Campaigners criticise Government scheme for pyrite-affected homes

Call for State assistance to properties badly damaged by ‘pyritic heave’ to be broadened

 Severe  cracking  cause by pyrite: Only the worst affected homeowners can qualify for the Government’s remediation scheme, according to the Pyrite Equality Group. Photograph: Frank Miller

Severe cracking cause by pyrite: Only the worst affected homeowners can qualify for the Government’s remediation scheme, according to the Pyrite Equality Group. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Campaign group has expressed a lack of confidence in the Government’s scheme to help property owners whose homes have been affected by pyrite.

Pyrite is thought to be present in about 20,000 Irish homes and there are fears that many of their owners will never receive State assistance to fix their properties.

A remedial scheme launched in 2013 is subject to the property reaching a level of damage specified under a scale drawn up by the Pyrite Resolution Board, which critics claim the vast majority of those affected will not qualify for.

While campaigners argue the scheme should apply to all homes found to have pyrite and not just those badly damaged by it, the board insists it is a “scheme of last resort and is limited in application and scope”.

To date, 1,277 applications for the scheme have been approved and repairs have been completed in 526 cases. The board does not keep records of the number of properties which do not qualify due to their lower damage rating.

To be included in the scheme, damage must be deemed “consistent with pyritic heave” and rubber-stamped by an engineer through a “damage verification process”.

The recently formed Pyrite Equality Group claims only the worst affected homeowners can qualify for the scheme, leaving those with less obvious damage with effectively worthless property, they say.

“The cracks aren’t only in your floors and walls, they’re in your whole life,” said group spokesman David McGinley.

“Your estate is blacklisted by the banks, you can’t sell; you can’t move mortgage or insurance provider. You’re expected to pay a mortgage on a property that forever more will remain worthless until it’s ‘fixed’.”

New standard

A new standard for assessing affected homes will be considered this week and, if adopted, could have an impact on which homeowners qualify for remedial works. More than 200 submissions were made to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) during a public consultation on how the system should work.

The NSAI standard was developed in 2013 to help engineers assess the level of pyritic heave and associated damage. The authority said it is now being updated to “reflect on-site experiences” over the last three years of the scheme.

The authority will begin considering submissions on the new standard this Thursday and hopes that, once published later this year, it will “further reduce the possibility of ambiguity in deciding and interpreting results”.

However, Mr McGinley said his group has lost faith in the Pyrite Resolution Board.

“People are left in limbo. And they say, ‘wait for five years and we will see how you are’. It’s 10 years now [since the problems first began to emerge],” said Mr McGinley.

He also said the process is punitively expensive. An engineer’s inspector costs up to €600, which is only refunded by the board if the property qualifies for the scheme.

He also said homes are sometimes classified as not qualifying even when neighbouring homes are and people have been known to get two contradictory engineers’ reports.

Last December, Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English said the remedial scheme was one “of last resort . . . applicable to dwellings which are subject to significant damage”.