aware of what you are purchasing and the responsibilities and costs which go along with it.  Without these documents being obtained and properly reviewed, you may find yourself liable for the insurance and resurfacing of a private roadway, or the upkeep of a private septic tank or sewage treatment plant.   The buyer of a property that you are selling will also require these documents before they can complete on the transaction and without these being in order you may have difficulties selling your home.

RFlinnRuth Flinn is a Solicitor in the Property Law Department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. She is experienced in all areas of residential conveyancing. If you require any further information  on conveyancing matters, please contact us below or contact Ruth on rflinn@fhanna.co.uk

LIFE BITE : APIL encourage motorists to ‘back off’ this winter

apple-150579_1280Needless injuries and deaths on NI roads could be reduced this winter if motorists keep their bad habits in check, say campaigners.

The national average number of people killed or injured in snowy, icy and wet weather in Britain is 81 for every 100,000 people according to new figures obtained by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

“Some injuries could have been easily avoided had it not been for bad habits such as driving too close to the car in front,” said APIL president Neil Sugarman.

“According to the Highway Code the average stopping distance, when driving at 30mph on dry roads, is six car lengths. In wet weather this doubles and when it is icy it is ten times longer. Taking care to avoid bad habits like ‘tailgating’ could make a big difference in preventing injuries, and even deaths, on our roads this winter”.

In a recent online poll of motorists, APIL found that two-thirds (67%) do not know how much to space to leave between the car in front when travelling in ice and snow.

This year, the message from APIL is a revival of the anti-tailgating “Back Off” campaign, encouraging a reduction in needless injuries by stopping collisions from happening in the first place

APIL will be sharing safe driving tips and information on their ‘Back Off’ Facebook page and tweeting on the @APIL account all week.  You can find the ‘Back Off Facebook page  here

APIL is a non-profit campaign organisation which has been fighting for the rights of injured people for over 25 years. For more information on the organisation, click here
If you have been involved in a road traffic accident and would like more information on your rights, please feel free to contact us below or email us 

LIFE BITE: Cohabiting partners in NI are not entitled to spousal bereavement benefits

apple-150579_1280The NI Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling made by the High Court that the Department for Social Development (DSD) had acted unlawfully when it refused to pay bereavement benefits to a mother on the ground that she was not married to her partner at the date of his death.  

Siobhan McLaughlin lived with her partner John Adams for over 23 years until his death on 28th January 2014. Ms McLaughlin and Mr Adams were unmarried and had four children together who were aged 19, 17, 13 and 11 years at the date of his death.

Upon her partner’s death, Ms McLaughlin claimed Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance, but was refused both benefits by the DSD because she was neither married to nor a civil partner of Mr Adams at the date of his death.

Ms McLaughlin issued Judicial Review proceedings on the grounds that the DSD unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of marital status and this was contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998. She also claimed that the DSD decision had failed to have regard for her private or family life.

The High Court in its judgment ruled that the refusal to pay Ms McLaughlin Widowed Parent’s Allowance was a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights as the decision discriminated against her on the grounds of marital status. The Judge ruled that refusal of the Widowed Parent’s Allowance was not justified because the responsibilities for the children are the same irrespective of marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation.

The DSD appealed this decision to the NI Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal then considered extensive domestic and European case-law and decided that the State had “adopted a position on marital status and bereavement benefits that the courts have endorsed and Parliament has reaffirmed” and it was “not for the courts to determine the policy in this area”.

The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the relationship of an unmarried cohabitee was not equivalent with that of a spouse or civil partner in the context of a Widowed Parent’s Allowance and that there was no violation of Human Rights.   Accordingly, the Court of Appeal allowed the DSD’s appeal, and Ms McLaughlin’s application for Judicial Review was dismissed.

The case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court by Ms McLaughlin with a hearing date scheduled for April 2018.

For more information on some of the legal differences between being married/in a civil partnership and cohabiting, check out our article ‘Cohabiting With Your Partner
Feel free to contact us by email if you have any questions regarding cohabitation rights.