Real Estate 2024: Ireland

Maples Group


The Maples Group is a leading service provider offering clients a comprehensive range of legal services on the laws of the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Ireland, Jersey and Luxembourg, and is an independent provider of fiduciary, fund services, regulatory and compliance, and entity formation and management services.
The main source of Irish real estate law is statute. The key legislative provisions are set out in...
Ireland Real Estate and Construction
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1. General

1.1 Main Sources of Law

The main source of Irish real estate law is statute. The key legislative provisions are set out in:

  • the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2009 (the "2009 Act");
  • the Registration of Title Act, 1964 (the "1964 Act");
  • the Registration of Deeds and Title Act, 2006;
  • the Landlord and Tenant Acts, 1967‒2019 (the LTA); and
  • the Residential Tenancies Acts, 2004–2022 (the RTA).

The other main source of Irish real estate law is case law, derived from judgments of the Irish courts.

1.2 Main Market Trends and Deals

The year 2023 was a challenging one for real estate markets across Europe, and the Irish market was no different. We expect 2024 to be a year of recovery, with interest rates stabilising and ultimately declining.

The dominant asset classes in the Irish real estate market are currently office, residential (including social and affordable housing), industrial and retail. Within those classes, the largest deals in Ireland involved large-scale residential multi-family developments, property redress schemes (PRS) and student accommodation schemes, logistics portfolios and regional retail parks and shopping centres.

The Irish office market has been dominated by a "flight to quality", with developers, building owners and occupiers collaborating to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives and comply with net zero targets and impending EU regulations. The demand for Grade A sustainable office space will continue to split the market, leading to an increase in the refurbishment and retrofitting of older assets.

Ensuring adequate and affordable housing is a key concern of the Irish government which is being addressed through the "Housing for All" plan. To achieve its housing objectives for 2022– 2030, the government aims to deliver 312,750 homes, comprising 88,400 social, 53,800 affordable or cost rental and over 170,000 private units, with a state investment of EUR40 billion. As a result, this sector has strong growth prospects for 2024.

The Irish retail sector has demonstrated its resilience with consumer confidence and retail sales increasing throughout 2023. Several new international entrants to the Irish market are seeking retail space with, for example, Swedish retailer Arket and Chinese retailer Icicle due to open their first Irish stores in Dublin in 2024. High-end retail centres performed well in 2023 with, for example, The Blanchardstown Centre securing new leases with leading brands such as Lego, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike in the past year.

There is no doubt that the impact of rising inflation, increases in interest rates and the resultant uptick in associated property costs have induced a period of price discovery in Irish real estate. However, inflationary pressures have now eased somewhat, and interest rates appear to have stabilised, with a marginal reduction expected throughout 2024.

Ireland remains the European Union's fastestgrowing economy and an excellent place to invest and do business. It offers a high degree of economic and political stability with the benefit of a common law legal system and a favourable tax structure that is relatively easy to understand. Ireland is strongly aligned with the EU and benefits from the common trade area and access to talent from across Europe.

1.3 Proposals for Reform

Electronic Conveyancing

There has been a move towards the use of electronic signatures for the acquisition of real estate, but procedures to deal with electronic signatures have not yet been implemented by the Land Registry so original wet ink signatures are still required for most documents dealing with real estate. See 2.3 Effecting Lawful and Proper Transfer of Title for further detail on the use of electronic signatures.

Reform of Planning Law

The Planning and Development Bill 2023 (the "Planning Bill")

The Planning Bill aims to modernise and reform planning law in Ireland. The reforms include:

  • significant restructuring and resourcing of the current planning appeals board, An Bord Pleanála (the "Bord"), which will be renamed An Coimisiún Pleanála;
  • the introduction of statutory timelines for decision-making, including for An Coimisiún Pleanála;
  • new strategic ten-year development plans for local authorities;
  • reform of the planning Judicial Review; and
  • new provisions for urban development zones.

The bill is currently making its way through the legislative process and it is hoped that it will be enacted by Q2 2024.

Irish Funds Review 2030

This review highlighted the importance of institutional funding for the ownership of commercial and residential property and supported the maintenance of both the real estate investment trust (REIT) and Irish real estate funds (IREF) regimes in their current form. It is proposed that the leverage limits in the IREF regime be aligned with the Central Bank's macroprudential limits and that reinvestment conditions and leverage limits in REITs be more flexible.

2. Sale and Purchase

2.1 Categories of Property Rights

The categories of property rights that can be acquired in Ireland are as follows:

  • freehold title, which confers absolute ownership; or
  • leasehold title, which confers ownership for the period of years granted by the relevant lease.

2.2 Laws Applicable to Transfer of Title

Historically, Irish law was based on legislation predating the establishment of the Irish State. The 2009 Act replaced much of the old law and modernised conveyancing practice. The 2009 Act is the main statute applicable to the transfer of title in Ireland and applies to all asset classes, including residential, commercial, industrial, offices, retail, and hotels. The RTA govern the residential landlord and tenant sector, and the LTA govern the commercial landlord and tenant sector.

2.3 Effecting Lawful and Proper Transfer of Title

When ownership of a property is registered in the Land Registry, the deeds are filed with the Land Registry and all relevant particulars are entered on folios that form the registers that the Land Registry maintains. In conjunction with the folios, the Land Registry also maintains maps (referred to as filed plans). Both folios and filed plans are kept in electronic form.

The Registry of Deeds provides a system of voluntary registration for deeds that affect property. The purpose was to give priority to registered deeds over unregistered but "registrable" deeds. There is no statutory obligation to register a deed in the Registry of Deeds, although failure to do so may result in a loss of priority.

Tailte Éireann (which launched in March 2023) is the state organisation responsible for the registration of property transactions in Ireland and encompasses both the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds. Tailte Éireann also provides national mapping and surveying infrastructure and a property valuation service for Ireland.

Title insurance is used in property transactions in Ireland but is not widespread.

While the use of electronic signatures has increased in Ireland, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the transfer of Irish real estate is still required to be effected by way of original wet ink signature. The Electronic Commerce Act 2000 (the "E-Commerce Act") governs the use of electronic or digital signatures in Ireland. Previously, interests in land were specifically excluded from the ambit of the E-Commerce Act. However, the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 (Application of Sections 12 to 23 to Registered Land) Regulations 2022 (the "Regulations") amended the E-Commerce Act and allowed for the legal recognition of the electronic execution of documents dealing with interests in registered land. Notwithstanding the Regulations, practice has not yet changed in Ireland as the Land Registry – while welcoming the introduction of the Regulations – has clarified that it is not currently in a position to accept electronic or digital signatures on documents submitted to it for registration. Ultimately, Land Registry practice will dictate whether electronic signatures are acceptable on documents relating to real estate interests. An exception to this is the contract for sale which may be executed by electronic signature. While it was possible to use an electronic signature to execute contracts previously, the 2023 Law Society of Ireland General Conditions (the "General Conditions") provide express confirmation of the parties' consent to electronic exchange of contracts, the use of counterparts and the potential to use electronic signatures. As with all the General Conditions, this condition can be amended in a contract for sale by a special condition.

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Originally Published by Chambers And Partners

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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