Primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the building regulations rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. As such, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, namely, the homeowner, the builder, the developer and-or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme.
It is incumbent on the parties responsible for poor workmanship and-or the supply of defective materials to face up to their responsibilities and to take appropriate action to provide remedies for the affected homeowners. In addition, when a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003 to the person having control of the building. The person having control is required to take reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire and to ensure the safety of persons in the event of fire.
In multi-unit developments, the person having control is generally the owner management company. Where apartment buildings that are defective from a fire safety perspective come to the attention of the local authority fire services, they work with management companies and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate levels of fire safety are achieved to minimise the risk to life.
In response to the many building failures that emerged in the last decade, my Department has been driving a comprehensive building control reform agenda. The measures involved include the introduction of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the establishment of a national building control management project and progressing primary legislation such as the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill through the Houses. The aim is to promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance with the building regulations in the construction sector and this will continue to be the subject of focused attention in the months and years ahead.
In regard to the fire safety task force, in the aftermath of Grenville in June 2017 and in recognition of the fears expressed by the fire safety services, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, under the direction of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the national directorate for fire and emergency management was asked to convene and co-ordinate a task force to lead a reappraisal of our approach to fire safety in Ireland. The work of the task force has been completed and its findings are related in the Fire Safety in Ireland report. The report acknowledges the importance of fire safety in apartment buildings. The reply provided to me contains a detailed summary on the work of the task force, which I can provide to the Deputy. In essence, it is estimated that up to 500,000 people live in approximately 200,000 apartments across the country. From a fire safety perspective, the person having control of the apartment and the building-premises is the owner management company. The key to life safety in all apartment buildings is a two-stage fire detection alarm system, together with an evacuation strategy and involving the residents in preventing nuisance alarms and knowing how to react in the event of fire alarms being activated. There is ongoing work in this area. We have asked the local authorities, as the local lead fire authorities, to engage directly with management companies.