Homeowners in protest over pyrite damage to houses

 

A CAMPAIGN to highlight the plight of thousands of homes affected by pyrite damage began with a protest in Dublin yesterday.

Residents from housing developments in Santry, Blanchardstown, Ashbourne and Balbriggan were joined by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly outside the offices of Homebond, a structural defect insurance provider.

Pyrite – a mineral which swells when it comes into contact with water – was used in the foundations of some houses and apartment blocks during the building boom, causing structural damage to the properties.

Residents at yesterday’s protest complained of cracks and bulging in the walls of their homes, swelling of floors, doors that would not open, cracked tiles and fittings coming away from walls.

The Pyrite Action Campaign was initiated in recent weeks after residents in housing developments in Dublin, Offaly, Louth, Meath and Kildare joined together to highlight their problems.

Campaign committee member Peter Lewis from Santry said some people had been quoted between €40,000 and €80,000 for the work needed to repair their homes but had been offered €8,000 or €9,000 by the insurer.

He said residents were not sure, but based on the amount of aggregate taken out of quarries, up to 60,000 properties could have been affected by pyrite.

Jennifer Doyle, from Ashwood in Ashbourne, Co Meath, said her home had subsidence, the wall next to the stairs had bellied, the bedroom door would not open and there were cracks inside and out. They needed €26,000 to take out the pyrite and replace it with a proper foundation, not including the costs of moving out or replacing flooring and redecorating. “Homebond offered me €7,996.06. All I want is my house fixed.”

A resident from Moylaragh, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, said he constantly had to plane the bottoms of his doors because his floor had swelled, and he could put his fingers into cracks in the walls.

Another resident said it was as if a mini-earthquake had gone on in her home at Rathlodge in Ashbourne. She needed to use “a rugby tackle” to open her front door. Builders had carried out cosmetic work on the property but then “washed their hands of it”.

“We didn’t rush into this purchase; we weren’t in any way foolish,” she said.

They had researched the Homebond guarantee and thought they were safe. “Our young children have lived their entire lives with a very, very stressed set of parents.”

A spokesman for Homebond said the company had never envisaged a situation like that created by pyrite, and the policies were not set up to deal with it.

There was a finite pot of money to cover each development, he said, and it had to be divided between all the claims made within that development and any future claims.

He denied that Homebond was refusing to test properties, but said it had taken a decision that if a number of properties in a development tested positive, there was no point in spending money for further tests since it came from the same pot from which compensation was to be paid.

The spokesman said he did not have figures for the number of properties affected by pyrite, but the company had 500 claims on hand. It was dealing with claims as quickly as possible, he said, but legal cases were slowing down the process.