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Departmental Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 15 September 2020

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Questions (351)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

351. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the measures he has and will bring forward to assist apartment owners and multi-unit developments that are or have experienced building defects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23838/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Housing)

I acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which owners and residents face when their homes are affected by construction defects.

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.

However, my Department is committed to actively engaging with all key stakeholders in respect of the commitments in relation to defects in the Programme for Government. Indeed, I met with a number of stakeholder representative groups in July and will continue that engagement in the coming weeks. In the first place, my Department is currently preparing to set up the structures to examine the issue of defective housing, this will include apartment buildings.

Local authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, the Building Control Acts, the Housing Acts and the Planning and Development Acts. Fire services may inspect buildings in cases of defects or complaints in respect of fire safety. They work with building owners to ensure that immediate risks are addressed and that a plan is put in place, where required, for works to bring buildings into compliance.

In relation to developments where concerns over fire safety issues arise, when a building is constructed and occupied, statutory responsibility for safety is assigned by section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 & 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.

Under the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, (which is under the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality), 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.

In the interest of supporting owners and residents living in developments where concerns regarding non-compliance with fire safety requirements have arisen, the Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in Dwellings was published in 2017. It is intended to be used as a guide for the owners and occupants of dwellings (houses and apartments) where fire safety deficiencies have been identified, or are a cause for concern, to develop strategies to improve fire safety and to develop strategies to enable continued occupation in advance of undertaking the necessary works to ensure compliance with the relevant Building Regulations. The Framework is available on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/framework_for_enhancing_fire_safety_in_dwellings.pdf.

I believe that the building control reform agenda, already well underway, provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding an enhanced culture of compliance and accountability within the construction industry and for strengthening the building control framework in Ireland. The reform agenda includes:

- amendments made to the Building Control Regulations;

- the National Building Control Management Project; and

- the ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

While my focus will remain on ensuring the full roll out of the building control reform agenda, to ensure that all those that engaged in the construction sector meet their responsibilities and are appropriately held to account if they don't, I will also ensure that work continues in this important policy area of defects, in collaboration with other Departments and key stakeholders who have responsibilities in these matters, with a view to assisting owners of affected properties, in line with the Programme for Government.

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