The Programme for Government sets out a number of commitments in respect of the important policy area addressing building defects. It commits to an examination of defects in housing, having regard to the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing’s report, "Safe as Houses ?". Housing for All, the Government’s national plan on housing to 2030, reiterates this commitment.
In this regard, I established a working group to examine defects in housing. This working group has been meeting monthly since March 2021 (except for August). In addition, regular subgroup meetings take place to advance elements of the work.
The group’s terms of reference, adopted in May 2021, are focused on fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects in purpose built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 and 2013. The full terms of reference of the Working Group are to:
1. Examine defects in housing having regard to the recommendations in Item 4 “Addressing the legacy of bad building and poor regulation” in Chapter 4 of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government report - ‘Safe as Houses? A Report on Building Standards, Building Controls and Consumer Protection’.
2. Establish the nature of significant, wide-spread fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects in purpose built apartment buildings, including duplexes, constructed between 1991 – 2013 in Ireland through consultation with affected homeowners, homeowner representative organisations, owners’ management companies, relevant managing agents, public representatives, local authorities, product manufacturers, building professionals, industry stakeholders, insurance providers, mortgage providers and other relevant parties. Including such matters as:
- Identification and description of defect,
- Nature of defect – design, product, workmanship,
- Non-compliance with building regulations or actual damage,
- Severity/risk to life or serviceability of dwelling,
- Period of construction affected,
- Type of dwelling affected,
- Location of dwellings affected.
3. Establish the scale of the issue – estimate number of dwellings affected by the defects identified including those already remediated.
4. Consider a methodology for the categorisation of defects and the prioritisation of remedial action.
In the case of defects with fire safety implications, consider how the framework for enhancing fire safety in dwellings can be applied to mitigate the risks arising from fire safety defects pending the remediation of defects and the Code of Practice for Fire Safety Assessment of Premises and Buildings, which is currently being developed by National Directorate of Fire and Emergency Management.
5. Suggest mechanisms for resolving defects, in the context of the legal rights, duties and obligations of developers, builders, building professionals, insurers, mortgage providers, building control authorities, fire authorities, owners’ management companies, owner occupiers, renters and landlords, including:
- Technical options for the remediation of dwellings,
- Efficient means of carrying out work,
- individual dwellings or whole building approach,
- routine maintenance/refurbishment or remediation,
- Structures or delivery channels needed to facilitate resolution – advice and support.
6. Evaluate the potential cost of technical remediation options.
7. Pursue options on possible financial solutions to effect a resolution, in line with the Programme for Government commitment to identify options for those impacted by defects to access low-cost, long-term finance.
8. Report to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the Examination of Defects in Housing.
In regard to the working group’s deliberations, the first round of stakeholder consultation commenced in July 2021 with more detailed follow up and additional stakeholder consultations ongoing at present. A series of online surveys was also launched by the Working Group on 31 January seeking the experiences of homeowners, landlords, Directors of Owners’ Management Companies and Property Management Agents. The surveys will run until 14 March 2022 and can be accessed at the following link:www.gov.ie/en/consultation/7e319-online-survey-in-relation-to-defects-in-apartment-and-duplex-buildings/
The engagement with stakeholders and the online consultation will inform the deliberations of the Working Group and support the delivery on its extensive terms of reference and finalisation of its report.
I am satisfied that the Working Group is working effectively and efficiently on this complex matter, and will require sufficient time to complete its work beyond March 2022. In that context, I look forward to a report later this year following completion of their consultations and deliberations. Once I receive the report I will give full consideration to its contents.