Support urged for homeowners hit by defects in boom-era builds

Green Party TD says issues identified by Irish Times investigation ‘an enormous public safety issue’

Roof damage at the Hyde Square apartments in Kilmainham, Dublin.

Roof damage at the Hyde Square apartments in Kilmainham, Dublin.

 

An Irish Times investigation, published yesterday, highlighted four Dublin developments with serious fire-safety and structural defects which were built during the boom.

Owners and residents at these apartments are facing large bills to fix the problems, the risk of eviction and the prospect of costly legal actions.

Apartment owners at Hyde Square in Kilmainham have been presented with bills of almost €11,000 each for the repair of their decaying roof, while owners in Marrsfield Avenue in Clongriffin are facing a bill of €826,000 to remedy serious fire-safety issues found at their block.

In Spencer Dock, a premium development in Dublin city centre, residents have been told their tenancies could be terminated in order to facilitate remedial works taking place.

Meanwhile in Belmayne, an apartment block in north Dublin, a letter sent to residents by the owner’s management company shows that it is preparing to proceed with “an immediate fire-safety inspection” and to initiate a survey of balconies “to identify what further repair work is required”.

Investment

“It’s a very distressing position that some owners and residents have found themselves in, through no fault of their own. They worry about the safety of their homes, they worry about the security of what was a very big financial investment,” he said.

“We didn’t have the necessary standards and controls under the Celtic Tiger government; the focus was more on tax breaks for builders and investors than on quality and standards.

“We’ve made great improvements since then and I won’t let us return to those lax standards.”

However, Opposition politicians have criticised the response, with Green Party TD Catherine Martin accusing the Government of “burying its head in the sand” over the issue.

“Every time the Government is asked about the issue of boom-era defects, they choose to abandon homeowners by saying, ‘not my problem’ – yet the scale of the problem continues to reveal itself to be linked to thousands of homes right across the country,” she said.

“This is an enormous public-safety issue, but the Government’s response is to quite firmly keep its collective head in the sand. If there were thousands of defective and potentially dangerous cars on the roads, it would be a public-safety issue and a national scandal, but when it’s defective houses the Government just doesn’t care.”

“[We need] practical, reasonable measures which could ease the burden on homeowners including tax reliefs or creating a loan fund for those who cannot pay. The Government simply cannot wash its hands of this issue.”

Social Democrats Dublin Bay North councillor Cian O’Callaghan said Mr Murphy “needs to get a grip on the situation, starting with a review of developments built during the Celtic-Tiger era” to find out the extent and severity of any defects.

“A remediation fund, along the lines of the pyrite remediation scheme, must be established to ensure the safety and well being of thousands of people affected by this scandal,” he said.

Joanne Tyrrell, who owns an apartment at Marrsfield Avenue in Clongriffin, also dismissed Mr Murphy’s comments, saying they are “mealy mouthed”.

“I would like him to put in place a moratorium on owner-occupiers having to pay until a system of redress is set up.

“He says he understands our distress but does not offer any solutions, what’s the point of a mealy-mouthed response like that?”

Nama

Eamon O’Boyle – a fire consultant and former deputy chief fire officer in Dublin – said the problem was not just confined to boomtime apartments.

He referenced a statement made by Nama’s Brendan McDonagh to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee in October 2015, where Mr McDonagh revealed Nama had at that point spent €100 million on fixing structural defects discovered in properties taken into its control from debtors.

“Nama would have taken over a whole range of properties, from hotels to offices and factories . . . with just a small bit of digging in the apartment area it’s clear these issues exist and there’s no reason to believe that it’s confined to just apartments.”

Mr O’Boyle said the problem could no longer be ignored.

“There is a problem, we know that now, and something has to be done. The idea of not doing anything about it isn’t sustainable. Risk assessments should be undertaken, in a graduated way. For example, start with where people sleep and then move it down to where people work and so on.

“It is going to take a long time to do that because the resources are limited, but there is time and it should be done methodically.”