Delays in probate are contributing to Ireland’s housing shortage, according to a new survey carried out by Royal London Ireland.

The Independent reports that the survey’s findings show that it can take up to 20 weeks before wills are validated after someone’s death, which causes financial stress for families and reduces the number of homes on the market, according to the housing spokesman for the Fianna Fáil, Darragh O’Brien.

Some 30,000 people die every year, with 87 percent of them owning a home—this means 26,000 houses are affected. The Royal London survey shows that the overall waiting time from someone’s death to the distribution of their estate is 16 months.

Review group still not established

Ireland’s Department of Justice has confirmed that it is still to establish a group to look at the probate process in Ireland, despite announcing its intention for such a group in 2016.

Mr O’Brien said these factors were likely contributing factors to the relatively high (9.2 percent) vacancy rate of 183,000 houses in Ireland.

Royal London Ireland’s report said it wasn’t known how many vacant or potentially vacant homes were tied up in the probate process. Research carried out by the Peter McVerry Trust early in 2017 found that 62 percent of people favoured a tax on empty homes. However, many participants in the survey may not have realised that such a tax would be unfair on those who had properties tied up in the lengthy probate process.

Legals problems and delays

Royal London Ireland commissioned a nationwide survey of 1,000 people, and found that 41 percent of them knew someone who had experienced legal problems or delays relating to wills.

Mr O’Brien said probate tended to “take an inordinate amount of time to be processed in Ireland”, compared to other counties. In England, a will takes an average of three to four weeks to be validated whereas in parts of Ireland this can take up to 20 weeks.

In related news, the Department of Finance is considering the closure of a loophole that allows wealthy individuals to pass on homes without paying inheritance tax. A recent High Court decision allows people to inherit the family home without paying inheritance tax even if they are the beneficiaries of other property, if this formed part of the “residue” of the will—i.e. the person would inherit it at a later date.

Revenue decided against appealing the September High Court ruling, although the government previously stopped the option of people benefiting from the tax break if they inherited more than one property or a share in one.