The Safe as Houses report has been considered by my Department, and while I can subscribe to many of the principles in it, I believe that the building control reform agenda already well underway provides a comprehensive roadmap for embedding a culture of compliance and accountability within the construction industry and for strengthening the building control framework in this country.
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.
Local authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Fire Services Acts 1981 and 2003, the Fire Services 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 legacy issues generally, I acknowledge the very stressful circumstances which owners and residents face when defects occur in their homes. However, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, that is the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. The State has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters. It is not possible for the State to take on responsibility/liability for all legacy issues nor would it send the right message to the industry regarding their responsibility for compliance.
My focus will remain firmly on ensuring the full roll out of the Building Control reform agenda, to ensure that all those that engaged in the construction sector take their responsibilities seriously and are appropriately held to account. As part of the reform agenda, consumer protection will continue to be my core concern and any proposals in that regard will, of course, be considered.