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SF Bill seeks to make construction sector pay levy for defects

Sinn Féin to publish private member's Bill for redress for owners of defective properties

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: “The Government cannot continue to ignore its responsibility in assisting homeowners with Celtic Tiger-era latent defects.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The construction industry would be hit with a levy to remedy Celtic Tiger-era building defects when the original developer has gone out of business under plans to be published by Sinn Féin on Wednesday.

The party will this morning publish a private members Bill aimed at improving redress for the owners of defective properties. The Bill is being put forward by the party’s housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, following recent revelations about fire safety issues in apartment developments, published in The Irish Times and elsewhere.

The legislation would, in the first instance, seek to have the original developer pay for remediation works. However, it would also pave the way for a fund to be set up to pay for repairs to defective schemes.

The fund would be provided for by a levy on the construction industry, which would be matched on a euro-for-euro basis by the exchequer. However, Mr Ó Broin said the State’s part of the scheme could also be provided via tax breaks for property owners rather than cash contributions.

Latent defects

“The Government cannot continue to ignore its responsibility in assisting homeowners with Celtic Tiger-era latent defects. It was the lax regulations put in place by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that allowed cowboy builders and developers get away with selling people badly built homes,” Mr Ó Broin said.

In addition to strengthening financial redress options for homeowners, the Bill would seek to enact mechanisms whereby disputes could be resolved and responsibility for defects established. An information and advice service for affected people, who often find themselves inadequately prepared for the legally and technically demanding process of remedying defects, would be established under the Bill.

Mediation process

A mediation process for disputing parties would also be set up, as would an adjudication process which would have the authority to issue legally binding remediations. The government has been reluctant to institute a redress scheme over fears that it could result in a potentially open-ended liability for the State.

Mr Ó Broin said he had drafted the Bill in a way that would allow the Government, acting on the advice of the attorney general, to provide access advice, support and access to mediation and adjudication mechanisms for affected homeowners.

“But the core proposal, that homeowners who bought their homes in good faith should not have to foot the Bill for defects they did not create, must be supported by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil,” the Dublin mid-west TD said. “These homeowners need help. They need independent advice and support.”