Housing defects group to examine fire safety issues in apartments

Group, set up in response to problems with boom-era homes, meets for first time on Friday

Ciara Holland, a member of the Construction Defects Alliance who had to pay €16,250 to fix fire safety issues  at her Dublin home, will be participating in the first meeting of a group established to consider the issue of defective housing.

Ciara Holland, a member of the Construction Defects Alliance who had to pay €16,250 to fix fire safety issues at her Dublin home, will be participating in the first meeting of a group established to consider the issue of defective housing.

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A working group set up to examine the issue of defective housing is to examine fire safety and structural safety defects in apartments and duplexes built between 1991 and 2013, according to its draft terms of reference.

The group meets for the first time on Friday and has been tasked with establishing the number of homes affected by these defects, categorising the severity of the defects and suggesting means of remediation.

The draft terms, which are yet to be agreed upon and could be changed at the meeting, say the group will consider the cost of fixing the issues and how owners could access low-cost loans to pay for this.

Groups representing affected homeowners have previously called for tax breaks and other financial supports to be considered alongside low-cost loans but these are not mentioned as being under consideration at present.

The groups estimate that up to 92,000 apartments could be affected by legacy Celtic-tiger defects such as water ingress, insecure balconies and a lack of fire-stopping material.

An Irish Times investigation running since December 2018 has uncovered defects in 33 developments comprising more than 2,100 apartments in Ireland.

Owners have faced bills of up to €60,000 to remediate severe mould, collapsing roof canopies, rotting balconies and an extensive lack of fire-safety measures.

The new group will be chaired by Seamus Neely, former chief executive of Donegal County Council, and involves 10 other members, including Ciara Holland, who is a member of the Construction Defects Alliance and an apartment owner who had to pay €16,250 to fix fire safety defects at her Stillorgan home.

Other members include John O’Connor of the Housing Agency, which carries out remediation works on homes that fall under the Pyrite Remediation Scheme, Gary Hynds of the Department of Finance, and Seamus Coughlan, Cork County Council’s chief fire officer.

The Construction Defects Alliance said it hoped Friday’s meeting would be “the start of a process that will lead to some form of redress for the owners of the tens of thousands of apartments who have been left carrying the can for the fire defects caused by shoddy building and ineffectual oversight and building control during the Celtic tiger era”.