In the first instance, I would like to acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
However, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved: the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters.
In the case of multi-unit developments, the legislative position is very clear in terms of where responsibilities rest. Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers. When a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for fire safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 2003, to the "person having control" of the building. In multi-unit developments, the "person having control" is generally the owner management company. Under the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, the owner management company must establish a scheme for annual service charges and a sinking fund for spending on refurbishment, improvement or maintenance of a non-recurring nature of the multi-unit development.
With regard to the effectiveness and accessibility of legal remedies for homeowners who discover defects in their homes, these are complex legal matter with potential implications for the entire legal system, as well as for the insurance industry. In this context, in February 2018, my Department wrote to the Law Reform Commission and also corresponded with those involved with the review of the administration of Civil Justice in Ireland, requesting that they consider the issue of effective and accessible legal remedies for homeowners who discover defects in their homes.
Additionally, in response to the building failures that have emerged over the last decade, my Department has advanced a robust and focused Building Control Reform Agenda, including:
- Amendments to the Building Control Regulations;
- Establishment of a shared services National Building Control Management Project; and
- The ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.
These reforms have already brought, and will continue to bring, a new order and discipline to bear on construction projects, creating an enhanced culture of compliance with the Building Regulations.