By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Homeowners in the exclusive Dublin 4 area who are operating illegal parking lots in their front gardens could soon find the taxman knocking on their front door seeking their cut of the profits.
Alderman Carmencita Hederman claims there is now widespread renting of front gardens of listed houses in conservation areas of Dublin 4 to either commuters or business premises nearby.
With parking at a premium in the city, spaces attached to apartments can now cost about _15,000 to buy and Hederman said she knew of front garden spaces in Ballsbridge bringing in as much as _1,200 a year for each car for their owners.
“We are pursuing them with enforcement orders under the planning regulations, but it is proving very difficult to get at them and to prove they are rented.”
City Manager John Fitzgerald told Ald Hederman there would be a “very real practical problem of collecting sufficient evidence that would convince the courts that spaces are being let to commuters.”
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“There may have to be a heavy reliance on evidence supplied by adjoining residents,” he said. “Tackling the problem under the taxation code – benefit in kind – may achieve better results.”
He said that parking for more than two cars at the front or side of houses would be an exempted development under the 1994 planning regulations, provided it was for “a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house.”
The exemption does not apply to listed buildings or houses converted into apartments.
Fitzgerald said renting out the parking spaces could not be classified as being incidental to the enjoyment of the house and would constitute a “material change of use” and would require planning permission.
He said planners had not imposed conditions limiting parking to just the owners when giving permission in the past but, to avoid doubt, will consider doing so in the future.
A spokesman for the traffic department said they had no figures on how many front gardens are providing unofficial income for their owners.
“There have always been fly-by-night merchants with surface car parks around, but unless a front garden car-park was brought to our attention, we would not know that the car there did not belong to the resident,” the spokesman said.
“It would be nightmare situation checking car registrations and then trying to prove that it was not just a personal friend leaving a car there for the day.
“For those doing it there could be substantial income involved if they are in a prime area.”
It costs _1.50 an hour in a multi-story parking lot and that works out at about _12 for an eight-hour day. For a person working a five-day week for 48 weeks of the year, the parking costs would be almost _3,000.