Government approves establishment of defects scheme for apartments and duplexes
Published on: 20 January 2023
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has today received Government approval to draft legislation to support the remediation of apartments and duplexes with fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects, constructed between 1991 and 2013. The legislation will provide a statutory basis for the establishment of a remediation scheme aimed at protecting the safety and welfare of those living in apartments or duplexes with such defects that occurred during construction.
A ‘whole building’ approach will be taken, ensuring common areas and shared spaces are also remediated where required to the relevant standard. It’s envisaged that the Housing Agency will play a central role in the administration of the scheme and that Owners’ Management Companies will be funded to carry out the necessary remediation works, with specific limitations or exemptions on certain commercial owners.
In order to ensure that important life-safety works are not paused, the Government has also decided that remediation works related to fire safety defects, entered into or commenced from today, will form part of the remediation scheme, subject to terms and conditions. Such works will need to be agreed with local authority Fire Services and the details of this process will be worked out as a priority and provided in due course. Government have approved the principle of allowing remediation costs already incurred or levied to be covered under the legacy defects scheme, within the scope and defined parameters of said scheme.
Speaking following the Government meeting, Minister O’Brien said: "We know that there are significant legacy defects in a large number of apartments and duplexes and as a result, many owners of apartments and duplexes are facing difficult financial situations - alongside the personal stress that is caused - when defects arise in their buildings."
"The forthcoming scheme will help protect the safety and welfare of those currently living in apartments or duplexes with fire safety, structural safety and water ingress defects."
Minister O’Brien added: "I have listened to calls from homeowner representative bodies and I am glad to report that Government have approved the principle of allowing remediation costs already incurred or levied to be covered under the legacy defects scheme, within the scope and defined parameters of said scheme. The details and mechanics of this will be worked out as the legislation is drafted."
Minister O’Brien concluded: "When I was appointed Minister, I said that this was a nettle we had to grasp and I am committed to helping those whose lives have been impacted by this issue. My Department will now proceed to draft this legislation as quickly as possible."
"We also need to continue strengthening our building control system so that similar issues don’t arise in the future. I remain committed to establishing an independent building standards regulator with effective powers of inspection and enforcement and an appropriate suite of sanctions."
The scale of defects in apartments and duplexes is significant. The Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing that reported to Minister O’Brien in July 2022, estimated that between 50% and 80% of apartments and duplexes (or associated common areas) constructed between 1991 and 2013, may be affected by one or more fire safety, structural safety or water ingress defects. This equates to between 62,500 and 100,000 apartments/duplexes. The average cost of remediation is approximately €25,000 per unit, which means the scheme could have a potential cost to the Exchequer of between €1.5 billion and €2.5 billion.
Housing for All, the Government’s housing plan to 2030, committed to the examination of defects in housing through the establishment of an independent working group to identify the nature and scale of the problem.
Notes to Editor
- Only defects that are attributable to defective design, defective or faulty workmanship, defective materials (or any combination of these) and were in contravention of the relevant Parts of the Building Regulations applicable at the time of construction will be eligible for inclusion in the scheme. Any defects that originate from inadequate maintenance, poor management etc., will not be included within the scope of the scheme
- It is intended that a whole building approach will be taken to remediate relevant defects and to improve the safety of all occupants in the building. In light of their existing legal responsibilities and ownership of common areas, it is intended that Owners’ Management Companies will be funded to carry out the necessary remediation works, with specific limitations or exemptions on certain commercial owners
- The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is considering the policy options around the establishment of an independent Building Standards Regulator. The Minister’s objective is to ensure that an independent Building Standards Regulator has sufficient breadth of scope, effective powers of inspection and enforcement and an appropriate suite of sanctions to apply when non-compliance arises in respect of buildings. Housing for All, the Government’s housing plan, committed to: “Examine the merits of the creation of an independent Building Standards Regulator to oversee building control nationwide and to act as custodian of the Building Control Management System"
- In addition, the Department has established an advisory group to develop a Code of Practice with guidance for relevant professionals on fire safety and buildings, including guidance on interim safety measures.