Is granny flat exempt?

March 2012

Question

My wife and I live in a granny flat in my son's house. Do we, as well as my son, have to pay the household charge? I could not find the answer on the householdcharge.ie website.

Answer

The Department of the Environment's household charge customer service department accepts that this is a tricky area, because it depends on whether the granny flat is a separate dwelling or not. A spokesperson said if it is truly separate and could be rented out as separate accommodation, then the household charge is payable on both the main house and the granny flat. However, if the granny flat is more like an extension, with a shared entrance and maybe some shared facilities, then it is not separate and you would not have to. Only your son would be liable for the household charge. You will have to decide this yourself. However, if you are anxious for a more categorical answer, the spokesperson suggested taking pictures of the property and consulting someone in your local council's planning department to get their opinion. I am presuming for the moment that the house is not in an unfinished estate, and that you or your son does not qualify for one of the waivers or exemptions as prescribed by the legislation for the household charge. The Act describes a residential property as "... a building . . . that is occupied, or suitable for occupation, as a separate dwelling, whether or not the owner shares, or would be entitled to share, in connection there with, any accommodation, amenity or facility with any other person". This covers flats/apartments/ maisonettes/bedsits and stipulates that the owner of a building is liable for a charge in respect of each residential unit. What is not defined is what's "suitable for occupation as a separate dwelling" — in other words, in order for it to be separate, does it need its own utility connections? What is clear is that if a house is let as one unit to a number of occupants, then only one charge is payable. Legislation on the second home tax, the precursor of the property tax, is clear — if you live in a granny flat, within 2km of your son's house, then the NPPR is not due. You would expect that both pieces of legislation would be consistent in terms of basis of assessment, and similar logic should apply to the household charge. The responsibility of the charge(s) falls to the owner, not the occupier, so it is the son here who must bear the responsibility of deciding if he is liable for both charges and it is up to him whether or not he seeks to recoup the charge from his parents.

Ed Carey is a chartered surveyor and chair of the Residential Property

Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.