Stamp duty – my builder has shafted me

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Q. I bought an apartment two years ago in Dublin and the builder had applied for an exemption on stamp duty. At the time of signing the contract, this exemption, in the form of a certificate, was not received from the builder.

I am now trying to sell the apartment. My solicitor has over the last two years sent a number of letters to the builder requesting the certificate to no avail.

Only recently the builder’s solicitor replied stating that there would be no certificate forthcoming and forwarded my solicitor a cheque for over 30k. This was to cover the cost of stamp duty that I would be liable for if the builder didn’t have the appropriate certificate. However as the cheque was not sent for almost three years, there are €20,000 in penalties.

Am I liable? Obviously this is a substantial amount of money and I wasn’t aware of any of this until recently. And shouldn’t the builder be responsible?

PC, Dublin 17

A. The purchase of a new house or apartment with a floor area not exceeding 125 square metres is exempt from stamp duty where the house or apartment is occupied as the main residence of the purchaser for a period of two years from the date of the purchase.

To avail of the exemption a Floor Area Compliance Certificate (FACC) must have issued by the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government in respect of the house or apartment prior to the closing of the sale.

The seller (usually the builder) applies to Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government for the FACC and the FACC will be issued provided the floor area is under the required limit and the house or apartment complies with certain standards of construction.

It is not possible for the purchaser to obtain the stamp duty exemption in the absence of a FACC.

The purchaser, rather than the seller, is liable for payment of the stamp duty and payment is due within 30 days of the date of the execution of the instrument giving effect to the purchase of the house/apartment. Interest and penalties are payable where there is late payment of the stamp duty and the purchaser is also liable for the payment of the interest and penalties.

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