Thursday, July 28, 2022

Vivienne Clarke

A report on defective apartments built during the boom years has not recommended a levy on the construction sector to help the State meet the bill for repairs.

While an industry levy has been considered, the report of the working group on defects in housing states “it is not feasible retrospectively to impose a penalty on the individual firms that were responsible for the defects”.

The report, commissioned by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, says a general industry levy would target those who did not cause the issue and such a levy would face legal issues.

It would also have knock-on impacts on the current construction costs, the report adds.

Responding to the report, spokesperson for the Construction Defects Alliance Pat Montague said the findings were not a surprise.

He called for a shift in the balance of legal rights towards the owners of defective homes and away from protecting builders and developers who “sail off into the sunset with no consequences”.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Mr Montague said the reality was that “serial offenders” who were responsible for “shoddy buildings” remained in business.

There remained “deep institutional resistance” by “certain parts of public administration” to any changes in the law, he said.

“They are loath to do anything that will affect builders. They need builders to build homes. They are very reluctant to do anything that might stop the flow of new homes,” he added, arguing that because there have been no consequences, the process was continuing.

Regulations

There needed to be “a considerable shift” in how regulations were enforced and better remedies needed to be made available to consumers when difficulties arose, he said.

The Home Bond scheme had paid out “diddly squat” and had done nothing for people even though money had been paid into the fund, he said, adding there was a resistance to making latent defects insurance mandatory, as was the case in other European countries.

Mr Montage said he did not understand why there was such resistance when people could not drive a car without insurance, it should be the same when it came to building a home, adding tt would be better for people to pay into a scheme that actually helps.

Retrospective financial assistance for the 34,000 homes where fire safety remedial work was required should be included in the forthcoming budget, Mr Montage urged.

If such assistance was not available then the works could be stalled which would create an enormous risk for the people living in those homes, he said.

The veil of incorporation also needed to be lifted so that assets could be pursued in cases where defects were found, he said, adding this could be key along with the need to “ratchet up” the enforcement of regulations.

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