Property Clinic

Your queries answered

QI have agreed to appoint an estate agent to sell my house. I expected a verbal agreement to be sufficient. However, the agent has told me that in order to proceed to sell my house, I need to a sign a contract or "letter of engagement" and the agent tells me it is illegal for her to do anything until I sign a letter of engagement. Is this correct?

AYes, this is correct. Under the Property Services (Regulation) Act, which came into law in 2011 and led to the establishment of the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA), all property services providers (ie auctioneers/estate agents, letting agents and property management agents) must have a signed Letter of Engagement in place in order to provide professional services. Therefore, it is illegal for a property service provider (PSP) to begin marketing a property without having a signed Letter of Engagement in advance.

Under the law, a PSP must issue a Letter of Engagement to a client within seven days of agreeing or beginning to provide a property service, whichever is the earlier. The client must return the Letter of Engagement, duly signed, within seven working days.

If a PSP does not receive a signed Letter of Engagement returned from the client, they must cease to provide or shall not start to provide the property service. In addition, if the signed Letter of Engagement is not returned by the client within seven working days, the letter will be invalid.


This requirement has been introduced to protect the public and to ensure that there is clarity between the PSP and the client in terms of the service to be provided in order to improve transparency and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings or disputes occurring.

There are 11 mandatory Letters of Engagement prescribed by the PSRA that set out the terms of service in respect of all types of agency (including sale by auction), letting apartments and property management apartments. Your PSP will advise you which letter is appropriate for the service they are providing.

All of the Letters of Engagement are standard and are available to view on the PSRA website, A consumer guide to letters of engagement for consumers is available from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) website:

Simon Stokes is Chair of the Residential Property Professional Group of the SCSI,

QI am interested in having my flat roof insulated. Could you tell me the key things I need to consider? Also, I read about an Electric Ireland offer for insulating flat roofs – do you know what's involved?

AAbout 35 per cent of the home’s energy will be lost through the roof if it is not insulated, so it is very worthwhile to consider providing a decent level of insulation, particularly flat roofs, which are often overlooked as being too difficult by installers due to the lack of access and potential liabilities if they get it wrong.

Flat roofs are notorious for failings so installers are wary of them. However, if carried out correctly, additional or new insulation can help increase their lifespan and reduce maintenance bills too.

The key principle is to have a “vapour barrier” on the warm side of the insulation to ensure that condensation cannot form in the structure of the roof. By their nature, flat roof membranes prevent the passage of water vapour, which in the main is the cause of their downfall due to the condensation that forms underneath, in the roof structure because inevitably it’s on the cold side.

Building legislation calls for adequate ventilation within a flat roof to keep it healthy, but in practice this is very hard to properly achieve. I believe if it is made difficult for the builder then it probably won’t get done or will fail!

So, what to do to get that important insulation uplift? The Electric Ireland scheme suggests that ceilings are taken down and then insulation and a vapour control layer are installed. This can work if it is done well, if there are no “difficult” areas or if the installer is particularly rigorous at making important seals at junctions or wiring points to prevent passage of water vapour to that critical cold interface.

However, the ventilation still might not be sufficient to deal with the increased potential of condensation, even if the requisite 50mm air gap is left above the insulant layer and air is free to circulate. Other factors are the limited amount of insulation that can physically fit and the high level of internal disruption that will be created.

If the roof covering is in reasonable condition, if the ventilation is poor or can be sealed off or if the structure is in good health and capable of small additional loads, then external insulation might be considered. This involves placing special insulation over the roof area above the room, placing a perimeter strip and overlaying it all with a membrane and ballast in the form of either paving slabs or gravel.

This has the advantage of minimising disruption, creating fewer restrictions on the amount of insulation and ensuring the vapour barrier – as the roofing membrane – works. Additional benefits are the decreased maintenance liability of the roof, better health of roof timbers and the potential increased lifespan of the roof.

The Electric Ireland offer is designed to promote awareness of the possibilities of increasing insulation values and the savings made will be limited to the recovery of the €200 SEAI grant.

I am unsure whether the limitations of the internal insulation suggested by Electric Ireland will be appropriate in all cases, or whether the typical cost of the service stated is relevant to flat roofs.

You should also investigate grants available from SEAI. Search under “Better Energy Homes Scheme”.

All situations vary and the wrong choice can cause costly damage or actually reduce the performance of a flat roof, so it is important to get independent professional advice to ensure the job is done properly.

Fergus Merriman is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,

QWe moved to Ireland from Germany two years ago and have been renting an apartment since then. Our mattress seems to be quite old and is becoming more uncomfortable to sleep on. We are hoping you could clarify if it is up to the landlord or if it is our responsibility to replace it. The rental situation in Germany is different and most of the furnishings are the tenant's responsibility but we have heard it is different in Ireland. The lease does not mention anything about this.

AYes, the rental situation in Ireland is different from that in Germany and other parts of the world. In most cases, properties for rent in Ireland come fully furnished and there is usually no requirement to purchase furniture and household essentials, unless renting an unfurnished apartment.

In relation to your situation and the question of who is ultimately responsible, it really depends on the condition of the mattress. It may be difficult to judge this as you may have a certain expectation and view on the quality and condition of the mattress which may differ from the landlord’s view.

For example, if on inspection the landlord deems the mattress to be still in reasonably good condition, and you don’t, then you will need to come to an agreement.

However, if the mattress is clearly in need of replacement, ie the springs are gone and the mattress is in poor condition, then it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace the mattress in a furnished apartment and there is no question about that.

My recommendation is to speak to your landlord, explain the poor condition of the mattress and invite them to inspect it if they wish and ask them to replace the mattress for you as soon as possible.

Fergal Hopkins is a member of the Property & Facilities Management Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,

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