Wednesday 26 October 2016

Councils fall behind target for new homes inspections

Published 29/12/2015 | 02:30

Environment Minister Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Environment Minister Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

Three of the country's biggest local authorities are failing to meet official targets to inspect a set number of homes to help prevent shoddy building work.

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And some are taking more than a year to re-let vacant council housing, despite the accommodation crisis.

The 'Performance Indicators in Local Authorities' report says that an average of 21.81pc of all new buildings are inspected across the country, but that Fingal, South Dublin and Tipperary county councils are failing to meet the minimum threshold as set out by the Department of the Environment.

It also says that the number of homes inspected has fallen for the third year in a row, with 22.6pc inspected in 2012, falling to 22.52pc in 2013, followed by a further drop in 2014.

The low rate of inspections in some councils comes despite the department issuing a direction in February 2014 that between 12pc and 15pc of all new builds must be examined to ensure that they are free from defects.

"It is disappointing to note that the buildings inspected as a percentage of new buildings...was a reduction on the percentage inspected in 2013 in the case of the majority of authorities," the report says.

The exceptions to this were Kerry, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Carlow, Longford, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo and Waterford, where rates increased.

In the case of the latter six, the percentage improvement ranged from 35pc to almost 90pc.

The low rate of inspections in some councils means that properties may be sold to unsuspecting members of the public without basic checks being carried out.

The direction followed the Priory Hall fiasco, when hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes because of fire-safety issues.

And while most local authorities are in line with the targets, the shortfall in some areas means that only a small number of homes are subject to inspection.

Last year, just over 11,000 homes were completed. The figures suggest that around 2,400 were inspected.

Fingal County Council in north Dublin has some of the highest rates of house completions across the country, with a total of 809 homes delivered last year. However, the inspection rate suggests that just 90 were examined.

Developers of shoddy buildings face being jailed for two years under regulations introduced last March. These are aimed at avoiding the mistakes of the housing boom, when poorly constructed homes left thousands of homeowners out of pocket and at risk of death or serious injury.

Meanwhile, it is taking more than a year to for some local authorities to re-let vacant council housing.

The 'Performance Indicators' report found that Cork City Council takes up to 82 weeks to bring a property back into use, and that it takes an average of six months for local authorities to complete repairs and bring units up to standard to house people on social housing waiting lists.

It said the cost of bringing homes back into use varied considerably across councils, ranging from €3,000 in Wexford and Laois up to €35,000 in Cork city.

Some local authorities have told the National Oversight and Audit Commission, which compiled the report, that more onerous building regulations have affected their re-letting times.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has also provided funding to upgrade more vacant units, with some 2,500 expected to be completed this year.

Irish Independent

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