No resolution for owners of defective Celtic Tiger apartments

Residents forced to pick up the €1.5bn tab to remedy fire defects on 100,000 apartments
No resolution for owners of defective Celtic Tiger apartments

It’s estimated that, conservatively, 100,000 apartments alone from the period 2000-2008 were constructed to inadequate fire prevention standards. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The issue of fire defects in Irish apartments built before and during the Celtic Tiger years will not be resolved “until there are fatalities”, fears one affected owner.

Ciara Holland, a married mother of two, has owned an apartment in south Dublin since 2006. 

Two years ago, the residents of her block were informed by the management company that serious defect issues had been discovered with the fire stopping in the complex. The choice was stark – pay €16,250 apiece to remedy the defects, or vacate the building. The majority voted to pay.

“I was shocked. When you hear something like that, that’s just so wrong, you think that someone will force those responsible to pay. How can there be no consequences?” she said.

“I have two little girls. All their little lives, could I have guaranteed that I could get to them if they were sleeping and there was a fire? I have felt so guilty. But no one seems to care." 

It’ll take fatalities before something is done.

On Tuesday, the Oireachtas Housing Committee heard from the members of the Construction Defects Alliance, which was formed last year to pressure Government into the establishment of a working group to investigate the issue, and for a redress fund to be put in place for owners afflicted by a major housing issue through no fault of their own.

It’s estimated that, conservatively, 100,000 apartments alone from the period 2000-2008 were constructed to inadequate fire prevention standards. With a median cost of €15,000 for remediation works per unit, the cost to fix the issue, again conservatively, is in the region of €1.5bn.

In Ms Holland's case, the developer, which is still in operation, denied liability, citing a statute of limitations on such complaints of eight years.

Stephen Scott, a chartered surveyor brought in to advise the alliance, said the statute of limitations is the chief reason given by developers as to why they cannot be held liable for defects which happened on their watch. He said:

So many of those developers have either been liquidated, or subsumed into another business, or are operating under a different name, meaning there’s just no route to recovery.

There’s no simple reason for how such an enormous anomaly could have been allowed to happen, he says. “It’s a culmination of a whole series of failings across the industry – a lack of supervision, a lot of money floating around the property market at the time, different parts of developments self-certifying themselves,” he says.

He added it was his experience that many people remain unaware their homes could potentially be a death trap.

“We’ve been to so many AGMs and the like in recent years telling owners this. You can imagine the anger at those meetings. It’s just awful,” he said.

Other than redress, the alliance is hoping to instigate legislation to deny planning permission to developers with outstanding defects issues.

“This isn’t about money anymore for me,” says Ciara Holland. “It’s about justice.”

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