Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has made a submission to the Working Group on Defects in Housing.
The submission calls for 100% redress for homeowners affected by latent defects including fire safety defects or water ingress.
Teachta Ó Broin said:
“I understand that the Working Group on Defects in Housing is currently finalising its report in advance of submitting it to the Minister in May.
“In the Sinn Féin submission to the working group I have set out Sinn Féin’s proposals as to what should be included in the final report.
“Some of the key measures are summarised below and are expanded on in more detail in our submission.
“Any recommendations from the working group must include 100% redress for homeowners affected by latent defects including fire safety defects or water ingress.
“The redress scheme must be provided for in Budget 2023 and open for applications from the start of that year.
“This redress must apply retrospectively. It must also be afforded to homeowners who have already covered the full costs of remediation or who are in the process of paying for remediation works.
“All defective homes must be treated equally. This includes apartments, duplexes, and houses in schemes.
“Any redress scheme must also include private homeowners and social landlords including Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and local authorities.
“There is an opportunity here to do the right thing for homeowners with defects. The government should ensure that any redress scheme established is as inclusive as possible and that it is ready to go at the start of next year.”
Please see submission below.
Submission to the Working Group on Defects in Housing
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing, Local Government and Heritage
In almost every county across the state, there are owners of apartments, duplexes and houses living in properties with significant fire safety and structural defects. People who bought their homes in good faith are now liable for the costs of remediation caused by bad building practices and little or no government oversight. Any scheme that emerges from the deliberations of the working group must be underpinned by the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government report Safe as Houses published in 2017.
The five key provisions within his report of what should constitute a redress scheme are highlighted below and are from page 15 of the report.
Addressing the legacy of bad building and poor regulation
- Government should establish a redress scheme to assist homeowners with latent defects
- The mission statement of the Redress Scheme should be: “Ordinary owners who purchased in good faith should not be liable for the costs of remediation caused by the incompetence, negligence or deliberate noncompliance of others”
- The redress scheme should provide an information and advice service for those affected by non-compliance and regulatory failure
- The redress scheme should examine a number of possible funding mechanisms for assisting owners affected by pre 2014 non-compliance including: – An industry levy funded levy matched by Government funding – Allowing homeowners to write off the costs of remedial works against – their tax liabilities – An interest free loan scheme to assist homeowners fund the cost of – remedial works
- The redress scheme should be accompanied by a programme of fire risk assessments based on a methodology designed to assess those boom time developments deemed potentially at risk of containing latent defects.
This Sinn Féin submission to the Working Group on Defects in Housing will expand on these key points and will outline the measures that we believe should form an essential part of the final report of the working group.
Sinn Féin Recommendations:
Latent Defects Redress Scheme
- A latent defects redress scheme must be established to help homeowners and social landlords pay for remediation work on their homes, as outlined in the Safe as Houses report, ahead of Budget 2023.
- Where builder/developers are still trading, the original developer should pay for the remediation works. However, in cases where the developer went bust or is no longer trading, the scheme will administer a fund for owners that will be paid for by a levy on the construction industry and will be matched on a euro-for-euro basis by the Exchequer.
- Any costs associated with funding a redress scheme should be met by exchequer funding and this should be supplemented with an annual contribution from the construction and quarrying sectors and the non-life insurance sector.
- Homeowners affected by latent defects including fire safety defects or water ingress must receive 100% redress. This redress must apply retrospectively. It must also be afforded to homeowners who have already covered the full costs of remediation or who are in the process of paying for remediation works.
- The Working Group’s recommendations must ensure that all defective homes are treated equally. This includes apartments, duplexes, and houses in schemes.
- Any redress scheme must also include private homeowners and social landlords including Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) and local authorities. To this end the Housing Agency should engage with social housing landlords to determine the extent and remediation cost of these defects and commence a multi annual funding programme commencing from 2023.
- The existing capital relief available to private landlords to write off the capital costs of remediation against their future tax liability over a period of four years.
- The redress scheme should be designed in such a way as to assist OMCs accessing funds on behalf of individual owners.
- Any redress scheme should also include an information and advice service for homeowners. Mediation will be offered to disputing parties to see if a resolution can be found between the developer/builder and the homeowner. If mediation is not an option, the scheme will issue legally binding adjudications on cases.
- The scheme should also commence a programme of risk assessments for latent defects including fire safety and water ingress and related structural defects and will conduct a review of the existing sanctions for developers/ builders who breach building and fire safety standards.
Implementation of the Safe as Houses Report – Protecting against future defects
The work of this expert group is also an opportunity to learn from past mistakes, including a lack of government oversight and poor building practices. It is therefore as residential construction ramps up again both in the public and private sector, it is essential that robust changes are made that will protect future homeowners from defects. The Safe as Houses report makes seven recommendations to this effect and they are summarised below.
- Latent Defects Insurance should be a legal requirement to be provided by the developer/builder on the sale of all new residential properties
- Transmissible warranties of quality from developers/builders and those involved in the building process in favour of first and subsequent purchasers should be introduced via primary legislation.
- A new statute of limitations of two years from discovery of defect rather than six years from purchase of the property should be introduced via primary legislation
- Minimum mandatory terms for contracts should be introduced to ensure a fair balance between the rights of the developer/builder and those of the purchaser
- Non-disclosure orders on homeowners who resolve their latent defects issues with the developer/builder should be outlawed.
- A review of the existing sanctions and punishments for developers/builders who breach building and fire safety standards should be undertaken and appropriate reforms introduced via primary legislation to ensure a greater level of deterrent is in place for those tempted to break the law.
- A bar on the awarding of publicly funded construction project tenders should be introduced to prevent such contracts from being awarded to developers/builders or associated construction professionals found to be in serious breach of building standards or fire safety regulations.
There is an opportunity here to do the right thing for homeowners with defects. The government should ensure that any redress scheme established is as inclusive as possible, so none are excluded. The government should also ensure that the redress scheme is provided for in Budget 2023 and open for applications from the start of that year.
There is also an opportunity here to ensure that the scandal of latent defects doesn’t happen again. With residential development set to increase in the coming years Government must ensure that we do not have a repeat of Celtic Era defects. The Working Group Report must contain pathways that see the recommendations of the Safe as Houses Report implemented in full during the lifetime of this government.