Property Clinic: The roof of my parents’ apartment block is shockingly faulty

Property Clinic: The ceiling may collapse in our living room

My parents bought a newly built two-bed apartment in 2008. I knew there had been a leak in it since it was built, but I never knew the extent. I asked an engineer to come and take a look. His report was shocking. It estimated that €75,000 would need to be spent on fixing the main roof of the apartment block as the current materials are sub-standard and, should we endure another wet winter, it is likely the ceiling will collapse in our living room. He reported that if we tried to fix the ceiling, it would be a fruitless exercise as once it rained, we would be back to square one.

I would like to know who is accountable for this fault. Is it the builders, or should the management agency do something about it as it was reported to them years ago? The apartment below us has now started to flood. I worry about the structural integrity of the whole building and the safety of its tenants. These Co Kildare apartments were €180,000 at time of purchase.

As everyone is now probably aware, the rectification of substandard homes is a shocking and far too common legacy of the Celtic Tiger era. In the first instance it’s a terrible personal experience – and very often an additional financial burden – for homeowners who, through no fault of their own, have been caught up in situations like this.

Where you have systemic failures, as with the mica crisis, it can also lead to massive financial costs which will have to be borne by wider society. That story obviously has been widely reported in the media but on other occasions, where total rebuilds aren’t required, homeowners often choose to get the remedial work carried out quietly. Inadequate construction regulations and absent consumer protection is the perfect storm for what you and so many other developments in the country now face.


The owners' management company should arrange for an information pack to be sent to all members

In your particular situation, the party that installed the roof should have done so with a guarantee for a term within 20-35 years and the materials should be fit for purpose. The matter of Statute of Limitations arises unless there are filings for damages with a court of jurisdiction over this matter prior to this lapse. There may still be a trading developer that retains the ownership of common areas allowing for redress. The owners’ management company should arrange for an information pack to be sent to all members including an update on the survey findings of all materials of the common areas, the update on litigation against the liable party (if any proceedings are in train) and the proposal for the resolution of the issue.

It is likely there are other issues in your development, if your independent report has findings of substandard materials.

Experienced and competent counsel is key to you and your fellow members obtaining the information you all will need to make very difficult decisions. If you are to be successful in obtaining clean title free of defects, three elements will need to be in place. These are:

1 A competent and informed agent;

2 A willing and patient board of directors; and

3 The members to fund the process.

More generally, we need the Statute of Limitations to be extended for construction as some defects take time to present or are concealed. A statutory body should also participate in a meaningful way in observing the critical stages of construction and join in the sale of a property to ensure that the oversight is present and accountable. For the majority of people, purchasing a home or property is one of, if not, the biggest financial commitments they will make. Homeowners expect properties they buy or build to comply fully with building regulations. To ensure equity, the systems we put in place to ensure accountability and responsibility with regard to residential construction need to match the expectations and commitment of homeowners. – Paul Huberman

Paul Huberman is a chartered property and facilities manager, and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland