Defective Dwellings Bill 2021: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision for the law relating to the liability of builders, developers and others involved in the carrying out of residential construction works; to specify certain requirements applicable to residential construction works; to provide for certain duties to apply to such works; to provide for a means of redress for persons affected by housing defects and to specify the limitation periods relating to claims for such redress and to provide for related matters.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide a robust redress scheme for people affected by housing defects. It aims to make provisions in law relating to the liability of builders, developers and others involved in carrying out residential construction, to require that the work undertaken be done properly, in a workmanlike manner and that proper materials, which are fit for purpose, be used. It also provides for a framework for legal remedies for those impacted by defective properties.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to seek leave to add my Bill to the Order Paper. It is a great honour to be in a position to introduce my first Bill and I wish to begin by thanking those who have assisted me in this. I thank Ms Deirdre Ní Fhloinn and Mr. Conor Linehan for their monumental work in drafting the Bill, their advice and their continued support. I also thank my wife, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Catherine Martin, for leading on this Bill during the previous Dáil, alongside her team comprising Mr. Donál Swan and Mr. Aengus Ó Corráin, who successfully introduced a motion that gained cross-party support. I would also like to thank the campaigners and organisations that have long advocated for change in this area, including the Construction Defects Alliance, Apartment Owner's Network and more recently, the Mica redress campaigners, all of whom have highlighted the importance and urgency of this robust policy response.

The Bill comes at a crucial time, when thousands of people are living in defective properties on the verge of collapse, leaving householders with bills they simply cannot pay. Priory Hall illustrated the devastating consequences of the gaps in our law, which left hundreds of home owners, tenants and Dublin City Council in profoundly difficult and stressful circumstances as they dealt with significant costs, economic loss, evacuation, mortgage arrears, temporary accommodation and the tragic loss of life. We cannot have any more Priory Halls. Homes need to be fit for human habitation and we need a clear, robust framework for legal remedies if defects are identified. That is what this Bill ensures.

In 1972, the UK enacted laws to protect homeowners and other jurisdictions have followed suit. In 1982, the Irish Law Reform Commission, LRC, recommended that legal remedies be improved for homeowners, many of whom were left with no redress because of gaps in legal protections that were identified by the commission in its 1977 working paper. Almost 40 years after the LRC proposed its draft Bill, we are here today presenting this legislation, which incorporates the recommendations of the commission and brings those recommendations into line with changes in the law since 1982. The legislation will provide homeowners with a legal process to gain redress from construction defects and material abnormalities. I would be very grateful, as would many others, if the Government will consider taking this Bill to Second Stage to further protect homeowners in Ireland from defects.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.

Congratulations on putting forward your first Bill.

May it be the first of many. We move now to No. 42.