Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes.
The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area of building defects and provides for an examination of defective housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing report, "Safe as Houses".
In this regard, my Department is actively engaging with key stakeholders and I have had several meetings with stakeholder representative groups on this matter over recent months. My Department is currently working to establish the structures to examine the issue of defective housing, this will include apartment buildings, in line with the commitment in the programme for government.
I recently appointed Mr Seamus Neely, former chief executive of Donegal County Council, to the position of Chair to the independent working group to oversee the effective implementation of the group’s terms of reference which are currently being finalised.
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, which is under the remit of the Minister for Justice, 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 at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-housing-local-government-and-heritage/?referrer=http://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/framework_for_enhancing_fire_safety_in_dwellings.pdf.
Separately, the ongoing building control reform agenda, with its many initiatives, already provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of real compliance within the construction industry. The reform agenda includes:
- Amendments made to the Building Control Regulations;
- Establishment of the National Building Control Office; and
- The ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.