Owners and later occupants of homes with defects could seek redress under Bill

Green Party proposes allowing occupiers take action up to 15 years after construction

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath with mica/pyrite protesters outside the Dáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath with mica/pyrite protesters outside the Dáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A new Green Party Bill would allow owners and occupiers to seek redress for the defective building of their homes up to 15 years after construction.

The Bill will also allow subsequent owners and occupiers of the building, not just the original owners, to pursue an action against the original builder.

The Private Members’ Defective Dwellings Bill 2021 will be introduced in the Dáíl by Green Party TD for Dublin South West Francis Noel Duffy, who is also an architect.

Two barristers with expertise in this area, Dr Deirdre Ní Fhloinn and Conor Linehan, contributed to the drafting of the Bill.

The launch of the Bill coincided with ongoing protests outside the Dáil by families from Donegal, Mayo and Clare whose homes have suffered severe structural damage because of defects in the blocks used in construction. The blocks contained a significant amount of a mineral called mica which has caused the blocks to crumble over time. The homeowners have mounted a long-running campaign seeking 100 per cent funding for remedial works.

Speaking at the launch Dr Ní Fhloinn said: “Home defects just don’t destroy homes, they destroy lives.”

She said there had been a very slow response by successive governments over decades to come up with the legal remedies to give financial redress to home owners and occupiers. It was almost 40 years ago, she noted later, since the Law Reform Commission proposed legislation on this very issue.

The Bill, if accepted, would apply to new builds and also to renovations and would place a new legal duty on the builder or developer in favour of the homeowner or occupier to ensure work was done properly and in accordance with the law, and all regulations.

A novel feature of the Bill is that if the property is sold, the right to seek a remedy does not disappear for the new owner or occupier, who moves in and discovers defects.

The time limitation for action is six years but can extend to 15. It starts when the house is completed or when the homeowner or occupier is cognisant of the relevant facts at their disposal that will allow them to take an action on the grounds of the building being defective.

Mr Linehan said the long stop period of 15 years in which to take an action was a “strong plank of the Bill”. He said that a latent defect or damage might not materialise in a building for many years.

Mr Duffy said he would expect a “potential pushback” from the construction industry but argued that the Bill was important as it gave security to those who buy or build new homes.