Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Code
Question 292: To ask the Minister for Social Protection her plans to assist persons who, due to property and other investments which have no present financial value but may have a future value, are unable to access social welfare assistance in spite of having no financial income; if she has considered applying a lien on these investments to allow persons to qualify for social assistance to give them a basic income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21336/11]
Social welfare legislation provides that the yearly value of "property owned but not personally used or enjoyed" is assessable for means testing purposes. Such property includes houses and premises owned by a claimant which may or may not be put to commercial use. However, it does not include property such as the home or, for example, a premises used by the claimant in carrying out a business. No changes to the current arrangements have been introduced in recent years.
For assessment purposes, the current market value of the property is established as well as the amount of any outstanding mortgages on that property. The balance (market value less outstanding mortgage) is assessed by reference to a formula. Where the current market value is less than the outstanding mortgage, no assessment is made.
The current market value of a property is the best estimate of what would be achievable if the property was offered for sale. Such an estimate will have regard to reductions in prices over recent years.
In establishing the current market value of a property, my Department may make enquiry of the State Valuation Office. Alternatively, the market value may be established through receipt of a reasonable current valuation from a registered auctioneer, with reference to the purchase price and date of purchase of the property or, alternatively, my Department's inspector may agree a valuation with a customer having regard to the type and location of the individual property and prevailing market values in that area. There are no plans to change the current arrangements.
Where a claimant considers that a decision on his or her claim is based on a market value of a property which is too high, he or she may appeal that decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.