Concerns have been raised that thousands of apartment owners who have paid to fix construction defects in their homes could be excluded from any future State scheme.
The Construction Defects Alliance, an advocacy group for owners of properties affected, says many of its members are worried that people who are paying levies for remediation work will now stop because it is not clear if they will be covered retrospectively by any future remediation scheme.
The alliance has estimated up to 92,000 apartments built during the boom in Ireland could be affected by legacy defects such as a lack of fire-stopping material.
An Irish Times investigation running since December 2018 has found owners are facing bills of up to €60,000 to remediate severe mould, collapsing roof canopies, rotting balconies and lack of fire-safety measures.
A working group was set up by the Department of Housing in October 2020 to establish the scale of the Celtic Tiger building defects problem, what the potential cost of remediation might be and what financial solutions could be agreed.
The alliance estimates about 20 per cent of defective homes have already been remediated, about 18,000-20,000 apartments.
It estimates the cost of including these in any scheme would be €60 million-€80 million, when you remove commercial landlords who can already claim tax relief on works.
However, there are concerns that this bracket of owners may not be included in the scheme because both the pyrite and Mica schemes were not open to owners who had already paid for and completed works before applying for redress.
When asked about the issue of retrospection, the department said it would “await the deliberations and the report of the working group”.
The group has seven members; an independent chairperson, a fire expert, a residential design expert, a lawyer, a building control representative and one nominee each from the Apartment Owners Network and Construction Defects Alliance.
It will send an online questionnaire to thousands of apartment owners, property managers and local authorities in mid-January in an effort to assess the scale and cost of the problem.
Those responses will be collected over a six-week period until the end of February and will then be analysed by the working group.
It is expected a draft report from the working group will be sent to Government by late spring.
‘Lack of clarity’
However, many owners and managing agents are worried that those who have already started or completed remediation works will not be included, while others are holding off on vital work while they await the working group’s report.
“Without retrospective redress provision, our OMC [Owners Management Company] members will be at a financial disadvantage to others and simply because we acted responsibly and early to address the defects left by our builder,” one OMC director wrote to the advocacy group.
“Lack of clarity around retrospective redress runs the risk of stalling the progress of fire safety remediation efforts across the country,” another OMC director wrote.
They continued: “It is highly unlikely we’d kick off a project now if there’s a potential that doing so would mean that owner occupiers will miss out on inclusion in any redress scheme that materialises on the back of recommendations from the working group. We’d be crazy to proceed, it’s also unlikely if we did hold an EGM that members would approve a project to proceed.”