Owners forced to leave pyrite-riddled homes for three months

Owners of pyrite-riddled homes having damage repaired under a Government scheme will have to leave their property for up to three months.

They will also be forced to find alternative accommodation themselves, but will eventually be able to claim back up to €3,000 to cover costs.

The Pyrite Resolution Board estimates around 1,000 homeowners will apply for the redress scheme when the online application process goes live in July.

Board chairman John O’Connor said that figure will rise over the coming years, but it is impossible to accurately estimate how many properties are affected by the mineral, known as fool’s gold.

“This problem doesn’t emerge all at once,” Mr O’Connor said.

“It’s a progressive problem and could take 20 years to manifest itself. There are more cases coming on stream all the time.

“How long, how many will come on stream is impossible to estimate at this stage. It’s quite a sizeable job.”

Properties affected by pyrite heave have been identified in Meath, Kildare, Offaly, Fingal, and Dublin City.

They include houses and apartments built after 1997, with the majority between 2002 and 2007.

Where pyrite is present in building materials — such as backfill used under floors — the mineral swells over time causing buckling in concrete floor slabs, difference in flooring levels, cracking in internal walls and sometimes movement in outside walls.

The Government has secured a €50m upfront loan from banks to fund the redress scheme. The money will be paid back from a mandatory levy to be imposed on the quarrying and insurance sectors next year.

The cost to repair each pyrite-damaged home is estimated at between €40,000 and €50,000, meaning the first wave of 1,000 applications could cost the scheme up to €50m.

“This has been a very stressful experience for all those involved, very worrying and financially difficult,” said Mr O’Connor.

He added that homeowners availing of the scheme will have to arrange alternative accommodation and storage facilities while work is being carried out.

He expects repairs to take around 12 weeks.

“People will be out of their dwellings for about 12 weeks to allow this. It might be shorter, in some cases it might be longer,” Mr O’Connor said.

“This is a typical average we’re talking about.”

These costs — up to the value of €3,000 — will be paid to the homeowner after the remediation work is complete.

People who suspect they have a pyrite problem must have tests carried out and provide certified proof when submitting their application.

Sample testing will then be carried out to establish that pyrite is the cause and the house will be entered into the scheme.

The website — www.pyriteboard.ie — includes information for homeowners concerned about pyrite and details of the redress scheme.

Pyrite hell

Home for Sandra and Peter Lewis was never a place where they could relax — not with very serious structural problems all around them.

The couple, who have a six-year-old son, were forced out of their €285,999 Dublin apartment four years ago because of pyrite.

“Home should be a place where you can switch off but we never got to do that because our home was a constant source of worry,” said Sandra.

The young couple bought the two-bedroom apartment in Santry in 2003 and moved in a year later.

“We had problems within a year of moving into the apartment — the shower tray cracked and hairline cracks began appearing in the walls. When we complained, we were told that they were settlement cracks.

“Our apartment became just too much to cope with — we replaced the inner walls three times just to keep it cosmetically looking well but the problem is still there. We only realised the extent of the damage when we pulled back the carpets and saw the cracked cement slabs.

“Because of the walls cracking, damp and dust was allowed to enter the apartment. We eventually decided to leave in Jan 2009 because our son, who aged two and a half at the time, had asthma.”

The couple, the driving force behind the Pyrite Action Group, found they had no legal recourse because both the builder and developer had gone out of business.

They received no compensation from HomeBond.

They are now hopeful that a new website — www.pyriteboard.ie — will be the next step towards getting their home fixed.

“We are deep into negative equity but we would be delighted to have the choice of either selling the apartment or moving back into it. All we want is a chance to get on with our lives,” said Sandra.


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